Liverpool FC: 5 Ways to Alleviate the Midfield Problem
It's no secret that Liverpool have a glut of midfielders at their disposal now. In fact, this seems to be the main focus of any sort of Kop talk lately. Some might ask if having too many good players is a problem, and that is a valid question, but here are a few musings on the topic that should be taken into consideration.
1. Find a Starting Group
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While Steven Gerrard is too often found in street clothes, it is safe to say that he is first choice when fit. That said, who else slots in?
Unlike most people, I do believe that there are enough minutes to go around for the current midfielders, but there has to be a top group set in stone for the important matches. It depends on the formation run, of course, but personally I think that a 4-4-2 fits our personnel rather well.
That would mean Carroll and Suarez up top, Gerrard and Lucas in the middle, and Kuyt and Downing on the wings. I don't care how much we've spent on Henderson and Adam; Gerrard and Lucas are our two best central midfielders.
However, against lesser teams I'd have no problem with Adam, Henderson, Meireles, Spearing and Aquilani getting time in their preferred roles.
2. Figure out Who Is Leaving and Who Isn't
John Henry has implied in recent days that Aquilani isn't going anywhere. This is most likely because he simply couldn't be sold, but if he stays, he stays.
Shelvey should probably get a loan somewhere (Blackpool has been rumored, right?) to get first team football, but definitely not sold.
Meireles is a class player and absolutely should not go, but if he is unhappy with his wages or any combination of Dalglish-Comolli-Henry don't want him, then he might be gone.
Spearing has proven a capable backup and should stay, and of course Adam, Henderson, Gerrard and Lucas are sure to be here as well.
3. Excise Joe Cole
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Cole is a tricky player and I don't think he's played his last game just yet. But that said, I simply don't know how he fits at Merseyside.
He's behind Meireles and Aquilani if he's to be a creator. He certainly would be behind Downing-Kuyt-Henderson-Gerrard-Adam if he wanted to play a sort of left or right central midfield role. And I doubt he would be a serviceable striker at this stage in his career.
Should he be offloaded? Liverpool First Team coach Steve Clarke doesn't think so, but I do. I don't think Cole is as bad as he has seemed. After all, a lot of players suffered under Hodgson's reign and Cole never got a proper chance under King Kenny.
But Cole is too expensive and too old to fit into any future plans for Liverpool, and he doesn't add enough right now to take up a roster spot. I say give him the boot and let him revive his career somewhere else.
4. Find Enough Minutes for Everyone
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Like I said before, I believe this is possible, but it will take some magic from Dalglish and Co. to figure it out.
Gerrard and Lucas will get their starts, as will Kuyt and Downing. But what of the rest?
Adam's left-footed set piece deliveries and keen long balls will almost certainly see him given a multitude of chances, and Henderson's price tag almost necessitates his use. But without the Europa League and at least Spearing, Meireles, and Aquilani left over, a delicate balance must be struck.
I believe we can count on Gerrard to be injured at some point, with his most natural replacement being Meireles. That leaves spot starts to Spearing and Aquilani, both of whom will want more than that. Dalglish will have to be extremely convincing to manage all of these egos without sacrificing chemistry and product on the pitch.
5. Find That Elusive Left Back
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This may seem a bit irrelevant, but it isn't. Shoring up the defense is still a priority and finding another center back would be a good start. But right now, no title caliber left back is on the Liverpool roster.
Fabio Aurelio is always hurt, Emiliano Insua isn't quite fast enough, and Jack Robinson is still probably one for the future.
A good left back will allow more freedom in selecting midfielders. The guys that lack something defensively like Adam or Aquilani will be able to play with more freedom and less responsibility.
A good, solid defensive left back will open up the game for Liverpool, and a good attacking fullback would do the same (though possibly preclude the aforementioned Adam-Aquilani from making 30 appearances this term).
That's my take on it, what do you guys think?