Liverpool Must Be Gutted to Keep European Hopes Alive and Survive Relegation
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I honestly never thought it would come to this but Liverpool FC need to be drastically reshaped before the end of the January transfer window to survive. Some followers of the club can point to the injuries of Jamie Carragher and Joe Cole as well as the suspension of captain and driving force Steven Gerrard but the writing has been on the wall for all season.
It's up to reinstalled manager Kenny Dalglish and director of football strategy Damien Comolli to scramble to find reinforcements over the next few weeks. Without adding fresh talent and shipping off some unwanted spare parts, Liverpool can find themselves in a relegation dogfight.
Clearly, the squad lacks depth and creativity. Without Carragher's steadiness in the center of defense, both Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel look like ordinary defenders, each of which have been easily exposed by lower table opposition. Forget about Sotirios Kyrgiakos, who makes Sol Campbell of Newcastle look like a gold-medal sprinter. Goalkeeper Pepe Reina basically is forced to make multiple outstanding saves per match to keep Liverpool within even drawing against weaker opposition —never mind the free-flowing attacks of Manchester United or Tottenham Hotspur.
Martin Kelly has been a pleasant surprise as his development is ahead of schedule and has earned high marks from most supporters. A young, tough English defender in the mold of Stoke City's Ryan Shawcross, Birmingham's Scott Dann or Bolton's Gary Cahill would make a nice addition but the latter is likely to move to Arsenal. Strkel and Kyrgiakos would be free to find new clubs if I called the shots at Anfield. Neither possesses the right amount of intelligence or guile to be counted on in Carragher's absence.
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Lucas Leiva and Christian Poulsen make up the worst tandem of Premier League holding midfielders imaginable as neither can string together the most basic of passes and lack the pace needed to track back and provide cover for the back four. I'll call a taxi for the two of them to leave immediately. Neither could even cut it at West Ham or Wolves and have no business pulling on the famous red shirt of Liverpool. It's no wonder why the Reds are tracking Blackpool's midfield ace Charlie Adam. CSKA Moscow play-maker Keisuke Honda has made it known he'd like to come to Anfield and would be a welcome solution to Liverpool's creative void.
I'll tell you a secret that few fail to realize. Dirk Kuyt admirably performed the role of right midfielder so well that most of the world believes that it is his natural position but it was Rafael Benitez who forced him into the role due to lack of transfer funds and poor squad depth. He's a "target man" forward who belongs up front to bully defenders and win balls in the air into Fernando Torres' path. It has long been Kuyt's job to paper over the cracks of failed signings and to keep Liverpool's midfield shape. The time is now for him to be used in his most effective role or be sold on as he's clearly not a winger.
Wing play has been a consistent problem for Liverpool since the days that Patrik Berger and Steve McManaman made bursting runs for the club on opposite flanks during the late 90's. Luis Garcia was accused of giving the ball away too easily but again Liverpool was making due with a player out wide who was more at home playing behind the main striker. When Garcia played as an advanced attacking midfielder, he produced moments of pure magic.
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Maxi Rodriguez has been solid on the right-wing but like Kuyt cannot skillfully evade defenders or put in first-rate service into the box. Milan Jovanovic hasn't had a fair amount of opportunities but like Ryan Babel has looked largely inconsistent and wasteful. It's time that a natural winger like Eljero Elia of German side Hamburger SV is signed to address this problem. Kevin Jarvis of Wolverhampton also appears to be a target as he can play on either wing. Santi Cazorla of Villarreal would be an ideal signing but it's unlikely he would leave Spain to join a struggling Liverpool.
Most importantly though, the Reds must buy a striker of high regard as they will certainly fall into a relegation battle if Torres suffers a long-term injury. Signing Sevilla's Alvaro Negredo or FC Utrecht's Ricky van Wolfswinkel would make sense for the both the current and future ambitions of Liverpool. Luis Suarez of Ajax would be a tantalizing acquisition but Tottenham would win any transfer battle as they have the funds to win a bidding war and offer Champions League football.
Another area that must be addressed is finding a solution at the troublesome position of left-back. The injury-prone Fabio Aurelio can be a useful stopgap but someone like Inter hotshot Davide Santon would fit that role nicely. According to some media reports, Fabio Coentrao could soon move to Real Madrid so you can cross him off the list. Paul Konchesky's horror show at Anfield must end as soon as possible for both Liverpool's sake and his own. To regain his confidence, Konchesky must find a new club.
Along with some of the suggestions I've mentioned, I'd like to see Ryan Babel get a good run of games on either wing to know whether or not he can cut it. When he actually was given that opportunity in his first season as a Red, he looked the part. Dani Pacheco should find more chances in the senior squad as he's put in some wonderful displays in reserve matches. Jay Spearing deserves a chance as well as he brings the hunger and desire that is desperately lacking in the first team.
Time will tell but I think both Dalglish and Comolli are deeply intelligent men and will come up with a plan to revamp Liverpool. Fenway Sports Group and John Henry certainly won't wait around and will bankroll Dalglish as they're eager to see the club succeed. Changes must be made soon and like any other Liverpool supporter, I'm excited to see what the future holds. With the proper surgery administered to their failing squad, the Reds can still mount a challenge in the Europa League and secure a European place for next season.
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