By Justin Fitzgerald
With roughly one month left until Deadline Day 2012, the transfer market is clearly heating up. The Reds no doubt will be thankful to escape the heat themselves, having endured temperatures north of 100F in their trip to Baltimore and close to that in Boston. As a successful North American tour comes to an end we’re provided with some answers and yet even more questions. Brendan Rodgers fielded a seemingly endless combination of youngsters and veteran talent, and we got a glimpse of the “tikki takka” style of play that he hopes to produce. While Liverpool may not have recorded a win in its three game tour, it’s worth noting that the competition included an in-form Toronto FC and much more veteran and familiar sides in AS Roma and Tottenham. Nevertheless there remains a great deal of work to be done.
One thing for certain is that the future looks bright, especially for young starlets Raheem Sterling and Jonjo Shelvey. While Jonjo may seem like a veteran in comparison to Raheem, three years his senior with considerably more first team experience, both are looking to make strong cases to join the Liverpool starters in some capacity this season. Steven Gerrard had some words of wisdom for the younger players looking to prove themselves in a recent interview with LFC magazine.
“I see or hear some young lads talking about being patient or waiting for their chance. It sounds like they feel they need a 15-minute cameo in a first-team game to prove what they can do. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about proving yourself every day in training.”
“They don’t want to be getting to September or October and wondering why they didn’t get a chance in a game. Do it now is my message to them. They have to go in every day and prove to the manager that they are better than those players who are in the team.”
Proving yourself however doesn’t stop with the youth, veteran players can just as easily find themselves on the fringe with a new manager. While three games isn’t exactly a large body of work, Charlie Adam looks to be one of those players. Adam was out of sorts in midfield at times, seemingly torn between attempting to execute the ‘pass and move’ style of play the new manager is looking to implement, and his desire to fire out Hollywood long balls across the pitch. He appeared somewhat sluggish and poor movement saw him caught in possession multiple times. This in turn led to some ill advised tackles which he certainly has a history of, just ask Gareth Bale.
Joe Cole is another wily veteran looking to impress. He praised the tactics under Brendan Rodgers claiming his style of play fits in well with them. It remains to be seen whether he will feature on the flanks with the first team this season as Liverpool looks to bolster its attacking options in the current transfer window. Joe certainly has the movement and guile to be successful in the final third, let’s just hope he won’t be taking any more set pieces any time soon.
As Liverpool fans look with anticipation and anxiety to see who will be coming and who’s being shown the door, there seem to be three major questions that dominate the headlines these days – Will Andy Caroll remain Liverpool’s No. 9 under Brendan Rodgers? Is Aquilani on his way to Fiorentina? What’s the deal with Clint Dempsey? Caroll is apparently blocking a move to West Ham United in favor of a Toonside reunion. The Hammers were hoping to sign the big Geordie on loan for an initial £2m fee, rising to a £16M permanent transfer if they survive relegation. Aquaman returning to play in the Serie A appears to be a done deal, although his agent insists he has no knowledge of any pending transfer. The media would have you believe that Deuce didn’t travel with Fullham for a preseason match in Switzerland due to a fall out with Martin Jol over a failed transfer to Liverpool, while a Fullham spokesman said he stayed behind simply due to a lack of fitness. Believe what you will, but a Liverpool transfer appears to in the works for the American. John Henry and Co. certainly know the value of a Dempsey jersey off the pitch, check out these statistics courtesy of @EPLIndex to see the value of a Dempsey jersey on it.
Clearly a step up from Dirk Kuyt in the wide forward position, and I for one would love to see a versatile Clint Dempsey play some role in a three headed monster of striking options including Luis Suarez and Fabio Borini.
So once again we turn to the Vegas odds makers to see who is favored to make a move to the Merseyside this summer.
Odds on a move to Liverpool – 1/4 (next closest Tottenham at 10/1)
Known as the “Welsh Xavi,” Joe Allen boasted one of the highest pass completion ratios not only in the Premier League but also in all of Europe last season. Great with the ball at his feet and very adept in maintaining possession, it’s easy to see why his former manager is keen to bring the Swansea midfielder’s services to Liverpool. Allen has great technical ability, awareness, and also a wonderful work rate. He’s constantly moving without the ball and is quite familiar with the system Brendan Rodgers is looking to implement having played for him the past two seasons. At 22 years of age Allen fits the bill of the so called “English Youth Movement,” a transfer philosophy that FSG has recently instilled. The question remains where he would feature in an already crowded midfield. At Swansea he occupied the space between the attacking midfielder and a more defensive or holding midfielder. At Liverpool last season this was occasionally the role of Jordan Henderson when he wasn’t being played out of position on the wing. Allen’s stats from last season are only marginally better than Henderson’s in this position, so on a somewhat limited budget is he worth the supposed £15m price tag? Liverpool are thought to have tabled an offer of £12.5m plus a player on loan for the season, potentially Jonjo Shelvey. A Swansea spokesperson confirmed that “Liverpool have expressed an interest in Joe Allen, despite a written agreement with Liverpool not to approach any players within the 12-month period of former manager Brendan Rodgers leaving for Anfield.” Allen is currently playing for Great Britain in the Olympics but look for this situation to intensify upon the conclusion of the summer games.
Odds on a move to Liverpool – 4/1 (next closest Manchester City at 6/1)
Gaston Ramirez has certainly made a name for himself this past season at Bologna, and has begun to attract attention from top clubs outside of the Premier League as well. Rated one of the top young talents in the Serie A, Ramirez fits the bill as another versatile player that would excel under Brendan Rodgers’s new system. Playing off the striker in midfield or on the wing, Ramirez has blistering pace, is an excellent passer, and has the creativity that Liverpool were lacking in the final third last season. Make no mistake the Uruguayan is an exciting talent, and while he may play a similar role to Clint Dempsey, there are trade offs between the two. Most obviously Dempsey is 29 whereas Ramirez is 21 and Liverpool will have to pay for that youth with Bologna thought to be asking somewhere in the neighborhood of £25m. Gaston has pace which Clint lacks but not to the point where it becomes an issue. Dempsey on the other hand is a proven quantity at the highest level. Gaston may ultimately have a higher ceiling but is more of a raw talent and lacks experience in the physical Premier League. In any case, adding Gaston Ramirez to the roster in the offseason can be seen as nothing short of good business, and I’m pretty sure the goal is still shaking in Millennium Stadium after that shot the Uruguayan put off the bar in the Olympic match against Great Britain this afternoon.
Odds on a move to Liverpool – 5/4 (next closest Sunderland at 10/1)
Adam Johnson is not happy riding the pine at Manchester City. After struggling to make an impact and falling out of favor with the manager, Johnson started just 10 Premier League games last season, and in his mind it cost him a spot in the Euros. Mancini has basically told him to step his game up, stating recently, “It depends on Adam, not me – if he deserves to play, he’ll play. He is good enough to play at a top club, but he has to play at the highest level all the time, not sometimes up and sometimes down.” Consistency is definitely something that Liverpool will be looking for from Adam Johnson and also something that seems to be lost on Stewart Downing. Everyone knows Johnson has tremendous speed and is not afraid to take players on. He also has outstanding vision with the ability to serve up great crosses and would certainly create width and allow Liverpool to stretch the field. At 24 years of age he still has a lot of football ahead of him and thus is thought to come at an asking price of around £16m. Of the three transfer targets mentioned I feel like this one is the least likely to happen, with Manchester City unlikely to offload the winger to another English club at a price that Liverpool will be willing to accept.