By Justin Fitzgerald
As Liverpool fans in Boston sweat out the summer heat in anticipation of a July friendly match against AS Roma, across the pond club brass is undoubtedly doing a little sweating of their own in the latest transfer window. It’s certainly no secret that recent personnel changes were made as a direct result of the previous signings failing to live up to their billing. It’s a results driven league and transfers made under Dalglish and Comolli simply didn’t get it done, so don’t be surprised if wholesale changes are made under the new reign of Brendan Rodgers. If nothing else, the teams Rodgers put out at Reading and Swansea had a certain fluidity and creativity about them that the Irishman will definitely be looking to recreate.
He certainly has his work cut out for him. With Lucas and Charlie Adam coming off serious injuries, and Dirk Kuyt moving on from Liverpool to pursue the next chapter of his career, the first order of business for the new skipper will undoubtedly be to shore up an aging and depleted midfield. Steven Gerrard turns 33 next season and will need to have his playing time managed in order to avoid serious recurring injuries. This most glaring deficiencies however lie in the wings and not in the central midfield. With Gerrard, Shelvey, Spearing, Henderson and the potential returns of Joe Cole and Alberto Aquilani there are options and a bit of depth, yet aside from the skipper there are also doubts that these players can re-create the same free-flowing pass and move style of football that Rodgers’s sides have implemented in the past. Look for the Reds to add some creativity, a bit of guile, and hopefully a touch of class to the middle of the pitch.
The outside midfielders or wingers are another story altogether. Kenny Dalglish learned the hard way that Jordan Henderson is a central midfielder and should always be played as such, and it remains an enigma each week as to which Stewart Downing will show up. To say that the choices in this position are limited would be an understatement, which is unfortunate as arguably Liverpool’s biggest problem last year was a lack of quality service to Andy Carroll from the outside.
To be successful in the modern game you must have width and be able to attack from multiple angles to create quality chances and the Reds more often than not were one-dimensional and predictable going forward. They relied heavily on Luis Suarez to create his own chances as is evidenced by his having one of the lowest conversion rates per shots taken in the Premier League. That being said I honestly believe that the partnership of the feisty Uruguayan and the big Geordie should flourish up front this season. Carroll is finally healthy and coming into form, netting a brilliant goal and showing exceptional holdup play in two European Championship games this summer. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.
So what changes will Liverpool make in the summer transfer window? Keeping up with all the rumors is a mind-numbing task, so I’ve enlisted the help of Vegas odds makers to help with the predictions.
Odds on a move to Liverpool – 2/1
Some say that “Deuce” is past his prime and that the 29-year-old American midfielder is entering the twilight of his career. This is complete nonsense, Fulham’s talismatic midfielder scored 17 goals last season and is in remarkable form. Not only is Dempsey a clinical finisher (something Liverpool clearly lacked last season) he has tremendous versatility and is able to play in virtually every midfield position as well as up front or just behind the striker, a role he excels in for the US National Team. Clint has proven that he has not only the skill but the grit and tenacity needed to excel in one of if not the most physical leagues in the world. He’s played with a chip on his shoulder from a young age, fueled by a desire to defy the critics at every turn. John Henry if nothing else is a certainly a shrewd businessman, and talent aside it would be impossible for him to ignore the financial perks of a signing like this. America, like the Wild West of old, represents one of the last largely untapped soccer audiences. Why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of Dempsey shirt sales that would be worth their weight in gold?
Odds on a move to Liverpool – 4/7
Krasic joined Juventus from CSKA Moscow in 2010 for an estimated £12 million and was part of the team which won the Serie A in the 2011-12 campaign. While he only has 50 competitive appearances for Juve, he has managed to bag 10 goals in his two years playing in Italy. Often squeezed out of a Juventus side playing a 3-5-2 formation, Krasic’s game would be much more suited to Liverpool’s style of play. In Milos Krasic Liverpool would be getting an out-and-out winger that can immediately fill the void left by Dirk Kuyt. At 6’1 he’s similar in stature the Dutchman but has blistering pace that Kuyt was certainly lacking. Krasic has demonstrated an ability to maintain possession and can provide great service, completing 84% of his passes at Juventus this season. He’s also not afraid to take players on and shows tremendous skill on the ball, something Liverpool thought they were getting with Stewart Downing. Milos also likes to cut inside on his left foot and should fit in well with Glen Johnson on the right side. Having had the opportunity to come to White Hart Lane on loan in January Krasic has subsequently claimed that he regretted turning the offer down, hopefully Liverpool can hold off Tottenham and complete the estimated $6M move for “The Serbian Arrow.”
Odds on a move to Liverpool– 5/1
Let me first preface this potential signing with the fact that it allegedly hinges largely on rumors of Luis Suarez being transferred to Juventus for somewhere in the neighborhood of £45 million and/or a player combination with the above mentioned Milos Krasic. With the “The Old Lady” willing to break the bank for the Uruguayan, Rodgers would certainly have funds to work with, and Huntelaar is thought to be a possible replacement. Let me be clear that these are only rumors and that after the support that Luis received through a tumultuous 2011-12 campaign, Rodgers would be remiss to let him leave unless word has come down from the top. In any case Liverpool fans can dream of the prolific pairing of Suarez and Huntelaar up front with Klaas-Jan having netted 33 goals in 34 matches when the two played together at Ajax during the 2007/08 season. “The Hunter” has enjoyed impressive form lately, scoring 44 goals in 47 appearances for Shalke 04. It’s no secret that Huntelaar can be lethal, but his biggest shortcoming (which can be said about any number of players) is that he is largely stationary in front of the net and requires the right service to flourish. At Ajax he had Suarez, at Shalke 04 he has Raul, both fruitful partnerships with imaginative and technically gifted players, in short the perfect foils. It’s difficult to predict whether or not he would hit the ground running like Suarez and adapt quickly to the grueling English game, but for a manager looking to bolster his attacking options up front, it easy to see how Brendan might be looking to add a touch of Klaas.
Ricky van Wolfswinkel
Odds on a move to Liverpool– 5/1
Touted as the next Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Ricky van Wolfswinkel has seen his name come up on Liverpool transfer target lists. The Dutchman shows great versatility in front of the net playing as a striker or attacking midfielder and has excelled in the high tempo pass and move style of play in the Portuguese Primeira Liga. The 23-year-old is extremely talented inside the box and shown a knack for creating chances and moving into space at the right time. At Sporting Clube de Portugal he scored 20 times including 6 in the Europa League, and his recent form has attracted interest from Manchester United, Tottenham, and Newcastle as well.
The summer transfer window always proves to be a very fluid market and this year is no different. Liverpool seemed to be on the verge of signing Gylfi Sigurdsson from Hoffenheim this week, only to have Tottenham swoop in and hijack the bid. There’s still hope as personal terms have yet to be agreed upon, but it’s a bit disturbing that a manager-less Spurs are on the verge of completing this signing while Liverpool who has Brendan Rodgers (who Gylfi excelled under at Swansea) are left swinging in the wind. Liverpool has to compete in the market without being able to offer the allure of Champions League football, which ultimately means having to pay inflated wages and transfer fees with limited access to the elite. Nevertheless there is certainly talent and the opportunity to add value, let’s just hope that Brendan Rodgers can improve on the results from previous windows and get Liverpool off to a flying start with such a challenging set of fixtures at the beginning of the season.