Liverpool should be looking to sign a new left-back in the summer window and a suggested transfer target is Lorient's 5'7" Portuguese youth international Raphael Guerreiro.
So here is a scouting report on the energetic and forward-thinking 20-year-old left-back.
Liverpool need to address their dearth of talent at left-back: Aly Cissokho is not Liverpool-standard, Jon Flanagan is a right-back—not a left-back—and Jose Enrique is recuperating from knee surgery.
Rodgers: "Jose Enrique has been sent to America to get some specialist advice on his knee injury."— James Pearce (@JamesPearceEcho) February 21, 2014
Cissokho, on loan from Valencia, has been fodder for criticism, which is amplified when he is being slated by former Liverpool players.
Jimmy Case, who played 269 times for Liverpool, questioned Cissokho's footballing acumen.
"His control isn't there or his first touch," Case said, per BBC Radio Merseyside (h/t 5times). "He doesn't have the intelligence to follow the fluency of play."
Michael Owen on Cissokho: "He reminds me of Djimi Traore". A kick in the balls hurts less than that description.— Sachin Nakrani (@SachinNakrani) January 28, 2014
Aly Cissokho looks to be enjoying life as a Liverpool player! pic.twitter.com/l7MYbL4hr6— Oddschanger (@Oddschanger) January 12, 2014
Cissokho is broad-shouldered and he tries hard, but he is a Roy Hodgson-type player, not a Rodgers-type player (under Hodgson, Liverpool flirted with the relegation zone).
"Stay behind the ball," Rodgers said to Flanagan, per Being: Liverpool (h/t Andy Hunter at the Guardian). "You're not the one bombing on for fun, Cafu."
Rodgers' Cafu remark was sarcastic.
That was in 2012 and, two years later, Cafu tweeted that he needed to see more of Flanagan, also known as the "Red Cafu," which prompted Flanagan to say, per Liverpool's official website: "You think is it real and did he really tweet that? For him to notice me and say he's going to watch me is just brilliant."
This is brilliant, Cafu calls Jon Flanagan the 'RedCafu'. pic.twitter.com/BCyb9SO9Iw— LFC Fans Corner (@LFCFansCorner) February 4, 2014
Flanagan has slotted in at left-back because Cissokho is a defensive liability and Enrique's future is up in the air.
Unless Rodgers plans on turning Flanagan into Paolo Maldini (the Italian is a right-footer, who played at left-back), it is counter-productive for Flanagan to be starting at left-back when he is a right-back.
This is why Liverpool must have a big board of left-backs to pursue in the summer transfer window and Guerreiro of Lorient should be a target.
Guerreiro is one of the fastest players in Ligue 1, a subjective view that Nice right-back Gregoire Puel will corroborate.
Puel made the mistake of lunging forward, only to watch Guerreiro speed away, deliver a piercing cross to Lorient centre-forward Vincent Aboubakar whose header hit the post.
Late in the game, Guerreiro read the play expertly and intercepted a pass from Nice central midfielder Didier Digard, accelerated forward and offloaded the ball to Alain Traore, who went on to create a goal for Aboubakar.
That interception was in stoppage time, so Guerreiro possesses high energy levels and he is a natural ball-winner: 75 interceptions in 26 Ligue 1 games.
In a 1-1 draw against Lyon, with Lorient down a goal in the 93rd minute, Guerreiro casually sent in a cross which just floated over Lyon centre-back Samuel Umtiti, yet was slightly ahead of left-back Henri Bedimo.
In between the two was Traore, who netted a dramatic late equaliser for Lorient.
Again, Guerreiro displayed superb stamina.
When you watch Guerreiro play, his tackling is still a work in progress.
Full-backs who average 1.3 tackles per game either only jockey and have exceptional positional awareness or do not prefer tackling.
Guerreiro fits the latter part, hence why he averages 2.9 interceptions per game, the eighth highest average in Ligue 1, whereas 152 players in France's top flight average more tackles per game (1.4+) than Guerreiro (1.3).
This was evident when Guerreiro's mistimed tackle on Guingamp right winger Claudio Beauvue led to him squaring the ball to Mustapha Yatabare, who scored his second in a 2-0 win over Lorient.
Guerreiro made an embarrassing error when he fluffed his attempted clearance against Marseille.
The ball fortuitously fell to Andre-Pierre Gignac, Marseille's leading scorer in league play, and he scored what turned out to be the winning goal in a 1-0 win over Lorient.
Liverpool supporters who have extensive footballing knowledge probably want the club to sign Wolfsburg's 21-year-old Ricardo Rodriguez, arguably the best left-back in Europe this season (five goals, four assists, 70 tackles, 46 interceptions).
Wolfsburg, however, are flexing their financial muscle.
Wolfsburg are bankrolled by Volkswagen, a company worth €92.4 billion, per Christoph Rauwald at Bloomberg, so given their recent big spending, it is highly unlikely that they would sell Rodriguez, who has world-class potential, in the upcoming summer transfer window.
Zaccardo was asked "Why did you join Wolfsburg" he answers: "The project, the city.. No just kidding, just the money!"— Matteo Bonetti (@TheCalcioGuy) March 1, 2013
Wolfsburg signing Rodriguez from FC Zurich will go down as one of the greatest scouting revelations in recent Bundesliga memory (this is the same club that signed Edin Dzeko from Teplice).
Point being: Liverpool should seriously consider taking a calculated gamble on Guerreiro, who is an elite interceptor, has a strong motor, is lightning quick and is only 20 years old.
Yes, he needs to work on his tackling and must be more proficient in the attacking half (only one assist thus far in Ligue 1).
However, he has immense upside, so if Liverpool do not sign him, he could be emulating Rodriguez's success in several years' time for another notable club in Europe's elite leagues.
Statistics via WhoScored