Liverpool Transfer Options: 5 Underperforming EPL Stars the Reds Could Target

David Hendrick@@DaveHendrickTLWContributor IIIJanuary 17, 2012

Liverpool Transfer Options: 5 Underperforming EPL Stars the Reds Could Target

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    Yesterday Thomas Atzenhoffer compiled a list of young players who could make a big impact for Liverpool if the Reds were to sign them.

    Thomas stated that these were dream signings rather than realistic ones and it was mentioned in the comments section that Liverpool would need to be in the Champions League to even have a chance of signing most of them.

    What I decided to do, having read that article, was put together a list of potential targets, all English Premier League based (which you will all be aware is a change for me), that Liverpool could sign in order to get the club into the Champions League.

    Thus, it could put them in a position to make those dream signings that Thomas mentioned.

    Rather than just putting together a list of Darren Bent, Demba Ba, and Jermaine Defoe as has been done countless times already, I wanted to go a different direction with my list.

    Instead of being completely predictable (and risk readers falling asleep by slide three because they're reading the same names they've already seen a dozen times in the last two weeks), I've gone for five players that haven't been mentioned before.

    My basis for picking these players is that they extremely talented and are currently not, I repeat not, in good form for their current owners and are not considered key players.

    My reason for this is twofold. Reason one is price. Liverpool have greatly overpaid for players from other Premier League clubs over the last year. This was mainly due to those players being considered greatly important by their clubs.

    The second reason is a bit of an odd one.

    Liverpool signed Andy Carroll based on one good run of games that last roughly four months. Damien Comolli ignored the idea that form is temporary and decided that 11 goals in 19 games was enough reason to make Carroll one of the most expensive signings in history.

    Liverpool also signed Stewart Downing based on form over a period of months rather than his entire career. Downing is a hugely inconsistent player. Anyone who has followed his career would have known that if he continued the pattern he has shown throughout his career, he was going to perform poorly this season.

    So I decided to look at talented players who were underperforming. Players that would benefit from a change of scenery and, with the right guidance, could maximize their talent and potential. Players that would improve the current team without breaking the bank.

    I hope you enjoy.

1. Adel Taarabt of Queens Park Rangers

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    Yesterday I put together an article listing seven potential African targets for Liverpool. One of the players I mentioned was the ultra-talented Younes Belhandra. During that article I mentioned the similarities between him and Adel Taarabt.

    In the comments section of the article, I had a quick discussion with a reader about the possibility of Taarabt and Belhandra coming to Liverpool. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea.

    Taarabt would be a cost-effective addition who would bring a lot to Liverpool, as long as he keeps his attitude in check and as long as he is properly managed.

    With Kenny Dalglish in charge we can be certain that he would be properly managed at Liverpool, and Damien Comolli is a fan of Taarabt and is the man who initially brought him to England.

    Taarabt is the type of player who performs best when he's made to feel wanted and made to feel important. At Liverpool, he would be both.

    His play-making skills are something Liverpool could definitely use. He can create goals and he can also score them.

    He's not everyone's cup of tea, for obvious reasons, but there's no denying the talent. Even his biggest doubter wouldn't deny that in top form he would greatly improve Liverpool's attack from a creative point of view. 

    Taarabt was linked with Liverpool in the summer, but QPR were rumoured to be looking for an enormous fee and nothing ever came of it. But perhaps a £10 million move this month might bring this talented player to a club that could give him a platform to truly show his ability.

2. Hatem Ben Arfa of Newcastle United

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    You could say that Liverpool and Newcastle have done some business over the last year. Business to tune of £41 million, which has seen Andy Carroll and Jose Enrique trade in Tyneside for Merseyside.

    It's fair to say that the Enrique deal is definitely the better of the two from a Red perspective, whilst the Geordies will think of the Carroll deal and smile.

    Newcastle have used the money from the Andy Carroll deal to bring in players like Cabaye and Santon. They are unquestionably a far better team now than they were with him on the team.

    They will become even better now that they have used some more of that money to push through a deal for Papiss Cisse from Freiburg who will join Demba Ba and create a potentially lethal strike pairing.

    With Newcastle continuing to evolve and get better, one man that seems to be getting lost in the mix following his return from injury, is Hatem Ben Arfa.

    Ben Arfa is a player I've been a huge fan of since I first saw him playing for Lyon as 17 years old. He's an ultra-gifted player who's penchant for tantrums have thus far stopped him from shining as a player of his talents should.

    He joined Newcastle from Marseille, initially on loan, but his career with the Magpies never got started due to a horrific broken leg. Since returning, he hasn't really been a first option for Alan Pardew.

    With the signing of Cisse, it's hard to see where he will get a game for Newcastle. Pardew seems to prefer workhorses on the wings rather than thoroughbreds, and has mainly used Ben Arfa in a withdrawn striker's role.

    The attached video shows just what he's capable of and just to show he hasn't lost his ability, he scored this goal only a couple of weeks ago.

    Newcastle paid £5 million for Ben Arfa, so perhaps an offer of double that would be enough to bring him to Anfield. He is a player with the talent to match anyone.

    If he were to find his best form, Liverpool fans would not be thinking about Shaqiri or the like for much longer.

3. Giovani Dos Santos of Tottenham Hotspur

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    Giovani Dos Santos Ramirez came through the ranks at Barcelona and at one point seem set to be a star in the making for the Catalan giants.

    Unfortunately for Dos Santos, his path to the Barcelona team was blocked by some chap called Messi. Being the impatient lad that he is, he decided to leave in search of greener pastures.

    He joined Spurs for a fee in the region of £4 million plus add ons in the summer of 2008 and it was generally felt that Spurs had gotten themselves a real bargain in securing him.

    A certain Damien Comolli was once again the man behind the deal. Unfortunately for Dos Santos, Comolli and manager Juande Ramos were sacked only months later and Harry Redknapp did not seem as keen on him as his predecessor. 

    The emergence of Gareth Bale as a rampaging left winger, and Harry Redknapp's ridiculous refusal to play him in his preferred role on the right, have further stunted his chances of first team football.

    Dos Santos has spent the last three years of his career either on loan, or in the Spurs reserves which is a bit of a slap in the face to a player of such talent.

    He badly needs a change of scenery and he'd be very affordable. It would be a bit of risk given he's yet to truly show the type of talent he displayed as a youngster on a consistent basis, but there certainly has been flashes during loan spells and for the Mexican national team.

    I feel Liverpool could possibly snatch him from Spurs for a fee of around £5 million. It would be a low-risk, high-reward signing because if he finds his best form he's worth easily three times that amount.

4. Charles N'Zogbia of Aston Villa

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    In the list of poor transfer decisions made by the current regime, the decision to spend £20 million on Stewart Downing, rather than £9 million on Charles N'Zogbia, ranks right up there with the worst of them.

    N'Zogbia is younger, more talented, less predictable and has more potential that Downing. Yet the Reds decided to vastly overpay for Downing rather than grabbing a bargain in N'Zogbia who Aston Villa signed to replace the Englishman.

    Downing was seen to have had a great season with his seven goals and seven assists in 38 starts for mid-table Villa, but for my money N'Zogbia's nine goals and five assists in only 32 starts for a team that battled relegation all season is a lot more impressive.

    N'Zogbia's time at Villa has, in truth, not gone much better than Downing's at Liverpool. But he has had to deal with a manager trying desperately to find a system that works and he's frequently been played out of position.

    He's also fallen foul of the manager for disciplinary reasons which has been a pretty regular occurrence during his career.

    Regardless of the poor form, this is a very talented player with the ability to be a top-class player if that ability is harnessed in the correct way. Roberto Martinez managed to do just that and N'Zogbia was the single biggest reason Wigan avoided the drop last season.

    N'Zogbia is the type of wide player Liverpool needs right now. He's got pace, dribbling ability and he can create chances in more ways than simply slinging cross after cross into the box a la Downing. 

    Whether or not Villa would be willing to sell is unknown, but Liverpool should chance their arm with a bid of around £12 million. That might just be enough to convince Alex McLeish to part ways with his talented but troublesome Frenchman.

    N'Zogbia on one wing might actually be able to bring out the best of Downing on the other. He would shoulder more of the creative workload and free Downing to play his more natural game of beating his man and getting the ball into the box.

5. Asamoah Gyan of Sunderland

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    This one would be a hard deal to pull off given he's currently on loan in the Middle East.

    But it is possible to buy players out of loan deals, and Martin O'Neill has said that Sunderland were looking into the option of recalling him from loan.

    The likelihood is that even if they recalled him, he wouldn't want to play for them. He seemed to make that clear when he forced his way out of the club in late August. He wants to play on a bigger stage for a bigger club, and Liverpool are a club that could provide that stage.

    Now, obviously he and Luis Suarez might need to sit down and have a bit of a chat about an incident at the 2010 World Cup, but the potential of the partnership is hard to ignore.

    Suarez is a creative genius who needs a finisher, preferably with pace, alongside him. Gyan is a pacey finisher who needs a creator alongside him.

    In tandem they could be very effective. I don't believe Gyan's career goals per game record does him justice as he's often been forced to play in wide roles rather than his preferred striker position.

    He's only 26 and has yet to reach his prime. I feel that played as a striker with players like Gerrard, Suarez and perhaps someone else off this list around him, he'd score quite a lot of goals.

    An offer of £10 million would likely be enough to seal such a deal. Sunderland are looking for a new striker and that money could come in handy for them. 

In Closing

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    As I said on the opening slide, I was looking for realistic signings that Liverpool could possibly make from other Premier League sides at reasonable prices.

    I was looking for players who have a lot of talent, but perhaps weren't showing that talent this season and could possibly do with a change of environment.

    The thought process behind the five players I've listed is that they could all be available, none are key member of their current clubs first team with the possible exception of N'Zogbia and all should be available at reasonable prices.

    These are not players that alone could transform Liverpool from an inconsistent seventh place team into a title challenging team. I am fully aware of that and I am not suggesting that they are.

    But they are all an improvement over what Liverpool currently have available to them and could help improve the team sufficiently to finish in the top four.

    Finishing in the top four means Champions League football. Champions League football means being able to attract the truly top-class players.

    Truly top-class players require big-time transfer funds. Signing any two of the players I've listed in this article would not require Liverpool to spend a large portion of the funds it would take to attract the top players in the summer.

    I hope I've given you a little bit of food for thought with some of these suggestions. I am aware that some people will not agree with a couple, or even all, of these suggestions.

    However, I do stand by my belief that that they could improve the team without breaking the bank.

    Thanks for reading.