Liverpool

Swift Liverpool Development Has Marginalised Kolo Toure, Martin Kelly and Others

CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 02: Kolo Toure
Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images
Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistAugust 13, 2014

Liverpool's transfer activity looks set to continue this week, with news of defensive comings and goings being widely reported in the media.

James Carroll confirmed on the club's official website that a deal in principle has been agreed for Sevilla left-back Alberto Moreno, while fellow defenders Kolo Toure and Martin Kelly are expected to leave on low-cost deals, as per the Mirror's Ben Burrows and Tony Barrett of The Times:

Martin Kelly is set to join Crystal Palace from Liverpool for an initial fee of around £2 million.

— Tony Barrett (@TonyBarretTimes) August 12, 2014

Liverpool's big improvement in their on-pitch fortunes under Brendan Rodgers has allowed the big expenditure in the transfer market this summer. But a by-product of that is also departures of certain players who were thought to play a role in the side for this season and beyond, with Kelly and Toure two examples of such.

 

A Swift Rise

We've seen it before: A team progresses and improves under a manager, entering into a cycle of buying better players, continuing to evolve the squad and naturally improve again the following season.

In itself it is a natural progression of a club, but it means that somewhere, someone who helped the initial improvement is going to get left behind.

It frequently happens with promoted teams; they strengthen for a Premier League campaign, and the players who helped them up in the first place don't get their own crack at the top flight as a result.

PRESTON, LANCASHIRE - JULY 19:  Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers looks on during the pre season friendly match between Preston North End and Liverpool at Deepdale on July 19, 2014 in Preston, Lancashire.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

That was the case with Liverpool in previous title challenges, when starters from a year or two previous didn't improve their own game along with the overall ability levels of the team, and so it is proving again now.

Liverpool are a far better outfit than this time two years ago, tactically as well as technically, and those players who cannot keep up their own rates of progression are unfortunately, but naturally, being sidelined to make room for those who can reach the next level again.

 

Kolo and Kelly

Kolo Toure came into Anfield last summer as a free transfer signing, but an important one.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 12:  Kolo Toure of Liverpool reacts after he scored an own goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Liverpool at Craven Cottage on February 12, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

He was a winner, a leader, an experienced head and a reliable, established Premier League name—all facets that the defence was lacking after the retirement of club legend Jamie Carragher.

Initially, Toure played an important part for the Reds. The Ivorian put in strong performances and made a centre-back slot his own, but injury, rotation and individual errors meant he was soon out of the side and seen as something of a liability when he was called upon later in the campaign.

Errors against West Bromwich Albion and Fulham were particularly costly and, after the return of Seba Coates this summer and the signing of Dejan Lovren, Toure is at best Liverpool's sixth-choice central defender. A move to Trabzonspor will give him continued first-team action and will save the Reds his hefty wages.

Martin Kelly is similarly down the order at right-back, behind Glen Johnson, Jon Flanagan and loan signing Javier Manquillo.

Kelly had his chances in pre-season but has not come close to looking like the athletic, powerful, rampaging full-back of two years ago.

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 27: Martin Kelly #34 of Liverpool in the second half during the International Champions Cup 2014 on July 27, 2014 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. Liverpool defeated Olympiacos FC 1-0. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
David Banks/Getty Images

Anybody who watched him get a regular run of games before a serious hamstring tear against West Ham under Kenny Dalglish, and then as a first-choice full-back before a cruciate knee ligament injury under Brendan Rodgers, knows that Kelly is a monstrous defender and there is a real player there somewhere.

Fitness and now competition means he won't get the chance to discover that talent on a regular basis at Anfield, when it looked initially as though he could be the next big academy graduate.

Martin Kelly leaving means it's still Stevie Warnock with most senior apps for LFC as academy graduate since Gerrard... with just 67.

— Karl Matchett (@karlmatchett) August 12, 2014

Sterling 77, [Warnock 67], Kelly 62, Flanagan 42, Wisdom 22, Suso 20, Robinson 11, Ibe 3. Count who you like as an #LFC academy graduate.

— Karl Matchett (@karlmatchett) August 12, 2014

At Crystal Palace he'll still have work to do to find his best level, but either at right-back or centre-back, he can still make a good career for himself.

 

Agger? Suso? Borini? Others?

Elsewhere in the squad it's a familiar story, and not merely for squad players.

Daniel Agger has been a fan favourite, a European-competition regular and even vice-captain, yet he now looks to be third-choice on the left side of central defence behind Lovren and Mamadou Sakho. The Dane hasn't sustained his true levels of ability over the past two seasons, and the suspicion has to be that he will leave if a buyer comes in.

Agger's now set to be sold with Barcelona the favourites to sign him this summer. [Daily Mirror] #LFC

— Anfield Bond (@AnfieldBond) August 7, 2014

Suso is a prodigious young talent, but he's not at the level of Raheem Sterling for effectiveness and consistency.

Not even close.

CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 02: Suso #30 of Liverpool brings the ball up the field against A.C. Milan in the Guinness International Champions Cup at Bank of America Stadium on August 2, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Liverpool defeated A.C. Milan 2-0. (Pho
Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images

He's a player who would have expected to play a part, perhaps in the league as a squad player and in Europe if the Reds finished fifth last season—but the Champions League? In a side fighting for the title? With Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic having been signed for a combined £45 million?

Fabio Borini, the same: a good young player with the ability to improve, but not at the rate or the level of the team overall.

That's the natural progression and evolution of a club that exceeds expectations...and then capitalises on their success, which is what Rodgers and his side are trying to do this summer.

It naturally means that some players, some favourites, get left behind.

But the hope is that new favourites and star names arise in their place, that a Lovren or a Manquillo or a Lallana can help fans understand exactly why a young talent like Kelly or a more established name in the side, eventually has to depart.

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