Liverpool Transfer Rumours: 5 Players the Reds Need Before August 31st
Kenny Dalglish recently stated that Liverpool will have to sell before they can buy any more players. Having splashed out in the region of £50 million on new talent already this summer, this isn't surprising; Fenway Sports Group will want to keep the club on a stable financial footing and increasingly stringent UEFA financial fair-play rules will prevent spending from being too lavish in future years.
With just one month remaining in which to do business, Dalglish will have to move players on and replace them relatively quickly if he has further aspirations to remodel his squad.
With question marks remaining over the futures of Raul Meireles, Alberto Aquilani, David N'Gog and others, there could still be money to invest before the transfer window closes on August 31st.
Some areas of the squad do obviously need attention. Two untested teenagers in Jack Robinson and John Flanagan were playing at right and left back toward the end of last season, hinting at a need for more competition for those places, but there is scope for improvement even outside these problem positions.
Here are five positions Liverpool need to fill in order to deliver an improved performance in the Premier League next season.
Stephen Warnock, Left Back
Liverpool ended last season with Fábio Aurélio and Jack Robinson as their recognized left backs. Both turned in some good performances, but with Aurélio a perennial injury concern and Robinson just 17, neither could be expected to be wholly reliable.
This forced Kenny Dalglish to use the likes of Glen Johnson and Danny Wilson out of position. Both Paul Konchesky and Emiliano Insúa returned this summer, but Konchesky has already departed for Leicester City and Insúa's future remains uncertain.
This summer Liverpool allegedly showed some interest in Gaël Clichy, who joined Manchester City, and Joan Capdevila, who joined Benfica. Jose Enrique has been another rumored target although price may be a sticking point; Newcastle have been asking for £6 million for the player, who only has one year left on his contract, and his current club seem willing to play the waiting game.
Aly Cissokho, Alvaro Pereira and Marcell Jansen have also been linked, although there's been no strong evidence of a move for any of the three, while suggestions that Wayne Bridge or Leighton Baines might seem highly unrealistic.
The latest suggestion has been that Stephen Warnock could return. Although probably not the most gifted player of those named on this slide, he fits the profile of players the club have been signing; English and with Premier League experience.
He's been on the fringes of the England squad for some time, but didn't seem to fit into Gérard Houllier's plans at Aston Villa last season and could potentially be signed cheaply should new boss Alex McLeish consider selling him. The Ormskirk-born player would no doubt jump at the chance to rejoin his boyhood club, and his tenacity could be valuable in a long Premier League season.
Scott Dann, Centre Back
Former Liverpool manager Roy Evans has stated that the club need to sign a new centre back this summer. With Jamie Carragher, Martin Škrtel, Daniel Agger and Sotirios Kyrgiakos all senior players in that position, a signing would initially seem unnecessary, especially when you factor in the presence of Danny Wilson, Martin Kelly and Daniel Ayala—three young players looking for games in this position—on the fringes of the squad.
When you consider that Carragher is 33 and Kyrgiakos is 32, then Evans' reasoning becomes more apparent.
Neither is blessed with much pace and when strikers get the wrong side of these players it has the potential to result in goals. While Agger and Škrtel are only 26, Agger hasn't appeared in more than 27 league games in a season for Liverpool due to ongoing injury concerns; he played in just 16 in 2010-11.
The question would be who would go in order to generate the funds to sign another player?
Agger's injury record would rightly be counted against him, but he's the best passer among the four, and it would be tough to part with such a quality player. Kyrgiakos has been a good servant to the club and his signing offered terrific value, but without Carragher's years at the club to influence the decision, his age make him the most likely to exit.
Uruguayan Diego Godín is one player who has been a rumored target to solve problems in this position, but the Atlético Madrid player wouldn't come cheap.
Scott Dann has also been linked and could provide a more cut-price solution in light of Birmingham's financial woes. Alongside Roger Johnson he was part of a Birmingham defense that exceeded expectations on promotion to the Premier League, ultimately being let down by their attacking counterparts as the team were relegated last season. Once again Dann fits the profile of the players we have been signing, and at 24 he could be a fixture in the side for some time should he establish himself.
Adam Johnson, Winger
Stewart Downing has improved Liverpool's wide options a great deal. Last season Maxi Rodríguez and Dirk Kuyt seemed to be the favored pairing, with Joe Cole and Milan Jovanović in reserve but rarely used—one or both may find themselves elsewhere by the time the transfer window closes.
Raul Meireles has been used in wider positions by Dalglish but he's also been subject to rumours of an exit. In the event that only some of these players leave, Liverpool could still be short of wingers.
Kuyt found excellent form playing alongside Luis Suarez during the spring, and could well be used in this position again, leaving a vacancy on the right wing. It's also worth considering that although none are completely unable to play on the right, Maxi, Downing, Cole and Jovanović have all been primarily used on the left, leaving Liverpool's wide midfield options looking distinctly lopsided.
Liverpool have already missed out on three rumoured targets; the versatile Santi Cazorla moved to Málaga, while Charles N'zogbia has been snapped up by Aston Villa and Juan Mata seems to be on his way to Arsenal.
One player yet to make a move is Adam Johnson, the Manchester City and England winger. Despite his versatility (he can play on either wing or behind the strikers) his games at City have been limited by competition for places. Everton have allegedly been preparing a loan bid for the player, but should City be willing to loan him to Liverpool (which would no doubt depend on whether they see Liverpool as close rivals in the coming season) Johnson could be an excellent signing (as well as an opportunity to irritate local rivals!).
Mariano Pavone, Striker
With Blackburn dawdling over the free transfer signing of striker Mariano Pavone, Liverpool could capitalize. The club might have developed a phobia of Bosman moves after players like Degen, Voronin and Jovanović took big singing on fees and wages then failed to deliver, but the Argentinian international could yet be worth the gamble as a squad player. With David N'gog attracting attention from other clubs, Liverpool could start the season with only two first team strikers.
Dirk Kuyt proved he can still score goals when playing alongside Suarez during Carroll's injury lay-off, and will likely start the season as third choice striker in addition to his midfield responsibilities, while Steven Gerrard has spent much of his Liverpool and England career playing up front or off a striker, so he'll also be considered an option. However, two strikers and two midfielders filling in wouldn't represent the kind of depth required to make a real challenge in the coming year.
Whether Liverpool need Pavone somewhat depends on how much of a role young players are likely to play in Dalglish's plans. Dani Pacheco is well liked by Liverpool fans and has showed a lot of promise at youth levels, but after a decent loan spell at Norwich in the Championship he needs to get Premier League experience, at Liverpool or elsewhere - will Dalglish give him that chance? Looking to the academy, although Raheem Sterling and Adam Morgan have impressed with the England under 17 side this summer, neither is ready to take on first team responsibilities should Carroll or Suarez get injured.
I believe that Liverpool would benefit from taking a gamble and signing someone young, exciting and perhaps relatively unknown - to sign a player not because they're short of numbers, but to threaten and make a statement of intent. Premier League defences know what to expect from the likes of Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing; although whether they can deal with them is another matter, they will not be surprised by their attributes or style of play. The impact Luis Suarez had since January is evidence that bringing in a foreign player with flair is still a good way to unsettle defences and I for one would like to see more ambitious signings of this nature.
The frustration is that while Manchester United and Arsenal seem to habitually sign young, attention-grabbing players, it's an area in which Liverpool still have something to prove. The likes of Nasri and Hernandez have arrived for not insubstantial sums, but without massive reputations, and slipped straight into the Premier League. In the meantime, Liverpool's equivalent signings have either flopped when called upon (see Ryan Babel). This summer our only signing with this kind of potential is Marco Bueno, who may one day make a big impression on the league, but at 17 and apparently without any first team experience at Pachuca, it's hard to imagine him tearing up defences just yet.
This summer has seen the Under 20s World Cup, CONCACAF Gold Cup, South American Youth Championship, Copa America, and the European Under 21 championships - plenty of opportunities to scout the worlds up and coming talent. At Liverpool it's been a summer of signing functional, British, relatively experienced Premier League players, it would really help build some excitement and anticipation around the club if Liverpool's scouting network were to pluck a gem from one of these competitions capable of going straight into the first team squad.