Picking a Starting Lineup to Fire Reds to Trophies Next Season
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Liverpool FC had a season few will remember fondly for various reasons—finishing behind Everton in the league and Luis Suarez's suspension, to name a few—but the club is not too far off from challenging for honors during the next term.
There is no need for a massive overhaul of the squad. A few smart additions and some better luck with injuries should see the Reds competing for a Champions League spot next season.
Kenny Dalglish is gone so Liverpool's new manager will have some tough decisions to make. Joe Cole is set to return to Merseyside after his loan spell at Lille, Luis Suarez is being courted by Real Madrid and Barcelona and fans would like to see Charlie Adam promptly shown the exit.
The future of Liverpool is uncertain. Reds' fans are anxious to see what direction the club goes from here.
Liverpool did win the Carling Cup and came close to doing the double. However, the club's pathetic league form will be a major concern.
A return to European competition will mean the fixture list will be a bit more congested next season. That cannot be an excuse for another poor season.
Here is the lineup sure to guide to Reds to a better league position and capture a trophy or two along the way.
GK: Pepe Reina
Pepe Reina is a quality goalkeeper even if he was not at his best this season.
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If it is not broke, do not fix it.
Pepe Reina's place in the Liverpool starting lineup is not under question, nor should it be. This season was not his best, but the same could be said for a lot of players.
The goalkeeper's biggest gaffe this season was his sending off at Newcastle. His headbutt was a pretty poor decision. The ensuing suspicion also put Liverpool in a tough spot.
However, it is extremely difficult to see Liverpool improving between the woodwork if the club decided to replace Reina.
Liverpool have numerous other position that need to be strengthened, so keeping Reina makes the most sense.
LB: Jose Enrique
Jose Enrique proved to be a good signing for Liverpool.
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Jose Enrique was arguably Liverpool's best signing from last summer. That is not saying much, in fairness.
The Spaniard is a reliable force at left back and looks to be a player who can be counted upon for years to come. Good left backs are hard to come by so Liverpool will be pleased to have found one.
Liverpool fans can be happy Dalglish found one Newcastle player who came good with Enrique covering the left flank.
CB: Daniel Agger
Daniel Agger has been struggled with injuries throughout his time at Liverpool.
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No one doubts Daniel Agger's quality. When healthy, he is one of the better centre backs in England.
"When" being the key word, however. Agger managed to get through this season relatively unscathed, but it always seems like it is a matter of time before he gets hurt again.
Liverpool will have to hope Agger once again can stay healthy. There is no denying the first team is far better with the Dane in the lineup.
Agger is just one half of the partnership that anchors Liverpool.
CB: Martin Skrtel
Martin Skrtel has become a central figure at Liverpool.
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Martin Skrtel is the other half of Liverpool's defensive duo. He has become a towering presence in defense for Liverpool. His importance to the club is unquestioned.
The Skrtel/Agger partnership is one of the best in England. It is the one area Liverpool really do not have any concerns.
The Slovakian is still only 27 and is the captain in waiting should Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher ever leave the club.
RB: Gregory Van Der Wiel
Gregory Van Der Wiel could bring a different dimension to Liverpool.
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Glen Johnson is rumored to be heading off to Real Madrid in the summer. That may sound crazy, but if the interest is true Liverpool should sell him as soon as possible.
Johnson is a good player despite being unreliable at times. His loss, however, would not be the end of the world for the Reds.
Gregory van der Wiel would bring a controlled energy to Liverpool's lineup. The Dutch international is equally adept in defense as in attack. More importantly, his positional sense is far better than Johnson's.
There is a lot of interest in the Holland international but Liverpool should be able to secure his signature as long as they are willing to match Ajax's evaluation of the player.
Martin Kelly is a nice player to have as cover, but he is not quite ready for the first team. One of the most obvious improvements Liverpool could make would be to dump Johnson for van der Wiel.
DM: Lucas Leiva
Lucas Leiva's injuries proved to be too much for Liverpool to overcome this season.
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Liverpool's season started going astray the second Lucas Leiva injured his knee in December.
His presence in the Reds' lineup is vital. No other Liverpool player is able to do what Lucas does. His tackling and defensive prowess give the Reds' attacking players much more freedom.
The Brazilian serves as a calming agent for the rest of the team. Without him, there is a lot more confusion throughout the entire side.
A healthy Lucas in the starting lineup will be a massive boost for Liverpool's chances in 2012-13.
LM: Joe Cole
Joe Cole has spent this season on loan in France.
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Joe Cole deserves another chance at Liverpool. There are plenty of reasons why he failed during his first season at Liverpool and he deserves some of the blame.
Having Cole in the starting lineup would surely be a vast improvement over Stewart Downing, Dirk Kuyt and Jordan Henderson patrolling the flanks.
Having Cole and and Suarez in the same side would cause the opposition nightmares.
It would also be a relatively cheap solution. If Maxi Rodriguez does depart Anfield, Liverpool will have a serious shortage of players who can play on the left.
Unless Liverpool can somehow land Cole's Lille teammate Eden Hazard, the club would be better off staying with the former West Ham winger.
It makes more sense to give Cole another shot than to spend a bunch of money on a player similar to him or an unproven youngster.
RM: Clint Dempsey
Clint Dempsey playing against his future team?
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Clint Dempsey is ready for a move to a bigger stage after proving himself at Fulham the past few seasons.
Having Dempsey out on the right would be a perfect fit for Liverpool next season. He is not an out-and-out winger, but he offers a scoring threat Liverpool desperately need.
Coupled with Suarez's movement and Carroll's ability to lead the line, Dempsey could flourish for the Reds next season.
The American is one of the few players who would be able to react to what Suarez does and get into threatening positions. Given his proven track record in England, Dempsey seems like a sure bet to thrive at Anfield.
CM: Steven Gerrard
Liverpool need Steven Gerrard to be fit next season.
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Steven Gerrard is Liverpool's talisman. Last season was one to forget for the born and bred Liverpudlian but he should rebound into form next season assuming he can stay healthy.
The main concern about Gerrard is how does he fit into the current team. He clearly is not the same dynamic force he was a few years ago.
The Liverpool captain needs to evolve his role in the first team blending his barnstorming tendencies with some traits that made Xabi Alonso such a success. Gerrard's passing is not nearly as good as the Spaniard but he can still dictate the pace of a game in a similar manner.
The Reds' next manager must convince Gerrard to adapt his game to better suit the team. He must make subtle changes in the way he plays in the same fashion Frank Lampard has done at Chelsea.
If Liverpool are to challenge for honors next season then Gerrard must come back to the first team a smarter player.
ST: Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez must be on his best behavior next season.
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Luis Suarez brings a ton of drama to Liverpool. He is also one of the few players who can turn a match at any moment.
His individual brilliance is hard to ignore even if he has been known to get into way of his teammates. Perhaps, it is his teammates who tend to get into his way.
Whatever the case may be, Suarez and his strike partner will need to be in-synch next season. The Anfield faithful will not have been pleased with the offensive ineptitude the squad showed throughout last season.
It is vital Liverpool keep ahold of Suarez. There have been stories making the rounds that he could be off to either one of the Spanish giants this summer.
Losing the Uruguayan would be devastating for the Reds' chances next season. Love him or hate him, players as talented as Suarez are nearly impossible to replace.
ST: Andy Carroll
Liverpool need Andy Carroll to start scoring on a regular basis.
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Simply put, Liverpool have invested too much money into Andy Carroll to pack it in now. The must give him next season to show if there is anything a new manager can salvage from their record signing.
In between long stretches of ineffectiveness, Carroll has shown fans there was a reason Liverpool paid so much to get him.
These brief moments need to start happening on a regular basis for Liverpool to succeed next season. Many people may disagree but Carroll can be the catalyst for a Liverpool revival.
There are few players around who have the talents of big Geordie. A Suarez-Carroll partnership should be one of the best in the Premier League.
It has not been, however. Carroll's mental state, confidence and lifestyle have routinely been called into question since joining Liverpool and for good reason.
Carroll is broken, but not beyond repair. Liverpool success next season will depend upon the ability of the new manager to fix Carroll.
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Things could be a lot worse for Liverpool. The side needs some tweaking but nothing too major.
It seems impossible for the Reds to be as unlucky as they were last season. The amount of times they hit the woodwork was ridiculous.
Liverpool need to add a few players to shake up the first team but what the squad really needs is depth. The backside of the squad is fairly weak compared to the other teams challenging for the Champions League.
The new manger should be able to bring some more silverware to Anfield trophy cabinet. It will not be the league title Reds' fans so desperately crave but it will at least be something.