The rumors have begun to churn: Benitez wants to go after Samuel Eto’o in the summer. The Barcelona striker has already scored 25 goals in 27 matches for his club this season, but could the Camaroon international find a place at Liverpool?
With Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard both in great form and leading the Red attack, adding Eto’o to the side would involve a reshuffling of Liverpool’s best approach which thrives on Gerrard slotting in behind Torres. Adding a second true striker to the starting eleven would push Gerrard back into central midfield or into a wide position. While Gerrard is versatile enough to play well anywhere on the pitch, Liverpool are at their most dangerous when he is able to steam in on goal, creating and finishing chances at will. Gerrard can play on the wing—but he shouldn’t.
If the rumors are true, perhaps Benitez envisions something like Barcelona’s approach with Eto’o, having him in essentially a three-man attack with Henry and Messi. Would Torres, Eto’o and Gerrard be Liverpool’s front line? Or, with Liverpool’s penchant for using full backs in attack this season, we might see a kind of 5212, with Aurelio and Arbeloa shifting into wing back roles while Gerrard supports the strikers.
Can room be made for another top quality frontman?
Whether Liverpool pursue Eto’o or somebody else, that question needs to be asked. Liverpool could win most of their matches if both Gerrard and Torres are consistently fit throughout the next season, but as Liverpool have learned painfully this year, they cannot rely on that.
More quality needs to be added this summer and Rafael Benitez must factor in an insurance policy or two in case Torres or Gerrard picks up a long term injury in the next campaign. But purchasing a player like Eto’o merely for cover wouldn’t make sense. If Liverpool want to maintain their current, effective formation, a strong striker who doesn’t mind being second string is in order. Samuel Eto’o is not likely to come to Liverpool to sit on the bench while Fernando Torres scores the goals.
Perhaps a Zaki or a Santa Cruz who can produce but aren’t as high profile would sacrifice regular starts for the chance to play for a side that could win the title. Or, allowing Babel to play his original role of striker more regularly could be the answer. Benitez spent Babel’s first year converting the dutch attacker to winger. Perhaps it is time to convert him back to cover or support Fernando Torres, depending on what is needed.
Chelsea FC and Manchester United have been the main title contenders for years because they maintain a squad of deep quality. Spending the money on more top class attack could be an important step for Liverpool to develop a side that can fight for the top prize year after year. I’m not sure Eto’o is the exact answer, but pursuing his level of quality certainly is.
With Eto’o refusing to sign a new contract with Barcelona and his current agreement ending in 2010, the rumors will continue to abound concerning the 28-year-old’s future. It will be some time before we know Rafael Benitez’s plans for Liverpool in the next window, but the speculation keeps things interesting.