Posted by Barrie on Monday, 4 January 2010

Who Should Liverpool Buy This Month?

4 points off a top 4 finish, Liverpool aren't out of the Champions League race just yet. While Tottenham, Manchester City and Aston Villa look stronger at this point, there's nothing to say those teams won't have a blip between now and the end of the season and allow Liverpool back into top 4 contention.

For Liverpool to make a serious run at the top 4, they need to strengthen their squad during this transfer window.

They haven't played well in defence this season, but the potential to do well is there. They have been able to rely on Jamie Carragher for many seasons now, and alongside him is Daniel Agger who isn't as good as other defenders in top teams. Both both are solid in the air. When either of them is missing, I don't think Martin Skrtel is good enough to fill in the gap admirably, and Sotirios Kyrgiakos is too slow for the Premier League. He is more of a hindrance than an asset when he plays. Glen Johnson is a solid right back, even if he is caught out of position one too many times. Help from the player in front of him, usually Dirk Kuyt would help out defensively. Emiliano Insua receives a lot of credit at left back but I still think he is a bit suspect. Even against Reading in the FA Cup at the weekend, Rafa Benitez played Fabio Aurelio in front of him to help him out, instead of playing an attacking player on the left side of midfield to show intent for winning the game.

Their midfield was downgraded over the summer with the sale of Xabi Alonso. A tough one to replace. Alberto Aquilani hasn't had enough playing time for us to say he cannot fill those boots. But on the few occasions I have seen him it is clear he is taking his time to adapt to the Premier League. Javier Mascherano protects the back 4 well, but too many times this season has he played alongside Lucas. We're all very critical of the Brazilian, who's role at Liverpool still remains undefined. It appears he should be protecting the back 4 because he creates very little chances and doesn't score himself. But Benitez should not be playing these two side by side, especially when you're playing the likes of Portsmouth. Lucas needs to be moved on and Mascherano can be left to protect the back 4. His range of passing is also an asset to the side. I cannot criticise Steven Gerrard. The team should be built around him, but Benitez is doing a poor job of that. He works well with Fernando Torres, while he helps out his defence well too.

On the wings, Albert Riera hasn't lived up to his early promise. He is still their best left winger though and adds natural width. Dirk Kuyt has been forced out on the right wing which he should be better adapted too by now. He's not suited to it there with his lack of pace and skill to create chances for the strikers and most right wingers do. He needs to be replaced. Ryan Babel shows glimpses of what he is capable of but his lack of effort lets the team down. Liverpool may be able to get a decent price for him if they wanted, but it seems Benitez is happy to keep him. Yossi Benayoun is a top player but needs to be settled in at one position. Preferably behind the striker, but Benitez doesn't know where to play him and sometimes doesn't play him at all.

Up front, Fernando Torres is one of the best strikers in the world. Unfortunately he is struggling with injuries and fatigue. He needs a few weeks off to recoup but the manager seems unwilling to do so. The lack of quality in this position has given him no other choice. David N'Gog runs around like a headless chicken despite showing potential. He's certainly not a top 4 striker at the moment, but with more experience he could live up to his potential. Andriy Voronin needs to be sold on.

Liverpool have a few youngsters breaking into the first team this season. Hoping to find the next Steven Gerrard or Jamie Carragher, it is important they do so and not need to spend big money again in positions where Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United have brought through talent from their youth systems.

Who would I bring in this January?

It's easier said than done. And too many changes in January could unsettle the squad. Liverpool have been linked to both Ruud van Nistelrooy and Roman Pavlyuchenko already this month. The first is an ageing star of the past. If they can get him cheaply and his fitness holds up, then van Nistelrooy will be a great snip. But whether they can do either remains to be seen. Pavlyuchenko has been a flop at Spurs and would be a bad gamble. Already in a crisis, the amount of criticism from pundits and fans alike would only make the task more difficult. Benni McCarthy has been linked to Celtic for £2,500,000 this month – I would see him as a good acquisition for Liverpool. A Champions League winner and proven goalscorer. With the World Cup in his home country approaching, he'll want to get in form for that. At a small price he could knock in a good number of goals for Liverpool for the remainder of this season at least.

With reports that Liverpool don't have much money to spend, building quality on a budget won't be easy. West Ham are in a financial problem themselves and because of this they may be able to poach Scott Parker from the Hammers for a reduced fee. He has top 4 experience at Chelsea, if somewhat limited. An experienced player in the Premier League, Parker is good at both protecting his defence and creating chances. I wouldn't compare him to Steven Gerrard, but adding him into the same midfield would make their team much better. If the price is too high for him, Jack Collison and Mark Noble wouldn't be bad options, also from West Ham.

To add attacking flair to their midfield, Liverpool have been linked to Real Madrid's Rafael van der Vaart and Atletico Madrid's Maxi Rodriguez. I couldn't argue with either of these signings as they're both big upgrades on what they currently have.

Raiding West Ham in defence would be for Matthew Upson. He's previously been linked to Liverpool, has experience at International level and is one of the best defenders in the Premier League. He alongside Carragher would strengthen Liverpool's defence immediately.

There's a lot of building work to be done at Liverpool and it must start immediately. Looking at the 11 they fielded against Reading on Saturday, there is plenty of room for improvement as they aim to finish in the top 4 this season.

Who do you think Liverpool should buy this month?

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At 4 January 2010 at 18:00 , Anonymous Miles said...

Good question Barrie - I think if they are to have any hope of turning their season around, they need to sign a star player in each area, defence, midfield and up front. They need to not be afraid of some of their current first team losing out in doing this.

Kuyt is a great example, he's not a bad player by any means and never looks out of his depth, but it's clear after several seasons he's not going to score a lot in the premier league, and it's not like he's a creative set-up man either. He would be much more at home in his current role at a middle-of-the-table club.

At Liverpool he shouldn't be first choice. It's difficult to say but maybe up front is where they are lacking the most - almost relying on Torres to get goals, and having such a poor offence puts a lot more pressure on the rest of the team.

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