Through the summer transfer window and up until deadline day, Kenny Dalglish and co. achieved many key objectives: they found a creative left-winger in Stewart Downing, brought in a reliable left back by signing José Enrique, scored a top young defender in Sebastián Coates and found a solid replacement backup striker in returning vet Craig Bellamy.
What the Reds' priority will likely be come January is acquiring a gifted winger or attacking midfielder, someone who can show versatility on the pitch and contribute to improving their performance in wide areas. Craig Bellamy has been lauded for that in the past and will be part of the solution, but a winger will add some much-needed strength at the far ends of the pitch. Here are some possible contenders Dalglish may bring to the Kop in January.
A small but mighty force on the pitch, the Lille winger has technical skill, versatility and international experience, all attributes which could be great assets to the Reds, especially if they seek to return to European play next year. He's been compared to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi and praised for his speed and almost magnetic ball control. Plus, as a versatile attacker who can work centrally or out wide, he could be the solution to the Reds' flank problem.
The move of Joe Cole to Lille on loan was intended in part to set things in motion for Liverpool to sign Hazard later this season. But Dalglish will have to compete with Arsenal, who will be hot in their pursuit of the Belgian international.
Christian Eriksen is likely to be on a whole lot of fans' wishlists come January, and not just the Kopites. Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand, Theo Walcott, Martin Jol, Johan Cruyff and many other high-profilers in the world of football have heaped their praise upon the young Ajax attacking midfielder.
Although he may not possess the same prowess as a wide-area player as an Adam Johnson or an Eden Hazard, Eriksen's vision, effortless footwork and technical prowess have made him a key playmaker at Ajax and would make him a welcome addition to Anfield in January. Eriksen helped Ajax to their first league title in seven years—maybe he could do the same for Liverpool.
A bid for the 19-year-old Danish wünderkind would be a long shot though, as Christian Eriksen will likely be courted by plenty of other big clubs come January, including Manchester United and Barcelona.
The 25-year-old Dutch international was rumored to be heading to Liverpool on a loan deal over the summer and it's expected he'll leave Barcelona soon after spending his inaugural season at Camp Nou mostly on the bench.
Afellay would bring energy, versatility and consistent performance as a winger to Liverpool, and as with Hazard and Eriksen, he brings plenty of experience in European play thanks to several Champions League stints with PSV Eindhoven, a team he captained for a season.
Liverpool was rumored to be in talks to acquire Johnson from Manchester City on deadline day, but a deal never materialized and Johnson stayed at Eastlands. The winger, who despite some strong showings in the Euro qualifiers so far, remains on the bench at City in favor of the likes of David Silva and newcomer Samir Nasri.
Johnson could be a potential solution to Liverpool's right-flank woes. He's agile, has plenty of vision and ability and would be a great complement to his former Middlesborough teammate, Stewart Downing. The combined creativity and ability in wide areas would make for a powerful midfield for the Reds, and Johnson may be looking to join Downing at the Kop in January, especially if he's seeking more first-team play.
For those unfamiliar with M'Baye Niang and who haven't gotten hung up on the novelty of his age and surrounding hype, to recap: he is 16 years old, has scored three goals in 10 appearances with Ligue 1 club Caen and is already being called one of the hottest prospects for January for whichever club is willing to shell out the upwards of €11 million for him.
Liverpool was rumored to be going after Niang over the summer, and given his scoring capability, experience working up the ranks as an international player and ability to adapt to multiple roles on the field, he may be worth revisiting in the next transfer window.
The only drawback to signing Niang would be that the 16-year-old is used frequently in the role of a striker as opposed to an attacker (although he can do both), and although a backup striker never hurts, finding one isn't as much of a top priority for the Reds, especially with the entrance of Craig Bellamy.