Friday, 30 December 2011

Liverpool - What do they need?

By Lee Jaundrell   30/12/11

In a couple of days the transfer window opens, and all sides have the chance to improve their teams, put right what’s going wrong. You hear from managers that January is a bad time to buy players, Chelsea bought Torres last January which has been an undoubted failure, and also bought Sideshow Bob (Bob would be much better than David Luiz). 
Liverpool bought Suarez and Carroll. Up to a point Suarez has been a brilliant success, he is a superb talent always involved in the game, loved by the fans, but whose finishing could be better. He is currently banned for the game against Newcastle, and is about to be banned for a further 8 games for his confrontation with Evra (plenty has been written elsewhere which I’m unqualified to really add to). Suarez is no good to anyone sat on the bench. Carroll, to me, has been a failure, and not lived up to what was expected of a big money signing. But that could of been so much different if his last minute efforts against Man City and Blackburn had not been impressively saved by Hart and Bunn respectively.  
Liverpool are currently 6th in the league, just 3 points behind Chelsea in 4th place. They would be 4th now if Carroll’s late efforts against Man City & Blackburn hit the back of the net. Liverpool would be more than happy with 4th place at the end of the season, which they are very much in the hunt for, but something isn’t quite right. The summer signings haven’t quite hit off. Enrique has been excellent at left back, possibly the best player in the league at that position at the moment. Adam has been inconsistent so far, for every good game (Chelsea away) there are two poor games (Swansea & Blackburn at home). Downing has generally been poor, for a player who was bought for his creativity, he hasn’t had one assist or one goal this season. Henderson has been moved around the pitch by Dalglish, sometimes wide, sometimes central. His best position is probably attacking centre midfield, which he has shown flashes of good play, he is hard working but sometimes as is normal for young players he goes missing. 
Other players haven’t contributed what they should, Gerrard has been injured, while Kuyt, who would normally contribute 10 - 12 goals a season, hasn’t got any in league this season. Fortunately the defence has been impeccable, and the foursome of Enrique, Agger, Skrtel and Johnson are as good as anything around. The team are creating chances, apart from poor performances away to Tottenham and at home to Swansea, Liverpool could argue they had enough chances to win all the other games. They have produced more crosses than any other team, and hit the woodwork more than anyone else. So have they been unlucky? Or is there something fundamentally wrong? What does the team need to improve and can this be done in January.
If only Ian Rush was 25 years younger. With the number of chances created and crosses provided, is it only an out and out goalscorer needed? This would mean playing 4-4-2, with a goalscorer playing alongside Suarez. But with Lucas missing for the season, defensively this would underman the central areas, unless the wide players tucked in and the full backs provided the width. Liverpool has performed well in recent years with Torres up front  on his own, supported by 3 attacking players (generally Gerrard, Kuyt and A.N Other). Could Suarez drop deeper, solidify midfield, while provide creativity in the final third. Is he capable of that position?
With Lucas missing for the remainder of the season, a defensive midfielder would be preferable in this window. Spearing is ok, but not top class. If the Champions League is a genuine target, 2 from Adam, Spearing, Gerrard and Henderson is not strong or disciplined enough for me. It will be interesting if Liverpool show an interest in Tiote of Newcastle. Newcastle don’t need to sell, but as the Carroll deal showed money speaks volumes.
Downing and Kuyt have underperformed this season, Henderson though showing willing is not suited to playing wide. While Maxi and Bellamy have played well, they have been underused, though they are both 30+ and may not be able to perform to high standards week in week out. Is a new wide player needed? Or will the width be provided by the excellent Enrique and Johnson from fullback. A new strong defensive midfielder would release these two more, meaning a wide player not as necessary as a holding midfielder.
The next few weeks will be interesting from Liverpool’s point of view. They have played well in patches, created lots of chances but not always been ruthless enough. Major surgery of the team isn’t needed, but the odd tweak, and maybe 1 or 2 key signings could push them forward in a very open race for Champions League places. Do the owners want to make that push now? Are there suitable players available?

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