By Brendon Netto
This Season's Stats
|Premier League: 7th
Champions League: Round of 16
FA Cup: Fourth round (eliminated)
Capital One Cup: Quarter-finals (eliminated)
Win %: 43.59%
GF ratio: 1.74
GA ratio: 1.28
What they needed
Brendan Rodgers was brought in as Liverpool manager in the summer to revolutionize their style of play and gradually restore the club to it's former glory. The progress on the pitch is undeniable but the cracks in the squad have been quite visible as well.
They loaned out Andy Carroll just prior to the summer transfer window drawing to a close under the assumption that they would land Clint Dempsey as a replacement. The American chose Tottenham instead and left Liverpool stranded with only two senior strikers in Luis Suarez and summer signing Fabio Borini.
Recruiting a striker was top priority for the Reds once the January transfer window opened in order to bring in some much needed support for the sensational Suarez who has been prolific this season. They could also have used another winger with Stewart Downing being told at the time that he was free to leave and Joe Cole expected to move back to West Ham United.
Raheem Sterling, Suso and Oussama Assaidi would then be the remaining options on the flanks and although Sterling has been a regular, he isn't the finished product and the other two aren't quite ready for regular first team football.
A striker was top priority
Their midfield has looked soft when Lucas Leiva hasn't featured in there with Joe Allen often being over-run in the face of stronger opposition. Steven Gerrard's return to full fitness and devastating form has been a massive boost for the side but a midfield addition could have done them some good. Martin Skrtel has had more than a few nervy moments of late and with only the aging Jaime Carragher and the unreliable Sebastian Coates to step in, a center-back could have come in handy.
Who they were linked with
Tom Ince has been turning heads in the Championship this season and even attracted the interest of several Premier League clubs including Liverpool who sold him to Blackpool in the first place. However, Reading were the only known club to put in an official bid for the winger. Ultimately, Ince decided to stay put.His dribbling, trickery and delivery are assets that could have benefited the Merseyside outfit, not to mention his keen eye for goal. He has 15 goals and 10 assists in the league this season and on that basis, it's surprising that none of the Premier League clubs snapped him up.
He may have been able to fit in at Anfield but there still seems to be some doubt in his ability to step up to English football's top tier. He could have been a gamble and may not have justified his price-tag.
Could have been an asset
Jack Butland looked likely to end up at Liverpool earlier in January primarily because Barcelona had reportedly identified Pepe Reina as a replacement for Victor Valdes who made it clear that he wants to leave the Catalan club at the end of the season. Butland was touted to come in to take Reina's place but the Spaniard has stayed on with Liverpool so the former joined Stoke City instead.
At only 19 and touted to be Joe Hart's closest competitor in the coming years, Butland could have been an exciting edition to an already youthful looking set-up at Liverpool. However, there's always an element of risk involved when employing such a young keeper at the top level and Rodgers might have decided against it.
Wesley Sneijder was instrumental when Inter Milan won the treble in 2010 and was regarded as one of the best midfielders in the world but has significantly fallen from grace since then. Having been practically forced out of Inter for refusing to take a pay-cut, he couldn't find a Premier League club willing to meet his salary demands either and instead chose to go to Turkish giants Galatasaray.
Liverpool were reportedly interested and even willing to offer a hefty weekly wage but the high tax-rate in England made the offer from Turkey a significantly more profitable one. He could have given Liverpool that extra bit of quality in the attacking third and his range of passing would certainly flourish in their system but when you put it into perspective, this particular buy would have been one of 'luxury' and not 'necessity' for the Reds.
What they got
Liverpool were desperate to find Suarez a suitable strike partner and they couldn't have done much better than Daniel Sturridge. The England international grew frustrated with his lack of opportunities at Chelsea and was desperate to ply his trade as a regular in his preferred center-forward position and Liverpool offered him just that.
He's made a fantastic start to his career with the Reds scoring 4 goals in his first 6 appearances but what's even more impressive is his link-up play with Suarez. The two forwards have already forged a promising partnership which can only get better in time. The mobility of the two players has a lot to do with the success of their collaboration and they have the ability to stretch defenses wide open with their movement.
After failing to sign Sneijder, Liverpool were successful in their attempt to recruit the youngster who was touted to take the Dutchman's place as Inter Milan's chief playmaker. Philippe Coutinho signed for the club on the penultimate day of the January transfer window and comes with a glowing reputation.
Coutinho remains inexperienced in the senior circuit and it may be some time before he can turn out for Liverpool on a regular basis. However, Rodgers has shown that he is not afraid to put faith in youth and the youngster brings a different dimension to their game. His pace, dribbling and trickery are his main attributes but he also possesses good vision and an eye for goal. He can either play in the hole behind the striker or out wide. He is a good option to have on the bench and a welcome addition since Nuri Sahin was allowed to return to former club, Borussia Dortmund.
What this means for their season
Ideally, the Anfield faithful would have liked to see their side firmly in line for a Champions League spot this season but they haven't expected or demanded it because they realize that the team is going through a period of transition. Their style of play has improved tremendously and despite failing to beat any of the teams in the top half of the table this season, they have produced some sensational performances against the Manchester clubs, Arsenal and Everton.
Sturridge's arrival seems to have had a big impact on the team and his partnership with Suarez up front is a massive boost for Liverpool. In Coutinho, they now have an exciting player with plenty of flair to call upon when needed and that enhances Rodgers' options when he needs to change things. They are currently 7th place in the league but only 9 points away from Tottenham in 4th place.
Although a place in the Champions League seems unlikely, a 5th or even 6th place finish this season would be a step forward. They are already out of the two domestic cups so they may be inclined to take the Europa League more seriously and in all fairness, they have a good chance of winning the competition on current form. With a little more resolve, they could turn those draws with the teams around them into wins and move up the table towards that 4th spot.
|Who do you think Liverpool should have signed? Leave your comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.|
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