The season started so well defensively for Liverpool. Three clean sheets on the bounce against Stoke, newly promoted Bournemouth and Arsenal, the former and the latter were away games, suggested that Brendan Rodgers had solved his side’s perennial failure to keep the ball out of their own net.
A rejuvenated Dejan Lovren looked at home alongside the ever-present Martin Skrtel, while having a seasoned France international in the shape of Mamadou Sakho in reserve was a real positive with a hectic fixture list. Then came that game against West Ham.
Lovren was woeful, Skrtel seemingly lost his confidence and a 3-0 loss ensured. Manchester United then put another three past the Reds and Brendan Rodgers has since reverted to a back three, which hints at a lack of faith in his current options. With the League Cup having cost the Northern Irishman his Croatian centre-back, who damaged his ankle, the Northern Irishman is now only one injury or suspension away from having to use Kolo Toure…
So, a new central defender in January looks to be a must then, right? Well, here are FIVE options…
Standing at 6ft. 5” with experience in the Italian national side, Ranocchia looks to be a decent option. The 27-year-old was Inter Milan’s captain until the end of last season, but manager Roberto Mancini stripped him of the armband and handed him less than 30 minutes of league action so far this term. As a result, Ranocchia is understood to be considering his options, which could open the door for a January move.
Potential issues include his lack of pace and agility (goes hand in hand with ‘giant’ players), while he’s not the greatest footballer in a technical sense, which could be an issue with Rodgers demanding of his defenders.
Having once described Everton’s Goodison Park as ‘like home’, Mustafi may not seem like a wise addition for Liverpool, alas he’s a talented centre-back and has shone since leaving the Toffees as a youngster. The German, who is a World Cup winner, made only one brief appearance as a substitute for Merseyside’s blue outfit, before joining Sampdoria, where he was spotted by Valencia. Now the 22-year-old is a regular for the La Liga outfit, who qualified for this season’s Champions League.
Even though Los Che are in Europe’s top club competition, the financial lure of the Premier League may be enough to sway Mustafi, who himself may feel the need to prove himself to Everton. Should Liverpool push through a move they would be signing a powerful defender with pace and decent passing ability. Standing at 6ft, he’s also a threat from set-pieces.
Linked with the Reds over the summer, Real Sociedad’s Martinez appears to be a good fit for a Rodgers side. His technically proficient playing style and thunderous left foot draw natural comparisons with Kop favourite Daniel Agger, while his appearance for the Spanish national side in 2013 – when they were reigning world and European Champions – shows that he has real potential.
Arch Liverpool enemy David Moyes is in charge of Sociedad, which could be an issue, but money talks and the Reds have enough cash at their disposal to take advantage of Spain’s relatively shaky financial situation.
We may only be a few games into the 2015/16 season, but Schalke’s Matip has been earning rave reviews so far. The Cameroon international has been ever-present for the Gelsenkirchen outfit in all competitions, notching three goals while limiting his club to five conceded in Bundesliga action – second only to league leaders, Bayern Munich.
Blessed with pace and strength, Matip has all of the athletic attributed needed to be a top Premier League centre-back, while his ability to play in defensive midfield suggests that he has the technical talent to function in a Rodgers team.
Well, Football Manager players can’t be wrong, can they? All joking aside, Balanta has long been talked about as the top defensive talent in South American football and has been linked with a big move across the Atlantic Ocean for quite a while. A powerful, quick centre-back with international experienced in the Colombian set-up to his name at the age of 22, the Bogota-born enforcer looks to be a good option.
The big risk, however, is whether or not the leap from Argentinian football with River Plate to the Premier League will be too large for him, Liverpool have had their fingers burned with South American imports such as Gabriel Paletta and Sebastian Coates in the past.