Friday, August 09, 2013

How is Liverpool's squad bearing up for the new season?

I wrote this blog after the final game of last season and failed to publish it in good time. A lot has changed at Liverpool since then, with the arrivals of Aspas, Mignolet, Toure and Alberto, and the departures of stalwarts and fringe players. But for the sake of honesty, I'm posting the blog as it was written (with the actual future of a player in italics where appropriate)

Liverpool are expected to have £20m-25m to spend this summer, plus whatever can be raised through sales, according to the Liverpool Echo. So who should stay and who should go? Rodgers has spoken of his need for leaders on the pitch, hence the return to central defence last season of the 35-year-old Jamie Carragher. But the manager already has the England senior and Under-21 captains (Jordan Henderson is now ineligible for the U21s), plus the captains of Denmark and Slovakia. He faces an interesting choice of who should be vice-captain to replace Carragher and provide vocal leadership from the back, and has options in Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson.


Pepe Reina
Still an excellent shot stopper, and often imperious, with wonderful saves against Wigan and Fulham among others that got forgotten amid praise of the attacking performances. The Spaniard was admittedly flaky at other times, especially in the first half of the season. If he had a more reliable defence in front of him, ie a stable back four and defenders cutting out the individual errors, he'd be less liable to dodgy decision-making. Arsenal and Barcelona are sniffing around again, but we'd find it hard to buy as good a keeper for the £10m or so they would pay for a player who turns 31 in August. Verdict? Stay (Joined Napoli on loan)

Brad Jones
An unreliable backup to Pepe Reina, and never likely to be No 1, despite his squad number, but he signed a contract extension in December 2012 and has little resale value. Verdict? Stay

Peter Gulacsi
Liverpool's third-choice keeper since the mysterious disappearance of Doni, and will be happy to bide his time to step up to No 2. Verdict? Stay (Joined Red Bull Salzburg on a free transfer)


Glen Johnson
Dogged by inconsistency – who wasn't in Liverpool's team last season? - the 28-year-old right-back is still one of the most exciting defenders in the Premier League going forward. With some consistency of who plays in front of him next season, Johnson could shine. Verdict? Stay

José Enrique
Criticised by Rodgers early in the season, he risked reopening the wound when he retorted via the media in February. However, the Spaniard was described by Rodgers as one of the best full-backs in the league in March (difficult to keep up with this mini love affair ...). Enrique has shown class in some of his linkup play with Luis Suarez, and added a few goals to his repertoire as well. Yet Liverpool need better options at left-back than playing Johnson out of position, especially if Jack Robinson heads out on loan again. Verdict? Stay

Martin Kelly
His injuries are a worry, and so, for him, is the emergence of Andre Wisdom. Still a more than useful backup across the defence and, as he signed a new deal in February, his future lies in red. Verdict? Stay

Andre Wisdom
Impressed when called upon in the first team, the right-back could see more opportunities if Kelly is moved into a central berth. Verdict? Stay

Jon Flanagan
Flourished under Kenny Dalglish, frustrated under Rodgers. Would probably have gone out on loan last season if it had not been for a nasty knee injury in January. Would do well to pressure Johnson, Kelly and Wisdom in the right-back slot. Verdict? Season's loan to Championship club

Jack Robinson
Impressed in patches under Dalglish but found chances harder to come by under Rodgers as Enrique played his way back to form. Johnson still the backup option on the left of defence. Verdict? Season's loan to Championship club (Joined Blackpool on loan)

Central defenders

Daniel Agger
It was a big boost for Liverpool when they resisted Manchester City's public courting of the Dane at the start of the season. This summer, Barcelona are tempted by the classiest defender in the Premier League on his day. But Dagger is committed to the cause and won't be allowed to leave in view of the rebuilding needed at the back. Verdict? Stay

Jamie Carragher
Irreplaceable but Liverpool could certainly do with his defensive nous and passion on the training ground. Verdict? Give Gary Neville a run for his money on Sky

Sebastian Coates
Despite the defender's stunning strike against QPR in March 2012, the Uruguayan looked terrified against Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup exit. It's always difficult to come into an unfamiliar back four, particularly in a high-atmosphere cup game, and, still only 22, it's too early to judge him definitively. Yet to convince. Verdict? Loan to Premier League club

Martin Skrtel
How did the Slovakian go from player of the season to Rodgers' fall guy? He seemed to be losing interest when he was recalled in the defeat to Southampton, and his once solid partnership with Agger is wobblier than a jellyfish doing the Harlem shake. Transfer market values the 28-year-old at £13m. Whether that would be good value depends on whether Rodgers can dig out another Sami Hyypia or two. Verdict? Sold for around £10m

Danny Wilson
A regular for Hearts since moving there on loan in January – he has made more appearances for the SPL side in half a season than he did in all his time at Liverpool. He could well stay in Edinburgh as his contract expires this summer. Verdict? Leave on a free transfer (Joined Hearts on a free transfer)

Central midfield

Steven Gerrard (captain)
With nine league goals and nine assists, and having reinvented himself into a deep-playing midfielder, Gerrard quietly had an excellent season. Verdict? Stay

Lucas Leiva
The Brazilian may not have much natural South American flair, and with only six goals in over 200 appearances he certainly leaves the attacking to others, but Liverpool are a much better team with the tidy Lucas sitting deep. Let's hope he stays injury-free. Verdict? Stay

Joe Allen
Whenever I watch Allen play, it's always a rather flat experience. He rarely does anything terribly wrong, but others play the defensive and attacking midfield roles better. However, he's only just 23, a useful squad player, and certainly one who could help shore things up and defend a lead in the final 20 minutes of games. For me, not an automatic starter. Verdict? Stay

Jordan Henderson
The manager doesn't yet trust him but the fans are increasingly on this Mackem's side, as he brings energy, enthusiasm and desire whenever he plays. Should be a first-team starter ahead of Allen, particularly against the stronger teams and away from home. Verdict? Stay

Jonjo Shelvey
Rodgers looked to Shelvey for goals in the first half of the season, and he provided them against West Ham, Young Boys and Udinese. Faded in the second half of the season, as Coutinho and Henderson rose above him in the pecking order, but I still think Shelvey is the closest thing Liverpool have to a young Gerrard. He played really well on loan at Blackpool in 2011, but another loan deal would seem regressive. I'd like to see him given his chance to impress in the cups and from the bench. With no Europe next season though, that may not be enough for him. Verdict? Stay (Joined Swansea for £5m)

Jay Spearing
Gives his all whoever he's playing for and has been a regular on loan at Bolton. A Championship player or a Champions League one? With Gerrard, Lucas, Henderson, Shelvey and Allen all ahead of him in the pecking order for a role in central midfield, I suspect Rodgers may have decided that Spearing's the former. Verdict? Sold for £3m (Joined Bolton for undisclosed fee)

Conor Coady
Talked about as captaincy material for club and country one day, Coady is certainly one for the future. There's no need to rush the 20-year-old into the first team. The question for Rodgers is whether Coady, and Liverpool, would benefit most from a loan deal or playing in the cups. Verdict? Stay (Joined Sheffield United on loan)

Wingers/attacking midfielders

Stewart Downing
Came into his own towards the end of the season, but if Liverpool want to not only get into the Champions League but win a few games when they get there, they must have a better option than Downing. It may be worth keeping him as a squad player – Manchester United can call on Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia, Nani and Shinji Kagawa as wide options after all. But Downing is such a confidence player that I wonder how much Liverpool would get out of him as an impact sub. Verdict? Sell for £5m

Philippe Coutinho
A breathe of fresh air in January, and at only 21 he's likely to get even better. Expect him to be a regular next season and provide the cheekiness Liverpool have missed since Luis Garcia's exit. Verdict? Stay

Desperate to impress but massively overshadowed by Coutinho's arrival, especially as the Brazilian is only a year older. Could benefit from a season's loan, but would he be seen as a luxury player and risk getting insufficient game-time, especially in the tough Championship? Signed a new deal last season so unlikely to leave, but difficult to see him playing many games unless there's an injury crisis. Verdict? Stay (Joined Almeria on loan)

Raheem Sterling
A joy to watch during the first half of the season. Lacks decision-making but that will come. Deserved a rest towards the final months. Other teams may think they've found a way to deal with him, but his pacy, incisive and eager running offers something different to any other Liverpool player. Also wins a lot of free-kicks. Verdict? Stay and impress as an impact substitute against tiring sides

Oussama Assaidi
It would be easy for Liverpool fans to forget we'd signed this winger. He barely got a look-in, despite Downing's dips in form and Sterling's late-season tiredness. Either he's been caught making faces behind Rodgers' back or the manager really hasn't liked what he's seen in training. The Moroccan will be 25 in August – too old to be a passenger. Verdict? Sold for around £1m

Jordon Ibe
You spend ages looking for an exciting winger then two come along at once. Named on the bench in the Premier League defeat to Southampton, which suggests Rodgers has seen something he likes in the 17-year-old. Ibe caught the eye in the FA Youth Cup, scoring twice in the fifth-round win over Leeds United, and he'll be based with the reserves next season, but knocking on the first-team door. Verdict? Stay

Luis Suarez
Liverpool's most exciting player in the Premier League era. The Uruguayan is a superstar who wears his love for the club on his sleeve (obviously written during the halcyon final days of the league, before he was outed as a git). There aren't enough plaudits for El Pistolero when he's got his mind on the job but the amount of time he is lost to the team due to suspension is a real concern. Conversely, the infamous biting incident may make him less likely to leave and if Barcelona don't come sniffing over the summer, I hope there's nowhere else he'd go to. Would making him vice-captain help with the indiscipline? Here's praying. Verdict? Stay

Daniel Sturridge
He can swing between petulance and arrogance, but there's no denying his desire to put the ball in the back of the net. He doesn't always create much himself, but for all Liverpool's passing prowess under Rodgers, it's refreshing to have someone ready to toe punt a goal from five yards. His performance at Fulham showed he is not just a fox in the box though, and he relished leading the line following Suarez's suspension. In preparation for Gerrard's retirement, whenever it comes, Sturridge should become first-choice penalty-taker, despite his fluff in the Olympic Games. Verdict? Stay 

Fabio Borini
Difficult to judge the Italian after an injury-prone season. He looked a little lightweight in the Premier League, but he's still only 22 and we'd not get even half what we paid for him. Is he going to get a look-in with a front three of Coutinho, Sturridge and Suarez? Let's see what he can do in a full season, but likely to be only an option from the bench and for the cups. Verdict? Stay

Andy Carroll
Has done little to elevate his sell-on value on loan at West Ham, yet there's no route back for him to Anfield. Verdict: Sold for £10m (Joined West Ham for £15m)

Dani Pacheco
A mystery pretty much since he was bought by Rafa Benitez in 2007. In six seasons, no manager has seen enough in him to risk a run in the first team, with Pacheco not even making an impact when Suarez was Liverpool's only recognised striker at the start of last season. At 22, he needs to be on loan at a Premier League or Championship club, where he can remind Rodgers of his ability, not in the Spanish second division. Verdict? Sold for nominal fee

Samed Yesil
Looked out of his depth in the two cup appearances he made for the first team but time is on his side. However, it's worth remembering that Michael Owen scored on his debut for the senior side at only 17, and by 18 was scoring against Argentina in the World Cup. Verdict? Stay, but won't make an impact in the first team just yet


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