Liverpool Transfer Options: 10 January Moves That Get Them Into the Top 4
Inconsistent. That's the word I think best sums up Liverpool's start to this season.
In some games Liverpool have looked like a team capable of taking on and beating the best in the league. In others they've looked like a group of strangers who've just met for the first time.
It's become very clear than any pre-season thoughts fans might have had about a title challenge were nothing more than fantasy.
They have managed to play badly and win on a number of occasions, and that's a promising sign. However, it's obvious that Liverpool are not currently in a position to challenge for the Premier League title.
I would go as far as saying that Liverpool are going to struggle to finish in the top four. Tottenham are their main rivals for fourth and looking at both clubs starting 11's it's hard to make an argument for Liverpool in their current state.
There has been a frailness in defence, mainly due to injuries. There's been a lack of creativity and balance in midfield, a midfield which has also struggled when teams get physical and bite into tackles.
There's also been issues upfront where Luis Suarez has been forced to carry the team single-handedly.
Andy Carroll has turned in a number of poor displays and has many of the Anfield faithful wondering if he may turn out to be a very expensive mistake by Damien Comolli.
It has to be disappointing to look at a team that has been rebuilt at a cost of £110million and is currently a long way off being title contenders.
It's always quite disappointing that despite the large outlay Liverpool fans still feel that Steven Gerrard is going to be the one to carry the team to glory.
When that sort of money is spent in an eight month period, the team should no longer have to rely on one or two players.
Unfortunately that is the case at Liverpool.
With a lot of uncertainty hanging over Gerrard in terms of how much is surgically repaired body is going to be capable of. There's more uncertainty whether or not he can bounce back to his best form after back to back poor seasons.
It's quite obvious that Liverpool will need to make some changes in January.
I believe the first change should be the abandoning of Damien Comolli's sabermetrics fascination which currently dictates Liverpool's transfer dealings.
Henderson, Adam, Downing and Carroll were all signed because they fit the Comolli blueprint, at a cost of £79million.
The price represents the other big problem with Comolli's master plan. Buying players from English clubs, especially English players, means overpaying massively.
In my opinion that amount is at least £25million more than those players were worth. I think it's pretty obvious that that money would have gotten a far higher standard of player from outside the English shores.
Luis Suarez cost £12million less than Andy Carroll, and only £3million and £7million more than Downing and Henderson respectively. That shows that.
Of the four I mentioned only Downing has performed close to the standard expected of him.
He's been inconsistent and even at his very best it's hard to see him ever justifying the large fee Liverpool paid for him.
Henderson and Adam have struggled, and Carroll has been at best mediocre, at worst downright awful.
In this article I will set out ten moves I believe Liverpool should make in January, in terms of players arriving and players leaving, if they want to compete for that all important Champions League place.
I hope you enjoy.
1. Buy a Central Defender
Strong teams are built on the basis of a strong defence. It's an age old saying and at no club does it have more meaning than at Liverpool.
Think of any great Liverpool team. Now think of the back four.
Regardless of what great Liverpool team you are currently thinking of, I guarantee there's a strong defence.
Great defences are as much a part of "The Liverpool Way" as pass and move.
At the moment the Liverpool defence does not look great. Especially in the centre.
For me the fullback slots are nailed down for the next decade with Martin Kelly on the right, and Jose Enrique, to be replaced in two to three years by Jack Robinson, on the left. There's no problems there.
The problem is in the centre.
Jamie Carragher is a Liverpool legend. He will go down in Anfield folklore as one of our greats.
He lives, breaths, eats and sleeps Liverpool Football Club and has never given anything less than 100% for the cause.
Unfortunately he's no longer able to display the type of form that galvanized the Liverpool team en route to Champions League final appearances in 2005 and 2007.
Never the quickest to begin with, Carragher's limited pace has begun to desert him. And while his mind and reading of the game remain as sharp as ever, his legs often don't permit him to be where his brain tells him to be.
Alongside him is Daniel Agger.
Arguably one of the top two or three central defenders in English football when fully fit, Agger's body does not match his ability and has let him down time and time again.
Let me say now that I am as big a fan of Daniel Agger as you are likely to find but when his body can't be relied on, we can't be reliant on him.
Martin Skrtel is a decent player, but nothing more. His lapses in concentration will always prevent him from reaching that elite level. And Liverpool needs players at that elite level.
He's a good back-up to have, but nothing more than that.
Sebastian Coates is a fantastic prospect but I don't feel we should be throwing him in straight away. I'd like to see him brought along slowly and made a regular next season.
Liverpool need a new central defender to partner Carragher or Agger in the short-term and Sebastian Coates in the long term. There are a number of possibilities for this position.
Gary Cahill is the obvious one. He was linked with Liverpool for the majority of the summer, but Bolton priced him out of the move.
Unfortunately for Bolton, his form has dropped alarmingly this season.
His valuation, which was already going to be much lower than it was this summer due to his expiring contract—he's plummeting.
Regardless of his current form he's still an excellent player but will likely receive attention from a number of clubs this winter. He could opt for a move to Chelsea or Spurs if they follow up on their interest.
He's also a great leader and with Carragher approaching the end of his career, that's something Liverpool will need.
A couple of other possibilities are Neven Subotic, who has been linked in the past.
His defensive partner Mats Hummels who would be my personal favourite although likely the most expensive option as well.
Potentially Branislav Ivanovic who doesn't seem to be first choice at Chelsea under their new manager and has in the past been linked with potential moves away from Stamford Bridge.
He has been overlooked on a regular basis.
For my money, Hummels would be the best possible buy but Vertonghen seems the most likely.
2. Sell Martin Skrtel
This would simply be a case of one in, one out if Liverpool did sign a new central defender.
Liverpool would have a log jam at the back in terms of numbers. I feel it would be wise to sell somebody who's not needed but would have the highest value.
That man is Skrtel for whom Liverpool would likely receive a fee of anywhere between £7million and £9million should they choose to cash in on him.
It would also free up a nice slice of the wagebill for a new signing.
As I said on the previous slide, Skrtel is a good back-up to have but the arrival of a new central defender would move one of the current starters to the bench.
Likely Carragher if Agger is fit and with Sebastian Coates, Danny Wilson and Andre Wisdom on the books Skrtel becomes expendable.
He's also a man who takes great pride in playing for his country.
Without regular first team football it's unlikely he would be a regular for Slovakia either.
Hence, why I believe Skrtel might see a move away to be in the best interests of his career.
Perhaps he could be used in a make-weight for Vertonghen or Hummels.
3. Upgrade at Defensive Midfielder
Graeme Souness. Steve McMahon. Didi Hamann. Javier Mascherano. Lucas Leiva.
Not even the biggest Lucas fan could deny that there's a huge difference in quality between the first four players and the Brazilian.
Liverpool have had some great defensive midfielders over the years, Souness, Stevie Mac, Didi and El Jefecito.
As much effort as Lucas puts in each week, he's simply nowhere near the quality of those four, and he never will be.
His performances this season have shown that he struggles when facing top class competition in midfield.
He played fantastically well against Bolton and Stoke, neither of whom possesses a single top class central midfielder. Against Arsenal, Spurs and Everton he spent a lot of time chasing shadows and giving the ball away needlessly.
This was also the case in a number of games against top class opposition last season.
His supporters will point to him having made the most successful tackles in the Premier League last season. His detractors will counter by saying he also lost the most tackles in the Premier League last season.
I'll simply point out that the reason he is required to make so many tackles is because it often takes him two and sometimes three attempts to win the ball.
His first time tackling success rate is not good enough and therein lies a problem for Liverpool.
Before anyone claims that because he won the supporters player of the year last season that it proves he's become some sort of footballing phenom.
Consider that only a fraction of Liverpool's global support voted in that competition and Lucas received only 40 percent of the vote.
A figure that would certainly have been much smaller had Luis Suarez played more than 13 games, or had Steven Gerrard had a normal Steven Gerrard season.
Without a defensive midfielder who can win the ball quickly and get his team moving in the opposite direction?
Liverpool have become a slow paced methodical team which they simply don't have the quality of players to be.
Last season, Liverpool played two defensive midfielders in Spearing and Lucas.
Liverpool had more success because Spearing won a far higher percentage of his tackles. Between them they were able to squeeze teams and get Liverpool moving on the counter attack.
Without a top class defensive midfielder, Liverpool will not be successful. Lucas is a great player to have in the squad, and his energy and enthusiasm are hard not to like.
But he's not good enough to be first choice and a replacement must be found.
Again there are a couple of options here.
Yann M'Vila is a player Liverpool were constantly linked with before the summer. Likely a player they would have pursued had he not declared his intentions to stay at Rennes prior to the transfer window opening.
For me there should be no other option. M'Vila is a beast and is going to be the best defensive midfielder in the world in the not too distant future.
Other possibilities are Moussa Sissoko, Jack Rodwell and perhaps the return of El Jefecito.
Ok that last one is highly unlikely but if Barca do push ahead with a move for Javi Martinez, then Masch could find himself looking for new employment.
I personally volunteer to drive to Barcelona and collect him if he indicates he'd welcome a move back to Anfield.
4. Loan out Connor Coady and Jay Spearing
I would suggest that Coady be loaned out in order to gain first team experience.
He also should be loaded out to get him to the level where he could supplant Lucas as back-up to M'Vila or whoever, and eventually challenge for a starting role.
In the case of Spearing I think he should be loaned out to put him in the shop window to find a potential buyer. Spearing is a fantastic lad and he gives his all for club.
If he is prepared to spend his entire career as a fringe player getting the odd start in cup competitions then he should certainly be kept at Liverpool.
If he has a little more ambition then selling him is the best option.
For all that he offers in terms of effort, spirit and love for the club, he lacks the basic footballing skills to ever be a first team regular at Liverpool.
Sending these two out on loan would, as with selling Skrtel, clear some of the logjam of players in midfield.
5. Sign a Top Class Attacking Midfield Talent
This is a must for me. Liverpool are desperately short of true quality in this position, even with Gerrard back in the fold.
This is an area where the footballing world is currently flush with great young talent.
Liverpool needs to make a move now to ensure that they don't miss out again as they did with David Silva and Juan Mata.
Liverpool haven't really had a great attacking midfielder since Steve McManaman other than when Stevie G played in behind Fernando Torres.
Gerrard for me needs to play on the right of midfield and I think he can do a lot of damage in that role, just as he did in 2005/06 which remains arguably the greatest season of his career.
Charlie Adam is currently playing this role in theory and for me, he's just not of the level Liverpool require.
He's fantastic from deadballs and can ping a long pass that truly makes your jaw slap of the floor from time to time. I don't see someone who can unlock a defence I lock at him.
I think Liverpool would do well to adapt the diamond formation in midfield with a new defensive midfielder as the anchor.
Steven Gerrard and Stewart Downing on the right and left respectively and a new player brought in to play at the tip would become the new creator in chief for Liverpool.
Ideally I'd love to see a player who can initially play as a pure attacking midfielder initially and then progress into an allround midfield playmaker ala Xavi, Iniesta and Scholes.
There are three for this role that Liverpool have been linked with in the past.
Iker Muniain from Athletic Bilbao. From the mould used to cast David Silva and Juan Mata, comes Iker Muniain. Liverpool were linked during the spring and could possibly go back for him in January.
He strikes me as the type of player that could develop into the Andres Iniesta role for the Spanish national team. I could see him eventually playing a deeper role, as Iniesta does in Barca's 4-3-3 when he's not moved into the attacking three.
Gifted is the word I'd use to describe him.
He could potentially play in any attacking role from second striker back to central midfielder including attacking midfield and both wings.
For me, Muniain or Gotze would be the best signings as I think they'll develop into truly world class playmakers.
I think Hazard is going to be a world beater. I'm not sure he has the passing skills of the other two. He is rumoured to prefer a move to Arsenal should he ever come to play in England.
I was going to include Christian Eriksen but he has stated his preference for a move to Spain on more than one occasion.
He may not be as well known or as hyped as others I've mentioned, but he's just as talented in my view. He would likely cost a lot less as well.
6. Sell Maxi Rodriguez and Joe Cole
Purely from a wagebill point of view, we need these two off our books. Between them they earn close to a quarter of a million pounds a week.
That's money that could be better spent on someone else.
A lot of fans use the argument of wages as a reason for saying we were right not to sign Kun Aguero.
Well what would you rather have, Kun Aguero in the team, or Maxi on the bench and Joe Cole in France?
I like Maxi but he doesn't offer anything special and I feel he should be sold on, regardless of how much we get in.
I know Cole is on loan, but I think we should offer him to Lille for half of whatever the agreed fee for next summer is just to have his wages off the books.
He's playing well for them, and if Hazard were to leave them in January, they might want to secure the services of Cole.
7. Sign a Proper Partner for Luis Suarez
My thoughts on Andy Carroll are well documented and well known.
I won't go into them here,
The look of despair on Luis Suarez's face in the picture above is similar to the look of despair he's displayed a number of times when Carroll has let the Uruguayan's good work go to waste.
The partnership is not working and it must be addressed.
He's a born goalscorer, a natural finisher, works hard and links the play very well. He's also excellent in the air.
Tottenham have also been credited with interest and seemed the favourites to get him during the summer.
Having brought in Adebayor, I don't know if they'll make a move in January which should open the door for Liverpool.
That is a door Damien Comolli should be running through.
Other possibilities are Mario Gomez, Giuseppe Rossi and Alvaro Negredo.
These are all players who have been linked with Liverpool in the past and they are all players who have the skill set to be a good partner for Suarez.
8. Bring Back David Ngog
Yes I am joking.
But think on this, in the first nine games he played for Liverpool last season, David Ngog scored seven goals.
In eight games this season, Andy Carroll has scored only two.
9. Loan out Raheem Sterling to Bolton Wanderers
Sterling turns 17 on 8 December.
I have no doubts that on 9 December Liverpool will start fielding calls regarding loan deals for him.
If one of those calls is from Owen Coyle at Bolton, Liverpool should certainly consider it.
Sterling is our biggest prospect and regardless of Stewart Downing's price tag, he is merely keeping the left flank warm until Sterling is ready.
Coyle has done a fantastic job of moulding other clubs youngsters with Jack Wilshere and Daniel Sturridge being the cases in point.
Both Sturridge and Wilshere are likely to be in the England squad for next summers European Championship.
If they are fit and in the kind of form they have displayed since their time at Bolton, I think Coyle can do the same sort of thing with Sterling.
This is not a deal that will affect this season's charge from a Champions League spot obviously, but it could play a big part Liverpool's future as title contenders.
10. Sign Lucas Moura
I don't care how much he costs. I don't care who else is interested in him. Liverpool must sign this boy.
He's been linked with Liverpool a number of times and Liverpool can not afford to let him slip through their fingers.
He's a rare talent and anyone who knows their football will know just how special he is.
He's the player I think can be Steven Gerrard's long term successor at Anfield and he's a player who can become of the worlds greatest players.
The level of Messi and Ronaldo is sort of rarefied air that Lucas can one day grace and he should be doing it in a Liverpool shirt.
Regardless of whether he arrives in January, or a deal is struck for him to arrive next summer this must happen if Liverpool want to become one of Europe's elite once again.
The thoughts of a future midfield of Lucas Moura on the right, Mario Gotze and Yann M'Vila in the centre and Raheem Sterling on the left, with Suarez and Damaio upfront, well that is as they say the stuff dreams are made of.
It's possible as well.
Mr. Henry has shown he is willing to spend and that he has the long term future of the club in mind.
If Damien Comolli is as good as he claims to be, then he will be looking outside of England this January. He will be bringing top class international talent to the club, rather than over-priced English players who aren't of the same calibre.
I don't think Liverpool will be able to bring in all of the players I've suggested in January, but there's no reason it can't happen over January and next summer.