Tuesday, June 05, 2007

How much is that snoogy doogy in the window?

I've already done one of these for United, so I figured I'd do a similar post for Liverpool. The difference here being that Liverpool haven't really bought anyone yet.

Well, that's not strictly true. They've already bought a Ukrainian striker, a Brazilian midfielder, two wee Hungarians and a partridge in a pear tree. But none of those is a really big deal; the major work of filling the holes in the squad is still to be done.

The most important issue to sort out is adding some goals to the team. This doesn't just mean scoring the goals, but the supply to the goal-scorers as well. I don't remember if I've written about this before, or just carried on an extended argument in my own head, but anyway: I think one of Liverpool's big problems this year was their lack of quality wingers. I've seen a lot of discussion about Xabi Alonso's form having dipped this season, for example, but what do you expect when he's got to pass to players like Bolo Zenden all the time? It's also related to the question of who their best centre midfielders are and where Steven Gerrard should be playing -- if they hadn't had such a paucity of options on the right wing, I very much doubt that Steven would have been played out there as much.

Most of the Liverpool transfer rumours have been focused around fixing this problem, with the club linked to players like Florent Malouda, Simao Sabrosa, David Silva...and Daniel Alves from Sevilla, who's technically a defender but I'm going to lump him in here because he's really more of a wingback. I don't have any really strong opinions about who they bring in, but I think they need at least one, or more probably two good wingers, preferably one leftie and one who can play on either flank. Oh, and they should be players you can buy without spending a truly obscene amount of money. Not too much to ask for, right? Especially with Chelsea reportedly now sniffing around after Alves.

Of the players currently at the club, Zenden is definitely leaving and Gonzalez will almost certainly be following him out the door. Pennant hasn't been overwhelming but has probably done enough to stick around. Kewell is a maybe; I'd say it mostly depends on how much another club would offer to take him off Rafa's (or should I say the physios') hands.

So, that's two players out, two players in on the wings (plus Luis Garcia back from injury to alternately delight and infuriate us once again). The centre of midfield I expect to be much more settled. Or at least I hope it will be -- there's been a lot of speculation about Xabi Alonso leaving to go to Barcelona, about which I am in a desperate state of denial. There's also been talk of Momo Sissoko being sold, which would disappoint me too, but not as much now that they've got Javier Mascherano. I'm assuming here that whatever the hell the deal is with Mascherano, they're going to be smart and make it permanent. Now, that still leaves the question of how you fit, for example, Alonso, Gerrard and Mascherano all into centre midfield
at once, but I imagine we'll see two out of the three of them for different games, or all three, depending on the opposition. (Yes, I did just say the same thing about Carrick, Scholes and Hargreaves for United, but the same basic idea applies.) I think what Rafa really wants is to have options, so they could play 4-4-2, 4-5-1, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 or even 3-5-2 -- choose the formation that's best suited to the situation.

Okay, there's the midfield sorted. Up front...well, just like United, they need to add a top-class striker. They haven't had that kind of reliable goal-scorer since Michael Owen left, and unlike United in the post-van-Nistelrooy era, they haven't got enough goals coming from the rest of the team to make up for it. The interesting issue, to me, is that Rafa seems to prefer hard-working players who put the team first (see: Kuyt, Dirk), which is great and all, but you need a certain amount of selfishness in a really good striker. (I looked up who they had at Valencia when they won the title in 2003-04, because Rafa seems to be trying to recreate Liverpool in that image, and their top scorer, according to Wikipedia, was some guy called Mista who I've never heard of before. Make of that what you will.)

Robbie Fowler has already said goodbye to Anfield, and Djibril Cisse won't be coming back from his loan at Olympic Marseille if they can find someone to buy him and fund his ongoing experiments in coiffure. I don't think Dirk Kuyt is going anywhere and Peter Crouch probably isn't either, but there's a decent chance that Craig Bellamy might leave; again, it depends on how much they can get for him. As for who they should be looking to buy...again, gah, I don't know. The key attribute is probably pace, which neither Kuyt nor Crouch is particularly blessed with, but accompanied by some half-decent finishing, because otherwise they might as well just bring Cisse back. They've already got Voronin from Bayer Leverkusen, but I'm biased against him because the last Ukrainian striker named Andriy wasn't such a hit in the Premiership, and that was without the handicap of a stupid ponytail. Actually what I think they need is Michael Owen circa 2001, but unless Rafa's got a time machine hidden away somewhere at Melwood, that's not going to happen, so they'll have to choose between gambling a bit on someone like Jermain Defoe or Darren Bent, or gambling even more and spending gazillions on a big name like David Villa or Samuel Eto'o. Or, my favourite crazy rumour of the week: Thierry Henry to Liverpool. Ahahaha right.

Wow, how did this get so long? Kudos if you've made it this far. I promise to get through the back line more quickly. Jamie Carragher's signed a new contract, and they're supposedly extending Sami Hyypia's as well, which is great. Daniel Agger should still be the first choice alongside Carra next year, but Hyypia is a valuable backup. There's also talk of signing centre-half Gabriel Milito from Real Zaragoza, which would be good because Paletta hasn't impressed me much. If they get Alves, then that's right-back sorted, and if not, Alvaro Arbeloa has done all right understudying Steve Finnan. Left-back is a bit more complicated, because although Jon Arne Riise's probably first choice right now, I think he's kind of shaky defensively; I suppose it'll depend on how Aurelio looks when he comes back from injury, but I don't think they need to buy anyone right now.

In goal, Pepe Reina should get the number one jersey next year. Jerzy Dudek, thanks for Istanbul, no thanks for those cup games this year, and buh-bye. The great thing about Reina is that he's still only 24, so Liverpool shouldn't have to worry about replacing him for years. They do need to find him a back-up, though, because Scott Carson probably isn't going to want to come back to sit on the bench.


weenie said...

Hi, I had to laugh out loud when I saw that you supported both Man U and Liverpool - such a paradox! :-)

But anyway, great post and you're spot on regards the Scousers.

We need a proven striker who can bag us 20 goals a season. Will be glad when Zenden goes (he shouldn't have been taken off early on in Athens) and Gonazales hasn't impressed thus far.

Hope both Crouch and Kuyt are staying and if Bellamy goes, we deffo need a quality striker in his place.

Thierry Henry rumours? Laughable but we can dream!

weenie said...

oops, just noticed a typo - I meant to say that Zendon SHOULD have been taken off early in Athens!

Jen said...

I know, the Liverpool/United thing is wrong, but I can't help it.

I'm glad to see that the club's been sorting out the contracts for some of their big players (Xabi just signed on for another five years today, yay!). Now they can focus on bringing in the missing pieces around them.

I don't think Rafa would ever buy Henry; he'd end up having apoplexy on the sidelines because of the way Henry *never* tracks back.

jboy3533 said...

Her supporting both Scouser and United is quite strange but forgiveable since the Scousers suck compared to United :)

I guess I'm in the minority in thinking that 'pool have their striking partnership set with Crouch and Kuyt. Before you start your yelling, I ask you to consider how difficult it is for any player to gain match consistency with Benitez's tactical rotations. If Crouch or Kuyt had played more games than they had I'm sure you'd had gotten 20 goals from either forward.

Jen said...

I think Kuyt will definitely improve next season, because he'll have had more time to adjust to the Premiership. And you're right that Crouch just needs more playing time. The thing is, though, that they're both pretty slow. If Rafa decides to go with a five-man midfield with two pacy wingers, then that's less of a problem, but playing 4-4-2 I think they need someone quick to partner Kuyt/Crouch (like Bellamy this year, although that didn't always work out so well).