Liverpool have been strongly linked with moves for two out-of-favour wingers in recent times, with both Arsenal’s Theo Walcott and Chelsea’s Daniel Sturridge widely tipped to make the move to Anfield in January, but are these really the sort of player that the club should be pursuing?
The flawed transfer policy of buying the best of British has set the club back in its attempts to rejoin the elite in the Premier League over the past two years, with Kenny Dalglish and Damien Comolli both sacked for their involvement in buying the likes of Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson and the subsequent under-performance of them all, which contributed to a lowly eight-placed league finish last year.
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Walcott is still at loggerheads over a new contract at the Emirates, although the initial reasoning has since been dispelled by the player himself; he’s not after more money, simply a return to a more central striking role that he played during his youth career and brief time in the Southampton first-team.
The 23-year-old has noticeably improved his end product in recent times yet at the same time remains frustratingly inconsistent. The theory is that playing out wide is an easier place for a young player to learn due to being granted more time and space to make decisions. At the same time, though, players are often faced with more decisions out wide than they are in the middle – when to pass, run, cross, dribble, time a run and shoot. Unfortunately for Walcott, while there has been a tangible development to his game, progress has been slow, painfully so at times.
His pace is his greatest asset but he’s also increasingly clinical in front of goal and in all honesty, Walcott remains a player full of contradictions. He can often be found marking himself out of games, marooned on the touchline with his lack of intelligent movement off the ball, but his sheer acceleration negates that the opposition has to play deeper to counteract the space they grant him, so even when he’s not playing particularly well, he’s having an effect on the game.
He just so happens to possess what is widely regarded as the most visceral of attributes and in full flight he can look quite something, while every now and again he pulls a finish out of nowhere to make you think he could still be a world-class player one day, unfortunately they’re simply too few and far between. In Rodgers’ 4-3-3 system, I simply don’t think he’s good enough on the ball to occupy the lone central striking role and there’s a doubt about whether he’d be any good at holding the ball up or with his back to goal.
Sturridge is in a similar boat at Chelsea and after turning down a loan move to Anfield on transfer deadline day, fast forward a few months on and he may be more willing to make another short-term move away from Stamford Bridge should Liverpool not be able to cough up the full fee that’s required.
In my eyes, Sturridge represents a better and safer bet than Walcott. While his form may have nosedived after Andre Villas-Boas exit last term, he’s more comfortable with the ball at his feet and has a bigger physique which could mean he’s more transferable to the central role he so desperately craves.
Suarez is at his best as a creator for others rather than the focal point of attacks and Sturridge would allow him to return to the left, drifting off the flank like he has to such devastating effect for Uruguay in the past. The former Manchester City man would also be able to interchange positions more than Walcott in a 4-3-3 and he appears a more intelligent player than his Arsenal counterpart.
Where he does need to improve is his work ethic and the fact that he’s still far too selfish at times; some put this down to an over-inflated ego, which may be true to an extent, but it’s much more likely due to a keenness to impress. It’s no coincidence that his form tailed off after falling down the pecking order under Roberto Di Matteo and the signing of Victor Moses above all others this summer must have been seen as the final insult.
Rodgers has insisted that fans have yet to see the best of Borini yet, and that’s partly down to him being played out wide, but he’s struggled to make a telling impact as yet. However, for me the ideal, affordable and realistic candidate lies north of the border in the shape of Celtic forward Gary Hooper, while strong cases can also be made for Loic Remy and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar if the budget can stretch as far as that.
Liverpool still remain an attractive proposition for prospective players and the fact that they still have European football remains a factor. It’s a potentially exciting era at Anfield right now but whether Walcott is right for the role on offer, I have my reservations, just as I do with Sturridge, to a slightly lesser extent. With belts being tightened this summer, it remains to be seen what sort of players will be within Rodgers’ price range and that more than anything else will dictate his movement, even if the options on offer at the moment all have major question marks against them.
Who would you like to see Liverpool move for in January to address their striking shortage?
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