The one missing ingredient preventing Liverpool becoming great again?

The fact that Liverpool currently sit outside the European places in the table and are almost 20 points behind the league champions would lead many to believe that we are absolutely miles away from being serious title contenders. While that line of thinking is understandable the question is, how far are Liverpool really from being able to challenge the likes of Manchester United , Arsenal and Chelsea . Liverpool have shown this season that head to head they can challenge each of the top four teams comfortably.

As with every other big club that underachieves, our dropped points against teams below us in the table have cost us dearly this season. Saying that, aside from the defeat to Tottenham on Sunday, I can honestly say that the last time Liverpool’s squad looked so strong was in the 08/09 season where we pushed Manchester United all the way in the title race. Liverpool are not as far off the title scene as many believe and with the right acquisitions during the summer, we can prove the doubters wrong and burst back into life next season.

I believe that to be the best in the Premier League , you need to have a team that can combat all elements. For example, during Arsenal’s undefeated season in 2004, their squad was full of big, strong athletes who also had good pace and incredible technique. Fast forward to 2011 and while there is no doubt that Arsenal’s squad still boasts superb technique, they are now physically much smaller on the whole and subsequently struggle with set pieces more than most teams.

In recent years, both Chelsea and Manchester United have dominated the Premiership using squads full of big players along with quick, athletic players. Speaking in terms of Liverpool, I believe we are almost there. We are just missing one vital ingredient which could take us to the next level: pace. If you compiled a list of the world’s best attacking footballers, you can bet that more than half of them would be recognised as being blessed with speed. Liverpool have quite a few talented attacking players, but admittedly, the amount of pace throughout our side needs to be improved upon.

Out of our forwards, only Luis Suarez can claim to have decent acceleration, while David N’gog is far too inconsistent to be able to utilise his pace effectively. Along with them we’ve had Ryan Babel (apparently our fastest player at the time) sold in January while our only other quick forward, Milan Jovanovic, is a sure-fire goner this summer. Having good pace throughout a squad should never be underestimated, and it is vital that we rectify our lack of speed during the summer transfer window if we really want to challenge for titles again.

Two of the most exciting teams to watch domestically, Arsenal and Tottenham, both have their fair share of pacy players , and during games like the defeat to Spurs on Sunday, it is clear how much difference a bit of speed can make. Firstly, quicker players will naturally get to loose/second balls much faster than slower opponents while the most effective counter attacks are often done at high speed. Too many times I’ve seen Liverpool break into a counter attack only for the players involved to slow down the tempo and eventually pass sideways.

Apart from pace, I would say that Liverpool’s squad is very well rounded and has a nice mix of technique and strength. Against stubborn teams defending deep with eleven men behind the ball, aerially dominant players like Andy Carroll will be golden when it comes to breaking them down. Along with that, players like Luis Suarez will be vital in terms of unlocking tight defences and providing that little piece of magic that could decide a match.

Quality-wise, Liverpool’s central midfielders are among the best in the league while our defence is pretty solid on the whole. Our strike pair up front have the potential to be the one of the best strike partnerships in Europe while we also have other reliable goalscorers such as Dirk Kuyt ready to step in and share the burden whenever necessary.

The one thing we lack is good speed throughout the team but if we can correct this by acquiring at least two quick wingers with quality, then I believe it will make a world of difference to our play and I would expect us to become more ruthless in front of goal in the long run. We’ve been linked to a few top wingers recently, but time will tell whether they truly are the final pieces needed for the red machine to fire on all cylinders next season. For the time being, I will eagerly await the summer transfer window where I’m praying we can hopefully add the key ingredient that our squad has missed for so long: pace, pace and more pace.

Read more of Mark’s articles at Live4Liverpool