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How Liverpool Transfer Move for Yevhen Konoplyanka Will Affect Philippe Coutinho

Konoplyanka is a wanted man at Anfield.
Konoplyanka is a wanted man at Anfield.Martin Rose/Getty Images
Matt LadsonChief Writer IIIDecember 18, 2016

After failing to land Mohamed Salah, Liverpool are now seeking to sign Ukrainian winger Yevhen Konoplyanka, according to numerous reports Wednesday.

"We are working together and hopefully we can have a major signing in before the window closes," said manager Brendan Rodgers after his side's 4-0 demolition derby of Everton on Tuesday night, as per Phil McNulty of BBC Sport.

Konoplyanka has since emerged as that "major signing" that Rodgers is hopeful of acquiring, with The Daily Mail Online's Dominic King describing it as an ambitious move by Liverpool for a player who could cost up to £20 million.

"After missing out on Mohamed Salah to Chelsea, Liverpool have turned their attentions to the Ukraine international, who has been building an impressive reputation at Dnipro" writes King.

Signing Konoplyanka, whose price may be higher than Salah's, would be a signal of intent from Liverpool as they chase that all important Champions League place. 

My genuine opinion is that Konoplyanka is more of a finished article than Salah. That would be reflective of the price you would pay for him

— John Bradley (@JBcommentator) January 29, 2014

Clearly, Rodgers is keen to strengthen the wide areas of his side, and Konoplyanka is comfortable playing in any of the three attacking roles in a 4-3-3, used predominantly on the left where he cuts inside onto his right foot.

 

Liverpool's Shape

Clint Hughes/Associated Press

After the failed attempt at using a 4-4-2 vs Aston Villa, Rodgers changed back to a 4-3-3 for the visit of Everton to Anfield but used the same starting 11 players.

There were significant tactical differences though: Jordan Henderson played deeper and closer to Steven Gerrard to protect the back four; the full-backs didn't attack as much; Philippe Coutinho played in the centre behind the forward; and Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez swapped frequently who was playing through the middle and on the left side.

The movement of Suarez and Sturridge worked, as evidenced by the lack of marking on Sturridge for the third goal, with the Everton right-back and centre-backs unsure of who to mark.

However, it did leave Aly Cissokho often without protection ahead of him, which resulted in Henderson being dragged out of position to cover that side.

A natural left-sided player such as Konoplyanka would resolve that area and give Liverpool more balance, especially in fixtures against the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City at Anfield in the coming months.

 

Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling

The current lethal front three at LFC.
The current lethal front three at LFC.Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The potential arrival of Konoplyanka creates a nice headache for Rodgers, with Suarez, Sterling and Sturridge being his front three against Everton and now one of them facing the possibility of missing out.

Of course, it's not as simple as that, and it would create healthy competition for the attacking places and provide at least one impact substitute when one of the four are not starting. It would also boost the squad next season, especially should Liverpool achieve Champions League qualification.

The way Suarez and Sturridge rotated from the centre and the left side against Everton could be just as easily replicated on the right side if and when Rodgers chooses to rotate Sterling—which won't be any time soon given the teenager's superb form of late.

 

Coutinho

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 28: Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Everton at Anfield on January 28, 2014 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The Brazilian enjoyed his best performance of the season by far against Everton as he was used in the midfield three. He showed a rarely seen tenacious side to his game and showed signs he is getting used to the physical side of life in the Premier League.

He also supplied the beautiful assist for Sturridge's first goal and was a key creative element in the middle when Liverpool sprung from defence into counter-attack.

Presumably now, with Rodgers seeking to sign a winger and not looking at an additional centre-midfielder, Coutinho will be used more frequently in a central role.

The return of Joe Allen will add competition in the middle for all three players who started against Everton, with Henderson likely needing a rest soon after starting every Premier League game of the season so far.

By strengthening the wide area, Rodgers will effectively strengthen the central area, too.

Rodgers would still have the option of playing Coutinho wide in certain games where he desires more control in the middle, using Steven Gerrard, Henderson and Allen as the midfield three.

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