Liverpool

Brendan Rodgers Focusing on Wrong Areas with Liverpool's Chase of Mohamed Salah

Schalke's Atsuto Uchida, left, and Basel's Mohamed Salah challenge for the ball during the Champions League group E soccer match between FC Schalke 04 and FC Basel in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, Wednesday, Dec.11,2013. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Frank Augstein/Associated Press
Matt LadsonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 20, 2014

Liverpool are finally "ready" to bid for Mohamed Salah according to reports.

The Egyptian winger has been linked with a move to Anfield throughout the January transfer window. However, the valuation by his current club Basel is proving the stumbling block thus far.

Basel are reported to want £12 million for the 21-year-old, while Liverpool are prepared to bid around £7 million, according to ESPN.

Salah is clearly a talented player—although being dubbed the "Egyptian Messi" is never helpful—and would suit Liverpool's style of play.

However, the apparent pursuit of the player seems to be a case of "right player, wrong time".

The current Liverpool side are, as proven by the last two roller-coaster performances, wonderful in attack but woeful at the back.

Brendan Rodgers changed to 4-4-2 against Aston Villa on Saturday, a huge error by the manager. Hopefully, he will quickly revert to the hugely more successful and suitable 4-3-3 shape that has produced the best performances of the season, such as the thrashing of Tottenham.

Salah would slot into the Liverpool side in one of those wide-forward roles, comfortable on either side. But Liverpool's attack isn't their area of need; Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho are four players competing for three positions.

Meanwhile, huge questions persist at the other end of the pitch. The full-back areas are of major concern and Steven Gerrard is unlikely to provide a long-term solution to the holding midfield role.

It's those two areas that should be the most pressing for Rodgers and Liverpool.

Indeed, signing an attacking player should be the lowest of the priorities, unless it were to be a young striker to provide cover for Suarez and Sturridge, such as Burnley's Danny Ings—somebody who can develop and replace Iago Aspas in the squad, allowing him to leave.

 

Full-Backs

Within Rodgers' system, the full-backs are absolutely vital, and right now they're the biggest worry. Glen Johnson is woefully off form, while Aly Cissokho won't be getting in the squad, let alone the first XI, once Jon Flanagan or Jose Enrique return to fitness.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  Yaya Toure of Manchester City is closed down by Glen Johnson of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Liverpool at Etihad Stadium on December 26, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (P
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Johnson's time at Anfield appears to be coming to an end and a replacement needs to be signed. Barcelona's Martin Montoya has been linked, while talk of Micah Richards has cooled.

The Man City player would be a perfect signing, as I detailed back in October.

Meanwhile, on the other side, neither Flanagan or Enrique are long-term solutions to the perennial problem position at Anfield. A top quality left-back, somebody who has the energy and technical attributes to play the role as desired by the manger, is required.

 

Holding Midfield

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 18:  Brendan Rodgers, manager of Liverpool talks to Steven Gerrard during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Aston Villa at Anfield on January 18, 2014 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty
Michael Regan/Getty Images

The idea of Gerrard being converted to play as a "regista"—a holding midfielder—is a wonderfully romantic one.

Indeed, it may prove possible, but only within a three-man midfield with two dynamic, energetic players ahead of him. Within the current squad, that would be Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson; able to do the pressing ahead of Gerrard.

That Rodgers chose to expose Gerrard within the midfield he opted for on Saturday was extremely naive. After talking his captain up in the role, Rodgers then stitched him up.

Many managers have played Gerrard as a regular central midfielder in a 4-4-2 formation—Gerard Houllier, Rafa Benitez, Roy Hodgson, Fabio Capello, Sven Goran Eriksson—all of them realised it did not work. Presumably Rodgers hadn't seen any of this in the past fifteen years and felt the need to give it a go himself. He found out the hard way.

Gerrard as the holding midfielder, in a three-man midfield within the 4-3-3 shape, has potential against certain sides but on the highest level, I doubt it will work. Gerrard is not mobile enough or comfortable in the role to be able to do it against the best sides in Europe—against whom Liverpool hope to be playing in the Champions League next season.

Liverpool need to sign a top quality holding midfielder, with Gerrard's role and the reliance upon him being reduced.

Salah would be great, but, as a former Liverpool manager once said, it would be like asking for a sofa and being bought a lamp.

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