With the departure of longtime club favourite Rafael Benitez, a lack of Champions League football and a hard rebuilding job with minimum cash influx in front of Roy Hodgson, it’s indeed a tough time to be a Liverpool fan as the decisions taken by Hodgson, Purslow and Broughton might go on to define the club for the foreseeable future.
But looking back, the circumstances in which Rafael Benitez had taken up the reigns of the club seem to have a striking similarity to the ones Roy Hodgson now faces, and which ultimately led to the sacking of Houllier and Benitez. Hodgson inherits a squad in need of a grand rebuilding job with disgruntled players and with no money in hand along with several flopped signings of the previous regimes.
So what must Hodgson do to get Liverpool back on track and fighting at the very minimum for a top four place? Let’s analyze Liverpool’s current squad position-wise and try to find remedies for problematic areas, beginning with goalkeepers:
In Pepe Reina, Liverpool perhaps have the safest pair of hands in the Premiership. He showed exemplary character and quality while players around him crumbled last season. At 5 million he was certainly one of the best signings made by Benitez and after having signed a longterm deal his position shouldn’t be a source of worry for Liverpool.
But who shall be his understudy next season? Diego Cavalieri has yet to make an appearance in the league in his time at Anfield and is largely expected to move on to new pastures possibly back to Brazil this off season leaving a vacancy required to be filled.
With the homegrown rule now applicable it might be wise to go for a youngster trained in England who might be happy to learn under Reina. Wayne Hennessey of Wolverhampton Wanderers would cost around 2 million pounds which would be the same amount that Cavalieri might fetch if sold. Being a young, upcoming keeper with talent, he would be an outstanding buy.
Another option could be Richard Wright, the former England keeper who is available on a free transfer after leaving Ipswich and would be an experienced, economical option.
Already a lot of movement has been made in the off-season in the Liverpool defence which was surprisingly open last season.
Out have gone Fabio Aurelio with reports suggesting fellow left back Insua and right back Degen are expected to leave, while the future of Sotoris Kyrgiakos is up for debate. Insua is expected to complete a transfer to Fiorentina for around 5 mil. While Degen is expected to swell Liverpool coffers by another 2 mil. Mikel San Jose too has made his move permanent to Athletico Bilbao after a great season on loan.
Meanwhile Liverpool themselves have signed young upcoming Scottish prospect Danny Wilson from Rangers for 2 mil. He is expected to provide more competition in the central of defence.
But with both their recognized left backs leaving Liverpool shall certainly need to invest in that area. Up til now Hodgson has been linked with a move for Taye Taiwo of Marseille, Wayne Bridge of Manchester City, and German utility left sided player Marcell Jansen. Either of these 3 are expected to cost around 6-8 mil. And would be a quality addition to the squad while a player like Konchesky could be bought to add cover.
Also a utility centre-back like Steven Taylor who can also play at right back might be considered to provide cover.
With the signing of Joe Cole and return to fitness of Alberto Aquilani, Liverpool already seem to have a very good midfield which can match any in the league.
However with Javier Mascherano allegedly looking for a move, Liverpool might well cash in on him and use the money to strengthen other areas of the team. Yossi Benayoun has already left for Chelsea in a 5.5 million pounds move, Albert Riera moved to Olympiakos for close to 4 million while the futures of Lucas Leiva and Ryan Babel are also in doubt with the duo being linked with Palermo and Milan respectively.
If Liverpool do sell Mascherano they might well decide to play Lucas as the only out and out defensive midfielder with a ball playing central midfielder who can tackle like Ever Banega replacing Mascherano. Also Hodgson might decide to add another winger to his options. Arda Turan has been linked strongly with a move to the Premier League and is a known Liverpool fan.
One of the prime reasons for Liverpool’s dismal show last season and in the end Rafa’s sacking was the lack of bite upfront when Torres was out injured. However this season could be different as Liverpool have already signed Serbian Milan Jovanovic on a free transfer and are looking for a player who could fill-in for Torres or play alongside him.
The three players most consistently linked with us have been Bryan Ruiz who plays for FC Twente, Frenchman Loic Remy and AC Milan’s centre-forward Klaas-jan Huntelaar, each of whom are expected to cost upwards of 10 million pounds.
Of these Huntelaar seems the best option as he is a player whose game suits the Premier League and whose poacher’s skill will be highly valued as he will have the like of Aquilani, Maxi, Gerrard and Cole playing behind him.
Meanwhile youngsters David N’Gog and Kristian Nemeth might be sent out on loan to gain experience.
So on the whole this might prove to be a rather busy off-season for Liverpool and Hodgson has assured the fans that quality shall not be compromised on and no panic buys shall take place. That would be the right way for Hodgson to follow as he tries to rebuild this proud team to once agains challenge for honours.