Liverpool Transfers: New Signings Give Reds Firepower to Make Top-4 Challenge

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistJune 23, 2013 for photo for photo

Liverpool completed two transfers in two days for Spanish attackers over the weekend, boosting the number of options for manager Brendan Rodgers to choose from for the 2013-14 season.

Luis Alberto was confirmed as arrived from Sevilla on Saturday, while Iago Aspas completed his protracted move from Celta Vigo on Sunday, both according to the team's official site.

The pair cost an estimated £14 million, proving that there is plenty of value to be found in the market once again if clubs are looking in the right places. To put the move for these two attackers into context, that's around the same amount that Sunderland paid last summer for Steven Fletcher.

While the new signings themselves have not played in the Premier League before, Rodgers has clearly identified them as forwards who can significantly contribute to improved final-third activity next term.

The boss stated recently that he wanted to add around another 20 goals to the first team for 2013-14, via Neil Jones of the Liverpool Echo:

We need one or two centre halves and I'm looking to bring 20 more goals into the team. So I'm also looking at another offensive player to give us a real threat on goal and another attacking midfield player. We definitely need to do that, especially if we're going to put some young ones out on loan next season to gain experience.

Aspas and Alberto will certainly add some of those goals, but Liverpool are also still hoping to bring in Shakhtar Donetsk attacking midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan to bring in some real quality, too, according to Phil McNulty of BBC.

Should the Reds manage to pull off that particular coup, would they have themselves the depth and quality in attack, at last, to make a real challenge for the top four places in the Premier Leagueand in doing sofor the Champions League next term?

If Liverpool succeed in ending the summer with Aspas, Alberto and Mkhitaryan added to the squad, the answer could almost certainly be a resounding "yes."

Given the Reds' tactics under Rodgers, it is likely they will continue with a deeper line of two men in central midfield (usually Lucas Leiva and Steven Gerrard last term), with a quartet of players ahead of them.

This midfield shape switched on occasion of course, to a three-man centre at times, but by and large, Liverpool have attempted to have a creative force in the No. 10 role and have the two men playing central.

In terms of that attacking quartet then; Mkhitaryan could reasonably be expected to be the first-choice, central attacking midfielder. While he can play in the deeper role and can function well from the right flank, his best position and the role from where he can be a real goal threat is from an advanced central midfield starting zone.

Mkhitaryan brings real drive, work rate and no shortage of quality on the ball from there, and while he has not the creative ingenuity of Philippe Coutinho, he is consistent in possession and reliable in his distribution.

Thereafter, there is his huge asset of timely arrival in the penalty box, supporting from the channels and his ability to drop back in as part of a midfield three when possession is lost.

Jordan Henderson has played a variety of roles for the Reds in his two years at the club and can expect to continue along that vein, but he could feasibly be the second-in-command in this role for the majority of his appearances next season.

In trying to get two players for each position, it should be remembered that none are tied down to only appearing in one role.

Onto Coutinho then, who has already shown enough to suggest he'll be a mainstay in the Reds' XI for years to come.

With Mkhitaryan operating centrally, Coutinho would revert to his left-sided role, from where he is free to roam infield, looking for space and creating chances aplenty for his fellow attackers. Indeed, with the great movement provided by Mkhitaryan inside of him, Reds fans could see even better chance creation numbers from the Brazilian this coming season.

New signing Luis Alberto played a lot from the same position for Barcelona B last term, before switching more central, while Raheem Sterling can of course play from either flank, changing roles in the side accordingly.

There remain four more attackers to consider, for the remaining two positions.

Interestingly, and importantly, all four of them can play in a wide variety of roles.

Daniel Sturridge will presumably get the nod to play in the central role after hitting 11 goals in 16 games last season and will be Liverpool's main available forward at the beginning of next season.

Fabio Borini will hope for more game time as a central striker, too, having operated from the right and left sides of attack when fit in his first campaign at Merseyside.

That leaves the right side of Liverpool's attack.

Aspas, as a left-footed forward, could find that much of his game time comes from that side of the front line of the Reds' team, at least initially.

Six games into the season, though, Liverpool could have another player to fit into their starting XI: Luis Suarez.

Linked with a move away this summer, most often to Real Madrid, via David Maddock of Mirror Football, Suarez could yet end up staying for another season if no offers are forthcoming or the Reds opt not to budge on their high asking price for the forward.

And if that is the case, Suarez will be expected to give everything he has for the cause for another season.

From which position?

It seems likely, given the strength available to the Reds with the abovementioned players, that Suarez could operate on a regular basis from the right-hand side of the attack.

Mkhitaryan provides security in tracking back to deeper positions, which a genuine front three of Coutinho-Sturridge-Suarez might not offer as much of, while the Uruguayan would still have ample freedom of movement to give Liverpool so much creativity and penalty area threat on goal.

Goals? That front line has it in abundance. Creativity, one-on-one ability, technique and vision to pick a pass? Not a problem. Direct vertical running, pace and power? It's all there.

There's also a huge amount of variation off the bench with the five alternative players, including Aspas as one of those if Suarez stays and starts, who can play in a number of positions and roles, according to the needs of the team against any given opposition.

Off the ball, all the first-choice starters are capable of pressing hard to win back the ball and are tactically aware enough to be able to be coached into Rodgers' preferred defensive lines if the ball is not won back immediately.

Some or all may well have consistency issues during the campaign. That is what the squad depth is for.

When Sturridge is injured or Suarez is suspended or Coutinho is finding a whole season in England difficult to keep up with, that's when Liverpool must count on an Aspas or an Alberto providing a similar level of quality in the starting XI, instead of relying on an ineffective squad member, an inexperienced 17-year-old or handing yet another chance to a highly paid player who has never shown his true worth.

There is of course one final point to consider; with those nine players the preferred front options, it would mean exits for Oussama Assaidi, Stewart Downing and Jonjo Shelvey. Selling the three might bring in around £17 million for Liverpool, while a loan might also still be a possibility for the latter.

Suso, a young and vastly talented player, can expect to perform in perhaps two of these attacking positions if he stays at the club but should now also be handed opportunities in a deeper central midfield role—in other words, in Gerrard's role, perhaps in cup games or off the bench. If not, a loan may also beckon for him, though his preference is to remain at Anfield.

Aspas and Alberto are Liverpool players.

If Rodgers can manage to reach September and count Mkhitaryan and Suarez as two more of his staff, then the Reds have given themselves a great platform to reach the top four of the Premier League.

Then, it's just the defensive side of the team to sort out.