Liverpool Strikers: What Is the Best Combination Up Front for Kenny Dalglish?

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistAugust 10, 2011

Liverpool Strikers: What Is the Best Combination Up Front for Kenny Dalglish?

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    Seven months after arriving back at the club in the manager's seat, Kenny Dalglish has been able to splash out close to £100 million on reinforcements, financed of course in part by the sale of forwards Fernando Torres (Chelsea, £50 million) and Ryan Babel (Hoffenheim, £6 million) in January.

    Their replacements, Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez, arrived on the last day of the transfer window and played the second half of the 2010-11 season in red, scoring six times in the league between them.

    This summer has seen new signings arrive mainly for the midfield, though the versatility of the likes of Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson offer possibilities in abundance for King Kenny to be able to swap his side around up front in terms of both formation and personnel.

    The Contenders

    As far as out-and-out strikers go, Andy Carroll is clearly the big man for the big occasion. An injury-interrupted first few months on Merseyside prevented him from showing his best form but he looks back to full fitness now. He so far has two goals in nine games for Liverpool.

    Luis Suarez is a fiery and immensely talented forward capable of playing a variety of roles. A fans' favourite after about a quarter of an hour in a Reds shirt, Suarez has been tipped as a front-runner for the Player of the Season award even before a ball has been kicked! He has four goals in 13 games.

    Dutchman Dirk Kuyt has been a regular for Liverpool for five years, playing both up front and on the right flank. His current record reads 241 games, 66 goals.

    David Ngog is still a Liverpool player for now, though speculation has, well, burnt gently if not exactly raged, all summer long about a possible move to Premier League opposition Sunderland or Bolton Wanderers. Fast and with a good finish, Ngog's irregular performances and a perceived lack of strength and composure make him fourth choice in the forwards. He has 19 goals in 94 games for the Reds.

    In addition, let's not forget the various players who could be mixed in with those above in various formations, with the likes of Steven Gerrard, Stewart Downing, Alberto Aquilani and Joe Cole all capable of playing advanced roles.

    But who would your chosen combination be for playing in the final third for Liverpool? We take a closer look at the possible choices here; leave your preference below in the comments section.

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Carroll and Suarez: Classic Big Man/Little Man in a 4-4-2

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    Well, firstly, Suarez isn't exactly little; his height is listed at 1.81m on, but still, alongside Andy Carroll almost anyone would look small.

    Carroll and Suarez are viewed by some as a more modern day Quinn & Phillips, Toshack & Keegan, etc.

    Of course, they are far more adept than just linking up by way of Luis running onto Andy's knock-downs, but while some fans still love the classic 4-4-2 formation, this is the most straight forward way of pairing the two big signings together.

    They haven't, until now, had too much chance to gel as a pair, with Carroll's injuries and Suarez's ineligibility for European matches last season making it hard to see them both on the pitch at once.

    However the new season brings a longer chance of seeing a prolonged run of both players in the team and seeing if this duo really can click.

Aerial Prowess and Plenty of Pace: Carroll and Ngog

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    He's not everybody's cup of tea, but Ngog is probably the fastest striker on Liverpool's books in a straight foot race.

    He works the channels well and, though erratic at times, his finishing can be very good.

    Allied to Carroll's aerial ability, this is actually probably more of Roy Hodgson's dream combo rather than something Kenny Dalglish—or most Liverpool fans—would seriously consider as a long-term option.

The AC Milan Attack: 1-Behind-2

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    AC Milan manager Mass Allegri favoured this attacking system for most of last season, typically deploying a withdrawn creative force (such as Kevin-Prince Boateng) behind two more advanced forwards (two from Pato, Ibrahimovic and Robinho, for example).

    With Liverpool looking to get the best out of the playmaking, goal-scoring and mayhem-causing Luis Suarez, perhaps allowing the Uruguayan something more of a free role would see him flourish.

    He has already in his brief time at Anfield shown signs of linking up well with Dirk Kuyt, and partnering Kuyt and Carroll up front would allow a great work ethic to develop with the front three.

    The obvious downside to this is that there would be a severe lack of width in the team, with three central midfielders more or less required to balance out the attacking instincts of these three forwards. The full backs would be continually asked to support in attack, and while Liverpool have yet to conclude any left-back signings, this would be a big strain on the inexperience of Jack Robinson or the fitness issues of Fabio Aurelio.

Kuyt and Suarez: Creativity and Hard Work in Equal Measures

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    I have seen several 'preferred XIs' from Liverpool fans over the last few weeks that do not include Andy Carroll; perhaps this is the front two you prefer?

    Kuyt's work rate and goal-getting ability would be combined with Suarez's inventiveness and non-stop terrorising of opposition defenders.

    Both are decent in the air, if not spectacularly good, and would rely massively on off-the-ball movement and quick service to feet to thrive.

Lone Strikers: Target Man, All-Rounder or Tricks and Movement?

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    There could be some fancy a one-man-show up the top for Liverpool.

    Aside from David Ngog, who would likely be the fourth choice at the moment for the Reds in this situation, the three candidates for the role all offer something a little different.

    Andy Carroll is too often looked at as a 'target man', someone to hit the ball up to and can hold onto it or flick it on while support arrives. Once the Reds start playing to the big man's feet, we will see a whole different side to Carroll though. He is surprisingly quick once he gets going and has quick feet and good skills capable of dribbling past several players at speed. Almost like a juggernaut, once he's going, there's no stopping him until he's done. Obviously Carroll has the aerial threat that others lack, while he works hard as well and is as good with his chest as with his head.

    Dirk Kuyt will run all day for the side, chase down centre backs and start Liverpool's defence from the front. In addition he is a good mover off the ball and knows where the back of the net is. A good all-rounder at heading, using either foot and striking from anywhere in or around the box, Kuyt offers an outlet for the midfield with his willingness to work the channels and link up play with wide men. He's a great penalty taker too.

    Luis Suarez would lead the line well with his clever movement and willingness to get in behind the defence, whether through the middle of the pitch or behind the full backs. His trickery and skill on the ball makes him nearly impossible to tackle anywhere around the penalty box, while his shooting skills have been honed to a fine point in the Dutch Eredivisie. Liable to float deeper at times to get involved with build up play, Suarez allows others to make unpredictable runs in behind him.

...and One in Behind?

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    For those opting for a lone striker, support is all important. Think balance, complementing styles, unpredictability and, of course above all, goal-getting ability via assists or scoring themselves, of course.

    Steven Gerrard should not be forgotten and will be an obvious choice to link up with any front man after his success in the role with Fernando Torres playing further forward.

    Raul Meireles played a similar role for a spell last season with some success, leading to most of his five goals.

    Joe Cole offers tricks and movement when on form and fully fit. Though he has not been first choice under Dalglish, Cole has been deployed in this sort of role during preseason.

    Alberto Aquilani, still a Red at present, offers perhaps some of the best vision and passing in the league, let alone at Anfield, yet his injury record, mentality and agent holds question marks against him in the eyes of some fans.

One Through the Middle and Two out Wide

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    Stewart Downing's arrival signifies a willingness to work on what has been a weak spot over the past few years for the Reds at times: delivery from wide areas.

    Though Downing performed for Aston Villa in a central midfield role at times, it was on the flanks where he caused the most damage.

    On the left he can fly past players before delivering a wicked cross with pinpoint accuracy; from the right he can cut inside and pass or cross to oncoming players or even shoot for goal himself.

    Dirk Kuyt can also figure from either side, though he is most recognised in a Liverpool shirt on the right side, getting himself into goal-scoring positions and linking well with fellow midfielders.

    Luis Suarez can indeed play on either side, though is more likely to drift in and out of positions, deeper and higher, wider and more centrally, as he looks to create chances for himself and others.

    Andy Carroll is obviously a central focal point, though as noted previously either of Kuyt or Suarez—or indeed Ngog if he receives the right support—can play this role with two supporting wider players.

    Jordan Henderson, Maxi Rodriguez, Joe Cole and Steven Gerrard are also possibilities for the wide roles.

My Personal Choice: Any Three from Four

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    I personally am in favour of using a 4-3-3 system, allowing both more central midfielders to flourish in their preferred positions as well as giving plenty of options in attack.

    Andy Carroll, Luis Suarez, Dirk Kuyt and Stewart Downing—any three of those four will combine superbly well for Liverpool this season in attack.

    I have a bit of a feeling that Kuyt could miss out early on this season in home games for the Reds from that quartet, though all four should make a sterling contribution for the Reds to get back into the Champions League places this term.

    For my part, I'm backing Andy Carroll to outscore all his teammates and prove any doubters he has wrong, though I really don't see why he should have any at this point. He is a very good striker who will only get better at the club. If tactics are mixed up with him—playing to feet often and head/chest as an option rather than the rule of thumb—then Carroll will achieve great things for us.

    I expect Downing and Suarez to start almost every game they are available for Liverpool and both to shine statistically in both assists and goals. Downing should reach double figures for goals this season and Suarez could get up to 20 in all competitions too.

    Thanks for leave your selections below!