Signing Yevhen Konoplyanka Would Be a Major Step Forward for Liverpool

Jonathan WilsonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2014

CLUJ-NAPOCA, ROMANIA - SEPTEMBER 19:  Yevhen Konoplyanka of FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in action during the UEFA Europa League group stage match between CS Pandurii Targu Jiu and FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk held on September 19, 2013 at the Cluj Arena in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. (Photo by Daniel Mihailescu/EuroFootball/Getty Images)
EuroFootball/Getty Images

It's been apparent for some time that Brendan Rodgers feels the area in which Liverpool need strengthening is on the flank.

Having failed to land Mohamed Salah, who was snapped up by Chelsea, it seems that the Reds will land the Ukrainian winger Yevhen Konoplyanka from Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk for £15 million in the next couple of days—as per Phil McNulty of BBC Sport.

It's a move that makes eminent sense, and not just because Konoplyanka, at 24, is nearing his peak and has proved his ability with excellent performances in all three recent internationals between Ukraine and England.

All season, Liverpool have seemed overreliant on Philippe Coutinho on the left flank. When he has been absent, they've lacked creativity, in part because Victor Moses, on loan from Chelsea, hasn't produced anything like his best in a Liverpool shirt. Konoplyanka not only offers cover for Coutinho, but also increases Rodgers' options.

If Konoplyanka plays instead of Coutinho, he won't drift inside as often as the Brazilian, although he is naturally right-footed, so can cut infield and offer a goal threat. That should give Liverpool greater width, enabling them to stretch the play when required.

Konoplyanka also gives the option of attacking the full-back on the outside. He is quick and dynamic, and rather more disciplined than Coutinho if it comes to closing down an attacking full-back. The more options Liverpool have, of course, the less danger there is that they become predictable.

And with Konoplyanka there to operate on the left, Coutinho can play centrally, functioning almost as an old-fashioned No. 10. That gives Liverpool the option of playing two central strikers ahead of him, in either a 4-3-1-2 or a 3-4-1-2, or, more likely if Konoplyanka is in the side, of setting up as a 4-2-3-1, probably with either Daniel Sturridge or Luis Suarez cutting in from the right.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29:  Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool is challenged by Branislav Ivanovic (L) and Oscar (C) of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on December 29, 2013 in London, Engla
Clive Rose/Getty Images

There's obviously a calculation to be made as to whether there's value in taking Suarez out of the front line given his finishing ability and rich vein of scoring form, but there is something very appealing about the thought of the fluidity and talent of a line of three that comprises Suarez, Coutinho and Konoplyanka.

Sturridge, as a mobile leader of the line, could drop off and perhaps even switch with Suarez, and Jordan Henderson or Steven Gerrard could break forward from one of the holding midfield slots to add depth to the attack.

There is also the possibility that Liverpool could go 4-3-3, perhaps with Gerrard, Henderson and Joe Allen in the centre and then a line of three forwards to be permed from Konoplyanka, Coutinho, Suarez and Sturridge.

In that instance, it may be that Konoplyanka operates on the right, playing as an orthodox rather than an inverted winger, but again able to beat his full-back on either side. He is equally capable of playing centrally, although given the form of Suarez and Sturridge, that seems at this stage very much a back-up plan.

DONETSK, UKRAINE - JUNE 19:  James Milner of England and Yevhen Konoplyanka of Ukraine compete for the ball during the UEFA EURO 2012 group D match between England and Ukraine at Donbass Arena on June 19, 2012 in Donetsk, Ukraine.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Liverpool's transfer activity of late has been relatively cautious, as they've tended to spend relatively small amounts to land young players who might mature into first-teamers rather than on players who are already finished products.

Signing Konoplyanka would perhaps suggest a minor change in policy. He's not a huge name or a huge star who could suddenly make the Reds realistic title-challengers single-handedly, but by offering cover across the top end of the pitch and increasing Rodgers' tactical options, he is certainly a player who could enhance the squad and increase the possibility of Liverpool qualifying for the Champions League.

Rodgers has stated repeatedly that improvement must be incremental and that fans must be patient, but signing Konoplyanka would be a major step forward.