Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson has just over a week to decide on the 25 players he will choose to assist him in his Anfield re-building project as the fallen giants look to re-gain a place in the top four this season. However after Monday night’s sorry display against Manchester City at Eastlands, it will certainly be an unenviable task.
While the strength-in-depth of Liverpool’s top four rivals City is highlighted by some expected big name casualties failing to make the cut, including striker Roque Santa Cruz and samba star Robinho, Hodgson’s task looks set to be considerably easier. The Reds do not have a luxury of stars to choose from and there looks certain to be no major shocks when the manager’s bare-bones squad is announced when the transfer window slams shut on 1 September.
The new ‘home-grown’ (HG) rule being introduced to the Premier League this season is designed to help young English players develop while also limiting the amount of foreign players in Premier League squads. Each club must register at least eight home-grown players under the age of 21 who have been with a Welsh or English club for at least three years.
Club stalwarts Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher make up a quarter of the HG quota, while England internationals Glen Johnson and Joe Cole bring the total up to four. Goalkeeper Brad Jones, a new sigining from Middlesbrough, also qualifies as home-grown, leaving three more HG spaces in the squad which need filling.
Former academy duo Stephen Darby and Jay Spearing, who have been on the fringes of the first-team in recent seasons, both also look set to be named in the first-team squad as home-grown players. Both players turn 22 in the next few months and therefore have to be registered to play. The final spot remains a problematic one however and Liverpool may find themselves registering less players than the 25 permitted by the Premier League.
Players under the age of 21 do not have to be registered and clubs can call on these players at any time throughout the season. Highly-rated talents such as Martin Kelly, Danny Wilson, Dani Pacheco, JonJo Shelvey and Peter Gulacsi all fall into this category and therefore do not have to be registered in the squad. David N’Gog and Emiliano Insua also do not have to be registered due to the date their respective birthdays fall on.
Taking into account the expected departure of Argentine skipper Javier Mascherano to Barcelona, Liverpool’s squad looks somewhat depleted. Arsenal star Aleksander Hleb has been tipped to head in the opposite direction as a makeweight in the deal to increase the squad numbers further. Hodgson is also keen to conclude a £9m deal for PSV striker Ola Toivonen, however the Dutch side have so far refused to negotiate the player’s sale. A deal for veteran Mexican defender Carlos Salcido, whom Hodgson is also rumoured to be interested in signing.
These deals all remain a long way from being completed however and you have to question the manager’s decision to allow £18m signing Alberto Aquilani to leave on loan. It may leave the 63-year-old coach relying on the likes of unproven Nabil El Zhar and Damien Plessis throughout the season. Unless some moves are made in the transfer market Liverpool could be up to four experienced players short of the Premier League’s recommended amount.
The likely squad is listed below, while these numbers will be further boosted by any new signings and the club’s u-21 players.
GK: Pepe Reina, Brad Jones
FB: Fabio Aurelio, Glen Johnson, Stephen Darby,
CB: Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Soto Kyrgiakos
MF: Steven Gerrard, Christian Poulsen, Lucas Leiva, Joe Cole, Jay Spearing
AMF: Dirk Kuyt, Ryan Babel, Maxi Rodriguez, Milan Jovanovic
F: Fernando Torres
Hodgson certainly has a great deal of work to do in the final few days of the transfer market as he makes the last-minute additions and finishing touches to his squad of players.
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