Liverpool: Key Position Battles to Watch in Preseason
Kenny Dalglish is out, Brendan Rodgers is in.
The 4-2-3-1 goes, the 4-3-3 arrives.
Dirk Kuyt, Maxi Rodriguez and Fabio Aurelio have left. Fabio Borini, Joe Cole and Alberto Aquilani have entered.
That is but a snapshot of the many changes that have taken place on Merseyside so far this summer. And it's still early.
As reported in The Guardian, the new manager has a few more purchases in mind. And do not be surprised if a few more players are sold or loaned out.
In short, this is an important preseason for the players. Each is vying for a coveted place in the new starting XI.
Here is a look at three of the positions most in doubt, and the players believed to be the leading contenders.
ST: Andy Carroll V. Fabio Borini
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Andy Carroll has seen his stock drop significantly since June.
Originally, this was his job to lose. The big Geordie followed solid performances in the F.A. Cup with a brilliant headed goal in Euro 2012.
The Italian international played for Rodgers on spells with both Swansea City and Chelsea. His playing style more closely suits the new system being implemented. It is also highly doubtful that the Northern Irishman would pay £10 million for a player he does not plan to feature heavily.
As if that were not bad news enough for Carroll, rumors abound that he could be sold or perhaps even loaned. The Guardian says Rodgers is listening to offers for Carroll.
Oh what a difference a month makes. But at least for now, the tall striker is still a Red. You have to like Borini's chances to start at this point, but football is a game full of surprises.
LW: All Bets Are off
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Downing started last season on the left flank. Unfortunately, his style is that of a traditional left-sided midfielder. His preference for pushing wide and putting in a cross does not fit the new formation. Further, Downing went all of last year without contributing an assist or goal.
He has a lot to prove.
2. Joe Cole
Enter Joe Cole. At £90,000 per week, the former Chelsea man has to prove he is worth the high wages. In the past, Cole has struggled for consistent form and fitness. Attitude is also cited as a concern. In sum, that is a lot of red flags to consider for a man getting paid so exorbitantly.
3. Raheem Sterling
Many in the Kop feel that Sterling has earned his chance to feature regularly. He has boatloads of potential. Further, his playing style fits the new 4-3-3 perfectly. Unfortunately, he is very green.
With ESPN breaking the story that Rodgers is considering a loan, do not bet on him starting.
With that, we head to the transfer market. The new manager has made no secret of his admiration for Clint Dempsey. Other names, including Arsenal's Theo Walcott (according to The Guardian), are listed as possibilities.
Your guess is as good as mine at this point.
CM: Jordan Henderson V. Alberto Aquilani
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Aquilani has the composure on the ball and passing ability necessary to thrive in this role. Yet it remains to be seen whether or not he has the strength to make it in the more physical Premier League. Further, he has struggled in the past with injury.
Henderson is probably the favorite at this point. That said, he was inconsistent in his first year at Anfield. Part of that is attributed to his inconsistent deployment, with Dalglish often opting to put him on the right flank. However, he still has a lot to prove.
It is worrying for both of the above that Rodgers is looking at Joe Allen in the transfer market. The young Welshman occupied this post at Liberty Stadium. According to ESPN, Rodgers is weighing up a £15 million move. Allen has room for improvement as well, but his 91 percent pass completion rate in 2011/12 is mighty impressive.