Liverpool’s forgotten man set for a new lease of life?
The signing of Joe Cole on a free transfer from arch-rivals Chelsea, has filled Liverpool supporters with fresh hope and vigour. After a desperate season last year, the appointment of Roy Hodgson and recruitment of Cole gives Liverpool a huge burst of confidence amongst the fans and players. Days after Cole signed, Steven Gerrard committed himself to Liverpool; Hodgson will be hoping Fernando Torres and Javier Mascherano do likewise, the latter however, appears to have his eyes on a move to Internazionale. Even if Mascherano was to leave, the Liverpool squad is looking strong, though a left back will need to be brought in before the start of the season. If one examines the likely first eleven, then Liverpool fans have good cause to be optimistic.
Pepe Reina is one of the standout goalkeepers in the league, and many would argue that he is in fact the best. Johnson, Carragher, Agger and an as yet unknown left back will form the backline, and despite being relatively solid, this is perhaps the weakest area of the Liverpool team. If Mascherano leaves Lucas could fill the gap in defensive midfield, whilst Alberto Aquilani may finally get a chance to prove his quality in the centre of the park. Gerrard may operate in central midfield or off the front man, and with his confidence restored, he may want to prove something after a tepid season last year. Joe Cole can add guile on the left or behind the strikers, whilst the hard-working Kuyt will probably keep his position on the right. If Torres can provide the spearhead, then this is a team that can easily challenge at the summit of the Premiership. Milan Jovanovic may also prove his worth up front if Hodgson opts to play two strikers or if Torres is injured. One player who could also make a difference, is the seemingly forgotten Ryan Babel.
When he was bought by Liverpool from Ajax, Babel was one of the hottest prospects in European football. During the 2007 UEFA Under-21 Championship Babel was widely hailed as the best player in the tournament as part of the victorious Dutch side. Soon after the tournament Liverpool parted with £11.5 million to land the player. Despite performing superbly as a striker, Benitez decided to play Babel on the wing, a position where he seemed lost and was ineffectual. As the seasons progressed Babel played less and less until Benitez appeared to have no faith in the Dutchman whatsoever. However, with a new manager at the helm, and still only 23, Babel will have a fresh chance to play and perform to the potential he once displayed. If Hodgson can get Babel firing, along with Gerrard, Cole, Kuyt, Maxi Rodriguez, Torres and Jovanovic, Liverpool will have a potent attacking threat, and one with a good deal of depth and variance. Without Champions League football, Liverpool will be focussing virtually all their efforts on the league, and when one examines their team and manager, then the conclusion has to be that Liverpool can be a major contender in the forthcoming season. The cloud that continues to hang over Anfield is the ownership issue, and the fans will be hoping that this can be remedied sooner rather than later.