Liverpool have had a wretched record in the transfer market for the best part of four or five years, and it is because of this that they have lost their guaranteed Champions League qualification status. It makes this an important summer for Brendan Rodgers, who has been speaking of the need to add depth to the squad. The poor work in the markets in previous years has left Liverpool with a paper-thin but expensively assembled squad. There were some signs of better decision making with the January signings of Daniel Sturridge and especially Philippe Coutinho, so can Liverpool keep that up this summer and what do they need to do?
Liverpool have a strong first team but almost no depth. The problem is, depth is a hard thing to buy. Can Liverpool buy players of significant quality if they are just coming to push the first team? With the exception of the central defence, maybe left back and a possible Suarez shaped hole there isn’t a glaring weakness in the full strength side. Not one that can be addressed when not in the Champions League at least. The best way to build depth is through the youth system or by relegating previous purchases to depth status. But those previously bought players cost a stack of money so they are constantly chasing previous mistakes.
The first issue for Liverpool to solve is the Luis Suarez situation. He has asked to leave and is a valuable asset to sell. If Liverpool can get Real Madrid to pay them £50m they will be very tempted to sell him. It seems increasingly likely that this will be the case so for the sake of argument lets assume that he is on his way, and treat him staying as a bonus for Liverpool.
If Suarez goes then Liverpool will only have Sturridge as a central striker unless they can’t sell Andy Carroll. Liverpool need to find some competition for him to push him to improve. Rodgers has committed to him as their future so they are unlikely to sign a David Villa or Mario Gomez. Soon to be incoming Iago Aspas can operate centrally but isn’t an ideal option due to his lack of size. Perhaps someone like Wilfried Bony of Vitesse Arnhem or even Demba Ba could be bought with a chance to compete to take the spot. That way they wouldn’t have to guarantee it to a new big name and relegate Sturridge to the bench or out wide. Rodgers also needs to get value from Fabio Borini considering he cost £10m
Liverpool had central defensive issues that will only get worse with Jamie Carragher’s retirement. Martin Skrtel, who has been linked with a move away, regressed badly last year and Daniel Agger looks worse when not partnered with a rugged organiser. They’ve signed Kolo Toure, but that isn’t going to get them in to the Champions League spots. Their first choice seems to be Schalke’s young Greek star Kyriakos Papadopoulos and he would be an excellent signing. Schalke are supposedly holding out for £18m for him but at just 21 he offers amazing potential. He’s big, strong, quick and a ferocious defender. He’s not afraid of getting vocal with more experienced teammates either. If Liverpool pocket £50m for Suarez and £12m for Carroll they can certainly afford this. They could then sell Skrtel and still have enough depth with Wisdom and Pearce.
Although he’s done decently enough, Jose Enrique could certainly be upgraded upon. Liverpool could steal a march on Man United and Chelsea by moving for Southampton’s Luke Shaw. Shaw would be given the chance to win the job from Enrique and establish himself as their left back of the future. They’ve got some OK young full backs but no one of Shaw’s calibre.
Liverpool are spending a lot of time adding attacking midfield options, and this has accelerated with doubts over Suarez. Aspas has been bought to play there, Luis Alberto seems to be arriving from Sevilla and Shakhtar’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan is being heavily linked, supposedly close to signing. Rodgers needs all of these tricky technical players to fully implement his system and give Gerrard and Lucas plenty of options to pass to. It’s much easier to rotate these players around in various competitions with Aspas and Luis Alberto battling for a spot next to Coutinho and Mkhitarayan in all likelihood. They’ve also got Downing and Borini to consider here. And then, what of Sterling, Shelvey and Ibe? Loans perhaps?
They may also consider some midfield depth with Lucas injury prone and Gerrard getting on in age. They paid over £30m to get Henderson and Allen so they need to get proper value out of them but neither inspires much confidence in Kopites.
It’s a tough summer for Liverpool. They’ve got a good team with few obvious weaknesses. They can’t afford and lack the Champions League football to attract to huge upgrades like a Cavani, Higuain or Sneijder, who are all gossip column regulars and it is hard to sign sufficient quality to just sit on the bench. This combined with a need to push their young players and lumbering themselves with expensively bought and maintained players from past windows who need game time gives Brendan Rodgers a tricky balancing act to pull off.