With the winter transfer window slowly drawing nearer and as Liverpool continue to fail to make it into the top half of the Premier League table, the Merseyside club have been linked with a number of English strikers to bulster their ranks. It seems everyone has forgotten about the injured Fabio Borini as Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool fans and TV pundits alike continue to mention “Liverpool only have one striker” – the very in form Luis Suarez, who has been labelled by tabloid gossipers with a price-tag somewhere between £40million and £60million. It has even been rumoured that the Uruguayan will be on the move to Stamford Bridge to replace the shadow of a player that used to be Fernando Torres, although that seems unlikely following the appointment of Rafa Benitez.
Brendan Rodgers has already warned fans that there won’t be a huge kitty provided by the American owners to drastically change the team’s fortunes, but it is hard to believe Liverpool aren’t in the market for a goal-scorer. Once again, the club have been linked with English talent as their main transfer targets, most notably disgruntled Englishmen Theo Walcott, Daniel Sturridge and Darren Bent, as well as Championship stars Wilfried Zaha and Charlie Austin.
But I believe it’s time for a word of warning – Doesn’t Liverpool buying English “talent” (and there is a reason I have used quotations) seem awfully familiar? Wasn’t buying English the transfer policy that essentially landed the club in the poor position it’s in now, as well as the sacking of club legend Kenny Dalglish?
Looking at the clubs recent signings, it seems that buying English simply doesn’t work, and much more than that, English players, regardless of their ability, come with a huge price-tag. Jordan Henderson cost the club around £16million, but the midfielder has hardly made a name for himself since moving from Sunderland in summer 2011. Last season, Henderson was statistically outshone by Charlie Adam, a player who cost £10million less and was sold for scrap to Stoke City at the start of the season. Adam made more tackles, won more headers, took more shots, created more chances, recorded more accurate crosses, made more interceptions, dribbled successfully more times and lost possession less than Henderson.
Despite Rodgers being known as a coach who favours young talent, and is expected to use the youth available at Liverpool to build a team that will effectively return the club to its past glories, the 22-year-old has been used on the most-part in the Premier League as a substitute by the Liverpool boss, but has made a fair few starts in the Europa League.
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Similarly, the story of Andy Carroll is well known. The forward’s deadline day transfer almost two years ago saw the Reds fork out £35million for a striker who has now been exiled to Upton Park. And who could forget about Stewart Downing. Still yet to score or create a goal in the Premier League in two seasons at the club, the £20million signing has now been shifted to emergency left-back as he continues to make absolutely no attacking contribution and his Anfield career maintains its sharp nosedive towards becoming a complete disaster.
Of course there are some positives of filling a team with Englishmen, in fact it is fast becoming a rarity in the Premier League and credit is due to Liverpool as they give English players the chance to play at a higher level, although the Reds table position wouldn’t suggest that at this moment in time. Furthermore, the club’s youth system has produced promising talent that could one day play for the Three Lions; Jon Flanagan, Raheem Sterling, Andre Wisdom and Martin Kelly are four players who have managed to hold a place in the first team based on merit over the past few seasons.
But it is no secret that foreign players are on the whole cheaper than their English counter-parts, and often come with skills and attributes that young home-grown talent are often lacking. It is not hard to find examples of overseas players who have performed much better than the likes of Henderson, Carroll, Downing and the wage-budget busting Joe Cole.
Look at some of the transfers this summer alone: Dimitar Berbatov, £5million, Santi Cazorla, £16million, Kevin Mirallas, £5million, Steven Pienaar, £4.5million, Lukas Podolski, £11million, Moussa Dembele, £15million, Emmanuel Adebayor, £5million and Jan Vertonghen, £10million. These are all players that a club of Liverpool’s stature should be able to attract, and appear to be much better deals than the English signings that have moved to Anfield over the past few seasons, and furthermore are much better deals than some of the English transfers this summer; Scott Sinclair, £9million, Jack Rodwell, £12million, Jay Rodriguez, £6million, Adam Johnson, £10million.
Having an English core to a team is a value of integrity, especially in the modern game. But if Liverpool wish to escape the rut they are currently in – not losing games is all well and good but if the Reds are to climb up the table they must start taking all three points, especially from home games – they should avoid the pricey Englishmen in the January transfer window.
It would be fantastic to see an English contingent, or even a single English player driving a top Premier League team forward, but if Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers wish to achieve anything, they must learn from the clubs at the top of the table. Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea – although they have English stars in their team, for example, John Terry, Wayne Rooney and Ashley Cole, the Englishman is used predominantly as a squad player, such as James Milner, Gary Cahill or Joleon Lescott. There is a reason for this, it is the same reason the England squad has been underachieving- English players are on the whole not good enough to be the majority of a trophy-winning team, and cheaper more efficient players can be found in abundance abroad.
Therefore, my warning to Liverpool: Don’t buy English!