3 Signings That Will Take Liverpool to the Next Level in 2014/15
There can be no doubt that Liverpool have made huge progress throughout the course of the 2013/14 season, and with 10 games to play, the Reds sit second in the Premier League table.
Despite their healthy position in the league, there seems to be a repetitive murmuring that Liverpool are simply not good enough to end their wait for a league title this year and that next year will see them as serious contenders.
Brendan Rodgers has done wonders with a squad that, compared to the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City, is certainly short on numbers. This coupled with numerous injuries to key players makes the achievements of Rodgers' side all the more impressive.
This article will look at the areas on the pitch that—in this writer's opinion—the Reds need to improve if they are to progress to the level that Rodgers and all Reds fans aspire to be at.
There have been dozens of names linked with a summer switch to Anfield, the likes of Yevhen Konoplyanka, Alex Song, Isco and Jan Vertonghen all mooted as possible future Reds.
This article will focus on three individuals who would make an immediate impact at the club and indeed take Liverpool to the next level.
Each players selected will be judged on what they can bring to the side and how they can be superior to the options already at Rodgers' disposal.
Just Missed the Cut: Alex Song
Regularly playing second fiddle to fellow holding midfielder Sergio Busquets, he made only 25 starts during a stop-start first season in Spain and has started only 15 games this season.
Despite a somewhat unsuccessful one-and-three-quarter seasons with the Catalan giants, Song is still someone who stands out as a talented individual, and there is no shame in not being able to cement a place in a Barcelona side bulging with world-class talent.
Most effective in a defensive midfield role, Song's ability to break up opposition attacks is arguably his biggest attribute.
If brought in, he would add competition for the holding midfield role that—when fit—is usually occupied by Lucas.
The former Arsenal man was previously linked with a switch to Anfield in the summer of 2013, as reported by Neil Jones of the Liverpool Echo, and is a name that regularly crops up as a potential future Liverpool player.
On this occasion Song just misses out on a place in the definitive list as Liverpool require more urgent improvements in other positions than that of defensive midfield.
No. 3: Luke Shaw
Left-back has been a problem position for Liverpool for most of the season.
An injury to Jose Enrique in November led to Rodgers trying different options more or less every game.
Aly Cissokho, Jon Flanagan, Glen Johnson, Daniel Agger and Mamadou Sakho have all had a stint in the left full-back position at some stage since Enrique's untimely injury.
All have failed to convince, and a report by Gary Jones of the Daily Star claims that the loan deal of the aforementioned Cissokho is unlikely to be made permanent come the end of the season.
Luke Shaw is the standout player to fill this problem position. The Southampton defender has been in tremendous form since the opening week of the season and, as the weeks progress, looks more and more likely to be included in England's World Cup squad.
The 18-year-old has not looked out of place against some of the country's top wingers and has proved that he is as big a threat going forward as he is capable in defence.
Shaw's form this season has caught the eye of England manager Roy Hodgson who handed the defender his Three Lions debut in the recent 1-0 victory over Denmark.
Playing the whole of the second half, Shaw—as he has all season—looked comfortable when called upon and showed encouraging signs that he can push Leighton Baines all the way in the race to be Ashley Cole's permanent successor.
The Southampton academy graduate is quick, strong in the tackle and his ability to cross a ball at the moment appears second to none.
If signed by Liverpool, the talented youngster has all the qualities and potential to be the club's left-back for a good 10 or 15 years.
Should the teenager be made available by the Saints, there will no doubt be a number of other clubs queuing up for his signature, but that should not deter Rodgers from making a move.
If Shaw is motivated by being at a club that can maximise his potential (and Rodgers has shown this season that he is willing to give youth a chance), then that could give the Reds an advantage in the race for his signature.
Liverpool have shown this season that they are a force to be reckoned with, and the opportunity to be part of a Champions League side who play attractive, free-flowing football might well be one that the defender is attracted to.
No. 2: Jan Vertonghen
Jan Vertonghen was without doubt one of the Premier League's finest defenders during his debut season in 2012/13, a season which saw the Tottenham man named in the PFA Team of the Year.
His second season on English soil has been disrupted by injury, but the Belgian has still started 20 league games for the White Hart Lane outfit (via ESPN).
He remains one of Spurs' key players, and there is no doubt that Tim Sherwood would be loath to lose such a big player to one of his side's main rivals for a Champions League place.
However, Sky Sports report that defender will seek pastures new should Spurs fail to qualify for next season's premier European competition, while Daniel Jones of Metro already credits the Reds with having a firm interest in sealing a deal.
Liverpool, despite having a terrific season, have at times looked vulnerable at the back. Martin Skrtel, Kolo Toure, Daniel Agger and Mamadou Sakho have all been guilty of making costly mistakes at key moments throughout the campaign.
With the Reds seemingly crying out for a commanding centre-back, Vertonghen certainly fits the bill. Quick, strong and boasting fantastic awareness, the former Ajax man seems like the ideal solution to Liverpool's problems.
The fact that Rodgers already has two left-sided centre-backs in Agger and Sakho at his disposal may see one of them moved on should the Northern Irishman firm up his reported interest in Vertonghen.
Reports from Sky Sports and the Guardian have repeatedly linked Agger with moves to Barcelona and Napoli respectively while the BBC have previously credited rivals Manchester City with an interest in the Dane.
Agger has again seen his season disrupted by injury, and it appears that Rodgers may have finally lost patience with his vice-captain and look to offload him during the summer.
Vertonghen will be part of an impressive Belgium side looking to cause one or two shocks at the World Cup in Brazil, and an impressive tournament from the Belgian himself may see his reported wish to move to a Champions League side granted.
Champions League qualification is a must if the Reds are to land one of the country's finest defenders.
No. 1: Toni Kroos
Just a dream? It shouldn't be.
If Kroos is available during the summer and Liverpool, as expected, have qualified for next season's Champions League, then the midfielder is a player they should break the bank to sign.
The German is having a fantastic season for Bayern Munich and was instrumental as his side knocked Premier League side Arsenal out of this season's Champions League.
Kroos has everything a manager could wish for in a creative midfielder. His range of passing is second to none, and his ability to find a teammate with an eye-of-the-needle pass is quite breathtaking.
At the moment he is dominating games for Bayern the way Steven Gerrard once did for Liverpool and has arguably replaced Mesut Ozil's as his country's standout individual.
The competition for Kroos' signature would be phenomenal should he fail to agree a new contract at Bayern in the coming months, but that should not deter the Reds from making their move.
The BBC reports that Manchester United are keeping an eye on the situation, but with Liverpool looking more and more likely to be able offer Champions League football next season, they could indeed hold the advantage over their fierce North-West rivals.
Making a move for a player of Kroos' ability would be a real statement of intent from Rodgers and the club's owners as the German would without a doubt command huge wages.
The gifted midfielder would without question add an aura of flair and creativity should a move to Anfield materialise.
At this stage a move does appear unlikely, especially with the Reds having to compete with money bags Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, but if they are serious about progressing to the next level, then Kroos is the perfect player to get them there.