Liverpool Transfer News: Brendan Rodgers Must Move for Cristian Tello
Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool debut was anything but successful. The Northern Irishman found himself at the bottom of a 3-0 scoreline against West Bromwich Albion, a side that his Swansea squad happily dispatched home and away last season.
There are a number of inadequacies one could point at from the season opener ranging from squad selection, positioning and a reluctance to turn to a “Plan B” until the match was already well out of hand. Much has been written about Liverpool's poor display last Saturday, and much more will be written before Manchester City visits Merseyside this Sunday.
Whether one blames the questionable penalties or the sending off of Daniel Agger, the fact remains that Liverpool was unable to score.
One particular inefficiency that was apparent in the season opener, as well as all of last season, was less-than-stellar wing play. The lack of pacy and creative wingers directly contributed to the unacceptable amount of goals scored last season. Not scoring enough goals found Liverpool looking up at Merseyside rivals Everton on the EPL table by season's end. Forget about comparing the side to top clubs like Manchester City and United.
To put things in perspective, Liverpool scored only 47 goals, compared to 93 and 89 for City and United, respectively. Liverpool has no right being in the same breath as those two clubs this season, especially when its goal scoring was nearly doubled by the league's top two sides. The club will have to earn back that right this season. The best way to do that is upgrade the wing play, which has been woeful at best recently.
Luis Suarez is a world-class footballer whose natural position is on the wing. Unfortunately, Suarez also happens to be the only realistic option as a center forward in Rodgers' system, so that is where he is likely to remain until a new signing can be made or Rodgers lightens his stance on playing Andy Carroll front and center.
The recent acquisition of Fabio Borini from Roma isn't enough to make up for Stewart Downing's poor showings week in and week out. There are options on the market, but now more than ever, Liverpool has pressure to make more valuable purchases. The last two seasons have been rife with overpaying for players who have proven unworthy of such princely sums.
The young Spanish winger, Cristian Tello, is perhaps one of the best available on the market for Rodgers' system. Rodgers has been in pursuit of the 21-year-old since early June, according to Dailymail.co.uk. Let's take a look at what Liverpool has now and what they need to be pursuing in order to make this season remotely relevant.
Stewart Downing Has Not Proven Himself Worthy
Granted, it's tough to judge a player on his first full season with a club, but when that player is a regular starter and fails to net a single goal or deliver a single assist for a top club in league competition, it is unacceptable.
Clearly, Stewart Downing shows us glimpses, however brief they may be, of brilliance. That is why Rodgers has kept him on the squad.
If you look closely at the video, Downing actually delivers a number of serviceable balls and seems to display acceptable skills. Unfortunately, when those efforts don't translate to points on the board, they really don't matter in the scheme of things.
In a rather encouraging display in the Europa League opener, Downing netted Liverpool's only goal. Perhaps that convinced Rodgers to start him against West Brom.
Downing has clearly been given another chance in Rodgers' system, but if he proves to be more of the same from last season, that won't last.
Raheem Sterling Impresses but Is Still Young
While it's too early to crown the young Raheem Sterling as the next John Barnes, as the video suggests, the 17-year-old seems to be everything any team could want on the wing.
Sterling has impressed at every level so far, from youth to reserves, preseason to regular season. He has even looked dangerous playing in competitive matches toward the end of last season, but as it stands, Sterling is simply too young and still needs to mature before he becomes a regular starter at Anfield.
When that time comes, everything suggests that he won't disappoint, but at the moment, the best option for Liverpool is to send him on loan so he can get some regular first-team play at a lower-profile club.
Unfortunately, Liverpool's problems are very much in the present, so those calling for Sterling to be included in the first team need to realize he's not a viable option presently.
As good as he looks in the video, it is unfair to expect him to brush aside the world's best defenders with the regularity that he does other reserve players.
No, Rodgers must look elsewhere if he wants his side to progress this season.
Fabio Borini Needs Time to Pan out
As much as everyone would love Fabio Borini to start making an impact right away, it's simply unfair to expect the 21-year-old to turn the club's recent issues around on his own. Borini needs to be afforded the same leniency that Rodgers seems to give Downing.
Rodgers is very familiar with Borini, having worked with him in Chelsea's reserve squad as well as having brought him to Swansea on loan.
The young Italian international scored six goals in nine appearances for Swansea and nine goals in 24 appearances when on loan to Roma from Parma in the Italian Serie A. He netted his first goal for Liverpool in his Anfield debut against Gomel in the Europa League and looked at least threatening in Liverpool's opener last Saturday.
That said, criticism will come swift and plentiful from frustrated Liverpool fans if Borini doesn't start paying dividends soon. It's very much the way professional athletes are viewed in this day and age: "What have you done for me lately?"
Even if Borini turns out to be everything that Rodgers imagines, he still needs to have a capable footballer on the opposite wing. With Luis Suarez currently pegged as the team's frontman and Downing seeming to still not "get it," Rodgers needs to find another option before the transfer window closes.
Perhaps the recent signing of Oussama Assaidi can push Borini to fulfill his potential sooner rather than later.
Oussama Assaidi's Signing Shows Rodgers Can Do More with Less
Liverpool officially signed Assaidi last Friday after he cleared a medical examination, according to ESPN. For £3 million, Rodgers couldn't have done much better than the 24-year-old Moroccan international.
His place on the squad is yet to be determined, as he was not on the team's roster against West Brom, but it will presumably be on his natural left wing position.
It cannot be understated that, if Assaidi scores even one goal or provides the service for even one assist, his signing will prove to be unequivocally better than the £20 million spent on Downing last summer.
Assaidi scored 20 goals in 68 appearances for Dutch side Heerenveen since 2009, improving his goal scoring each season.
It's too early to make a call on what impact Assaidi will have at Anfield, but for £3 million, it can't possibly be a letdown.
Cristian Tello Presents an Absolute Bargain
Tello is exactly everything Rodgers could want in a winger for his system.
He has speed to spare. He has incredible vision for being only 21 years old. He is not afraid to cut inside and take on defenders. He is impressively comfortable in tight space right up on the touchline, and he is unselfish.
Those are all fantastic qualities, but what is most impressive about all of this is that he does all of these things at Barcelona. There is always a question mark when signing a foreign player to the EPL, but with Tello achieving relative success at arguably the world's most prestigious club, it's a gamble worth taking.
Many rumors have surfaced about Tello's potential move to Liverpool this summer, the most recent of which suggest a tone of temperance, according to former footballer Adrian Clarke on Life's A Pitch.
I can’t see Barcelona selling him for [a reported fee of] £5m at this stage. I think he’s got a year left on his contract, so that’s why his fee wouldn’t be as high as you’d expect. I could see a loan deal happening and they’re talking about it. But I have a feeling that this one might not happen. He is a good player, he would suit Liverpool – he would improve them – but I don’t know if he’s going to end up there, so I’ll only give this a five [out of 10].
If ever there was a time for Liverpool to overspend, this would be it. Transfer Market lists Tello's estimated worth around £7 million. Conversely, they list Downing's worth around £12 million (remember Liverpool paid £20 million) and Assaidi's worth around £7 million (purchased for £3 million).
Having saved substantially on the market worth of Assaidi, who is very much a gamble (albeit as low risk as they get), paying a significant amount more for Tello could prove worthwhile in the long run.
It's a rare opportunity that a virtually perfect fit with the exact qualities a manager is looking for makes himself available. This is not an opportunity that Rodgers or Fenway Sports Group should penny-pinch at.
Theo Walcott Would Be a Dream Come True
Signing Theo Walcott would be the exact opposite of the nightmare that has been Liverpool Football Club in the past 12 months. Walcott's experience and, more importantly, success at the top levels of EPL competition with Arsenal speaks for itself. There is no need to call around for references when vetting this veteran footballer.
The English international has scored 24 goals in 150 appearances at Arsenal, and he is reportedly not willing to sign Arsene Wenger's most recent contract offering, according to Football.co.uk.
The 24 year old is also said to be unhappy at having to compete with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for his starting place and feels that the time could be right to move on.
At 24 years old, Walcott provides tremendous upside going forward, and his propensity for shredding EPL defenses at flank speed is renowned around the league.
Unfortunately, Walcott carries an "EPL Tax," which is usually levied upon players who prove to be up to performing against the rigors in the Barclays. Look no further than the recent signing of Joe Allen from Swansea. Rodgers agreed £15 million to his former club for Allen's services.
Walcott would command a similar sum, and with Rodgers' expenditures nearing £30 million this summer already, the soon-to-be former Gunner might prove too costly. This is another reason that reaching for a young player like Tello before he plays to his full potential could prove to be a worthwhile gamble.
With the transfer window nearing its close, Rodgers must make a move now. There is nothing that shows Liverpool will be able to make it to the January transfer window while still in realistic contention for a Champions League berth if they cannot create more goals.
The best way to do that for Rodgers' system is most certainly to bring in top-quality wing play, something that is sorely lacking at Anfield.