Liverpool Draw with Reading Highlights Need for Further Attacking Signings
Liverpool suffered a second frustrating 0-0 draw in a week after the Premier League clash with Reading on Saturday, leaving manager Brendan Rodgers in no doubt that he will have to continue to strengthen all areas of his team when the summer transfer window opens.
With Jamie Carragher retiring and the likes of Sebastian Coates and Martin Skrtel suspected to be on the outgoing list for summer, defensive reinforcements will be paramount in deciding where to spend.
However, two "clean sheets" at the wrong end of the pitch in a row, for the first time in well over a year, indicate that at least some of the manager's attentions will have to be kept for the attack as well.
After a couple of matches on the sidelines, Daniel Sturridge came back into the Reds' starting 11 against Reading, which meant that he lined up on the right, with Luis Suarez central and Philippe Coutinho on the left.
That trio is arguably seen by a majority of Liverpool fans as the strongest and best combination available at present, but with the absence of Raheem Sterling due to injury, there was perhaps not too much else to turn to from the bench.
When Suarez-Coutinho-Sturridge failed to yield dividends, albeit by the smallest of margins at times, was there any real alternative for Rodgers?
When the best do not bring the required result, is there enough quality amongst the substitutes to help swing the match?
Rodgers brought on Stewart Downing for Jordan Henderson, a move which moved Sturridge central and freed up Suarez to drift as he pleased from what was technically a slightly deeper role but, in reality, did not much alter his positions of collecting possession.
The other attacking sub options were Suso, Jonjo Shelvey and Oussama Assaidi, none of whom were called upon.
Was it a lack of faith in them from the manager? Or an inherent belief that, surely, one of Liverpool's eventual 28 shots from those already on the pitch would find the back of the net?
Suso and Shelvey have barely figured since the turn of the year after playing significant parts in the first half of Liverpool's campaign, while Assaidi has barely seen any playing time in the Premier League all season.
While none might be proven match winners at this level, perhaps they at least all might have offered something different in the closing stages of the game in one role or another, as Liverpool searched for a deserved and required goal.
Whatever the reasons the manager had for not utilising further changes, what it undeniably points to is a lack of real quality replacements available.
Previously, with Downing in the team for every game since the turn of the year, Liverpool almost always had one of Coutinho or Sturridge to call on from the bench, while Henderson has also been used off the bench at times.
This time, all the eggs were in the starter's basket, so to speak, and Liverpool had no further solutions to break down the Reading defence.
After these first choice three, at full strength, Liverpool's "second string" attack consists of Sterling, Downing and Fabio Borini.
All three have their abilities, but with the possible exception of Sterling on a few occasions, none have really proven themselves as match-winners; players who can turn the course of a match when things are not running in Liverpool's favour, or who can add an extra something special when—as in the past two matches—that final pass, decision or finish is sadly lacking.
The Reds have been linked with a number of new No.10s—Christian Eriksen and Henrikh Mkhitaryan most prominent amongst them—but on the evidence of most of this season, the Reds might need to fork out for further top-end ammunition, too.
It might be something as simple as finding a more experienced front man who can act with a bit more nous in certain situations, be a bit more clever with his movement or in trying to out-think defenders—Coutinho and Sturridge are, after all, still fairly inexperienced players.
Central defenders, full-backs and defensive midfielders will all be high on the list of requirements in the summer for the Reds.
But for all that, and for the fact that around £20 million was spent on forwards in the winter transfer window, the last two games have shown that further options are needed in the final third still.
Two clean sheets have ensued, and it has been the attack which has ultimately deprived Liverpool of an additional four points.
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