Kenny Dalglish’s focus on improving Liverpool’s midfield this summer has seen three new midfielders arriving at Anfield already. Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam join nine senior midfielders on Merseyside and whilst they will no doubt be a clear-out of some of the existing unwanted players, is variety in the midfield a selection headache for Kenny?
One of the clichés of modern football is that it is a squad game, the ability to give a rest to the tired and freshen up the team if things are not going your way. Liverpool’s small squad was often stretched last season and Dalglish has clearly recognized the need to add more bodies in the midfield.
Henderson, Downing and Adam join Steven Gerrard, Raul Meireles, Joe Cole, Maxi Rodriguez, Jay Spearing, Lucas, Christian Poulsen, Jonjo Shelvey and Alberto Aquilani as Dalglish’s senior midfield options. I wouldn’t be surprised if a handful of these are sold (the obvious candidates being Cole, Poulsen and Aquilani) but that still leaves Dalglish with a variety of choices in the middle of the park. He will also have various young academy players pushing for a breakthrough, though their opportunities could be limited as Kenny continues to invest.
The rumoured departure of Meireles is a perplexing one. Whilst he has confirmed that he is looking to stay, interest in his services has been building all summer. The Portuguese midfielder enjoyed an impressive first season at Anfield and whilst Henderson and Adam play in similar positions, Dalglish should keep hold of the former Porto man. If Dalglish is looking for variety, Meireles is the perfect player to have amongst your squad.
With a lack of natural width Dalglish’s tactics have often concentrated on the centre of midfield, where the likes of Lucas and Spearing can sit and hold whilst Gerrard, Dirk Kuyt, Maxi and Meireles offer support to the strikers. In this respect Dalglish has made two perfect acquisitions with the creativity and energy of Henderson and the passing range of Adam adding to the Reds’ midfield. But all these options may cause some sleepless nights for Dalglish as he works out how best to fit his new big money stars around the established squad. Henderson’s £20 million price tag means he can’t simply be a squad player whilst Adam’s ability would be wasted on the bench. Dalglish must find a formation that suits Liverpool’s style of play and balances their attacking guile and defensive responsibilities.
But whilst Dalglish has a variety of players for one position, a lack of width always hindered Liverpool. Maxi and Kuyt are crucial players for the Reds as they can occupy the flanks but neither are your typical running at defenders wingers. Liverpool’s capture of Aston Villa’s Stewart Downing will address that problem. In Downing Dalglish has a player that is willing to run at defenders down the flanks and deliver the telling crosses for the likes of Andy Carroll.
Dalglish’s summer transfer policy has meant that the Liverpool boss has plenty of variety in midfield and whilst balancing all these players may give Dalglish the occasional headache, it is a headache worth having in the Reds’ push for success next season.
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