With less than 48 hours before the close of the January transfer window, there is still plenty of work at Liverpool left to do with both comings and goings within the squad, with a couple of moves still up in the air and a bit of deadwood to shift on.
The 40-year-old spoke of his desire to add a few fresh faces before the end of deadline day, telling reporters last week: “We hope to do some business between now and the end of the month. We know we still need one or two additions more and the club are doing everything they can to assist me in that.” With that in mind, what are the five things above all else that manager Brendan Rodgers needs to do before deadline day?
Decide what to do with Tom Ince – The club have taken a tough stance in transfer negotiations with Blackpool over the future of the England U-21 international winger, with Rodgers et al refusing to kowtow to Karl Oyston’s demands, the rather shady Seasiders chairman. Liverpool, somewhat understandably, believe that with the player out of contract in the summer and due to the fact that they retain a 35% sell-on clause from Ince’s move between the two clubs 18 months ago, an offer of between £4-6m is about right, but Blackpool look to be holding out for £8m with their own 30% sell-on clause attached.
To be honest, given he can leave for nothing at the end of the season, the Championship club are really in no sort of position to be making demands like that and after they reportedly turned down a £7m offer from Reading, who then subsequently withdrew from the race for his signature, Liverpool look like the only interested party again and they need to weigh up whether forking out £8m for him now or waiting until the summer is the best approach; you suspect it’s the latter.
Scout about for a second-choice goalkeeper – The standard of reserve goalkeepers in the Premier League has dropped all across the board these past five years horrendously, with the systemic dearth of talent effecting the entire global game, Brad Jones’ performance during the FA Cup defeat away at Oldham just cast further doubt on whether he’s quite good enough for the club. With Pepe Reina’s future somewhat up in the air amid likely interest from Barcelona, in search of a shot-stopper of their own after Victor Valdes’ decision to move to a new club at the end of the season when his contract expires, the 30-year-old Australian has already featured 12 times this season in the league and in Europe to due the Spaniard’s patchy injury record this term.
To say he’s failed to impress would be an understatement and the search for someone actually capable of stepping in to Reina’s shoes needs to become a priority. This also means addressing the future of Brazilian goalkeeper Doni, who appears to be at the club in spirit but increasingly homesick for a return home.
Utilise the loan market – Manchester United have proven in recent times that the rewards for sending out promising players on loan are huge if the right playing environment conducive to their talent is found, with both Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley prime examples and Liverpool need to do more in this area. With West Ham so short at the back, particularly at left-back, would it have been the worst idea in the world to offer them Jack Robinson for the rest of the campaign and allow the raw 19-year-old some top flight experience? With Michael Ngoo and Danny Wilson already being packed off to Hearts in Scotland, players like Connor Coady, Jon Flanagan and Samed Yesil would seriously benefit from a short-term loan spell in the Championship or even lower.
What to do with Coates – Speaking of loan spells away, the club need to bring in a new centre-back to truly put pressure on the comfortable but ropey pairing of Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel, who have both been far from their best this season. The 22-year-old Uruguayan looks to be seriously struggling to adapt to English football and could do with a spell away from Anfield playing more regularly. This explains the club offering Vegard Forren a trial before he completed his move to Southampton and at the moment, Coates looks too slow to be trusted and rather worryingly for a 6ft 5′ centre-back, he looks vulnerable in the air with no great leap on him whatsoever. If Rodgers can secure the permanent signing of a new defender, as has been mooted, then a temporary home needs to be found for Coates.
Move for another central midfielder – You may be forgiven for thinking that with Joe Allen, Lucas Leiva, Jonjo Shelvey, Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson that the club is already reasonably well stocked in the middle of the park, but the squad are still a body light than at the start of the transfer window, with Nuri Sahin having his loan spell cut short early, and with the Europa League still to contend with, they could perhaps do with another fresh face capable of playing through the middle. Philippe Coutinho could be that man, but he’s most likely to be tried out wide first as he accommodates to English football, so while it’s not a more pressing need than say a new centre-back, it should still feature on the agenda if the club have the resources available at their disposal.