Kenny Dalglish looks all but set to stay now as Liverpool manager beyond the end of this season after an upturn in the club’s fortunes both on and off the pitch since his emotional return to the club. The squad currently at the Scot’s disposal is short of quality in certain key areas, so let’s take a look at where Dalglish’s summer transfer priorities lie this summer.
While there may be sexier and more glamorous positions to start with, Liverpool have struggled sorely to acquire quality full-backs for quite some time and the endless conveyer belt of mediocre talent coming in and out of the club shows no signs of slowing down just yet. In Martin Kelly, the club have one of the league’s brightest young defensive prospects at right back, which alongside current first-choice England right back Glen Johnson, should see that the right back berth is well stocked with options – but it’s at left back where the real problems lie.
The aforementioned duo of Kelly and Johnson as well as Fabio Aurelio, Paul Konchesky, Daniel Agger and Danny Wilson have all had a stab at playing at left back for the club this season and to varying degrees of success it has to be said. Glen Johnson has performed admirably in the role since Dalglish’s return, but this tactical shift has more of a stop-gap feel to it and therefore it cannot be considered as the long-term solution to the problem.
If Fabio Aurelio wasn’t so injury-prone there would be no debate over the issue, but Aurelio is often hampered by injuries and rather unfortunately for both club and player spends just as much time on the treatment table as he does on the pitch. The less said about Konchesky the better. Wilson and Agger can ‘do a job’ out on the left, but that is neither player’s strongest position and they may be required elsewhere.
Lest we forget the retuning Emiliano Insua who is currently on loan with Galatasaray in Turkey. Most people that know me well enough will know how strong my views on Insua are; he’s positionally inept, slow, poor in the air and prone to being targeted by the opposition, the club will do well to shift Insua in the summer as he’s simply not up to the task of playing week in week out for a top Premier Legaue side.
Other than at left back it’s clear that a dominant centre half is required. While the need for this isn’t as obvious as the need for a new left back, at centre half, a mixture of a loss of form, injuries and age has seen Liverpool look vulnerable at the heart of defence at various junctures over the course of this season.
Martin Skrtel is the club’s most natural defender in my opinion, yet he seems to be playing well within himself at the moment and his form has dipped worryingly from the dominant displays fans became accustomed to seeing every week when he first signed for the club. Kyrgiakos, while a fan favourite and a presence in both boxes, lacks the pace and ability to be anything more than a backup option for too much longer. Agger remains susceptible to niggling injuries and Jamie Carragher turns 34 next January.
Danny Wilson and Martin Kelly do point to a brighter future, but neither looks ready to take up the mantle that will gradually be passed on by Carragher just yet. It may not be a position in urgent need of an overhaul, but with one eye on the future, the position will need addressing sooner rather than later.
Now we reach the position that has remained the club’s Achilles heel for a period of time approaching around a decade or so now – the wings. During his time as Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez seemed inherently suspicious of any player with even a semblance of pace. The side has lacked real penetration down the flanks for years now and with Dalglish noted for his preference for expansive football, pace out wide will be essential to the team‘s future style of play.
On the right hand flank, Dirk Kuyt does a perfectly serviceable job and may yet be asked to lead the line more regularly in the future after his 7 yard hat-trick against Man Utd this month, but he’s a containing option rather than an outright attacking one. On the left, apart from Joe Cole – a player whose move to the club in the summer has failed to revive either the club’s or the player’s own fortunes – remains the best alternative of a bad lot. Maxi Rodriguez remains an anonymous waste of space; a player capable of complicating even the most rudimentary of tasks and as such should be dispensed with given half the chance.
Liverpool have had quick wingers over the years, they’ve had skilful ones too, but never the twain shall meet it appears at Anfield in recent seasons. Recent links to the likes of Ashley Young, Gervinho and Charles N’Zogbia in the last few weeks only serve to highlight that this area appears to be one that’s right at the top of the club’s agenda in the summer when it comes to their recruitment policy and it’s one that’s long overdue in terms of priority.
Fans should expect a central midfielder or two to arrive in the summer too. Lucas has shouldered much of the defensive burden in the middle of the park for much of the campaign and he could do with some help alongside him. Christian Poulsen has failed to set the world alight, and if the Hodgson era displayed anything at all, it was that the deeper Gerrard sits, the less effective he becomes. A midfield enforcer looks to be a top priority with both Blaise Matuidi and Yann M’Vilarumoured to be in the frame.
Dalglish appears to fancy Meireles further forward than Hodgson did during his spell at the club and when the Portuguese midfielder is given freedom to roam around the opposition’s box, he has the ability to be a match-winner. Gerrard and Joe Cole should provide competition, as will Alberto Aquilani if he returns from his loan spell at Juventus at the end of the season.
It is thought that Dalglish wants to see the Italian at close quarters before making a decision over his future, even if the player would prefer to stay in his homeland next season. Jonjo Shelvey also appears to be in the managers good books after becoming the substitute of choice during his time in charge, yet more creativity is needed to ensure that this Liverpool side, which lacks both craft and guile at times, becomes more consistently dangerous in their endeavours going forward.
Well there you have it – the current Liverpool side is one which lacks both the sufficient depth and quality to truly trouble the best in the league. While the temptation may be to plough the squad with quantity over quality in the summer transfer window, something tells me that Dalglish is far too wily a manager to fall into that trap, one which became a staple of the Benitez era.
They will remain an inconsistent and frustrating side to watch over the next year or so, but they could do with toughening up of the spine of the team while adding some quality down the flanks – something which is easier said than done. Up top, the recent acquisitions of Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez mean that while the forward line is fairly inexperienced at this level, along with David N’Gog and Dirk Kuyt, it is at least well stocked and there are more pressing areas that require addressing first. In goal, the club will never need to replace Pepe Reina as long as he wants to stay at the club.
NESV have stated that they are at the club for the long-haul and that acquisitions willonly take place in an incremental fahsion as opposed to a radical overhaul of the playing staff. Should this continue to be the case, Dalglish’s priorities in the summer should be first and foremost a strengthening of the club’s options down the entire left hand flank, followed closely by a defensive and creative midfielder. Should the board duly oblige with a generous transfer budget, a centre half would not go amiss either.
What does everyone else think? Which area of the current Liverpool side needs addressing the most? Which player would you like to see the club sign for the areas listed in the article above?
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