Big changes coming at Anfield in short and long term.
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It has been a season of turmoil at Anfield, but the signs are that things are beginning to turn around at Liverpool.
The disappointing tenure of Roy Hodgson is over. Kenny Dalglish has returned, and though the team has yet to win a match, the performances have been sufficiently more encouraging to make the fans – and players – believe again.
Liverpool also no longer have Tom Hicks and George Gillett as owners, siphoning money from the club through interest on loans lumped onto the club in debt.
John W Henry and Tom Werner of Fenway Sports Group have come in and lifted the club out of the red – and promised investment in the playing squad.
Of course, upon the takeover, the club have been linked with every player under the sun, but here are ten realistic targets for Liverpool to bring them back to their usual place near the top of the Premier League.
1. Luis Suarez
It makes sense to begin with Luis Suarez. The Ajax striker is the most commonly read name in any newspaper at present, with the press adamant that he will move to Merseyside soon.
The Uruguayan may have had his share of controversies – handballing on the line in the last minute of extra time in the World Cup quarter final as well as an inexplicable bite into the shoulder of PSV Eindhoven midfielder Otman Bakkal during their Eredivisie match – but his goalscoring record is impossible to argue with.
110 goals in 154 matches for Ajax is quite incredible, and though Mateja Kezman and Dirk Kuyt were prolific in Holland too, Suarez is a far more natural goalscorer than either of those players.
Capable of playing behind a main striker or as a wide forward as well as up front on his own, one of the benefits of signing the 23 year-old Ajax captain besides his goals is that he would be able to fit into any of the systems that Kenny Dalglish is looking to introduce.
What’s more, a marquis signing such as Suarez could lift the whole squad, though fortunately Liverpool’s owners are well aware he will not come cheap.
2. Charlie Adam
Suarez and Fernando Torres will be completely useless for Liverpool without good service. Though the Spanish forward has not had the greatest of seasons, he has frequently found himself in games where he has been left to chase long balls or compete as a target man for his team, which is not the best use of him.
Blackpool midfielder Charlie Adam is thought to be available for around £5m, which would make him very much in Liverpool’s price range. If he signed, he would be capable of playing a Xabi Alonso role, dictating the game from the middle of the park and freeing Steven Gerrard and Raul Meireles to move further forward.
Still just 25, Charlie Adam has been the driving force behind Blackpool’s success this season, and has certainly earned a move to a bigger club. Liverpool could provide just that.
3. Stewart Downing or Ashley Young
The biggest aid to Liverpool’s problem of creativity is would be a better class of wide players. Maxi Rodriguez and Dirk Kuyt can hardly be faulted for effort, but their lack of pace and limited invention mean that the Reds often tend to focus their attacks through the middle – which often go nowhere.
A true winger who sticks to the flank ought to be the second priority for Liverpool other than a second striker, and the club have been linked to the transfer of one of two Aston Villa wingers: Stewart Downing and Ashley Young.
Stewart Downing is the left footed option, and certainly possesses a fine cross, but Ashley Young’s flair, trickery and pace make him the better prospect. He is also almost exactly a year younger than Downing, capable on either flank, and the fact that he has yet to agree a new deal has alerted potential suitors.
Young’s contract runs out in June next year, and Aston Villa may well listen to offers to he or Downing – but not both.
4. Sylvain Marveaux
Sylvain Marveaux is another option for the left flank, and scored ten goals in 35 Ligue 1 games for Rennes last season.
The 24 year-old boasts considerable pace and skill, and can play behind a striker as well as on the wing.
With Rennes not participating in any European competition, Marveaux may well wish to further his ambitions with a move to a bigger club, and could be available for around £7m.
5. Eden Hazard
Belgian wonderkid Eden Hazard would be many of the fans’ choice for one of the wings – as well as headline writers nationwide.
The exciting prospect has just turned 20, but has already turned heads of scouts across Europe with his dazzling displays for Lille, and possesses 17 international caps.
Hazard is lightning quick, and his ball control at speed have brought favourable comparison with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The trouble for Liverpool is that Hazard has stated a preference to move to either Arsenal or Real Madrid, but with neither of those moves looking particularly likely at present, he could well be tempted to play at Anfield.
Also on Lille’s books is the 23 year-old Ivorian Gervinho, and the winger possesses similar attributes to Hazard – though his potential is not nearly as great.
Gervinho would however cost substantially less, and would certainly be a fine player for Liverpool, but fans who have read about Comolli’s attendance at Lille games will hope it is Hazard rather than Gervinho that he has his eye on.
7. Eljero Elia
Ryan Babel seems to be surplus to requirements at Anfield, but Liverpool still have their eye on his most similar colleague in the Dutch national squad.
Babel has the attributes of a top attacking player: pace, decent ball control and a powerful shot, but his blinkered vision and tendency to run down blind alleys made his Liverpool appearances sometimes more of a hindrance than an asset.
Eljero Elia has a bit more vision about him, and has made a name for himself in the Bundesliga with Hamburger SV.
Hamburg Athletic Supervisor Bastian Reinhardt recently stated that the club would require £12.5m to release Elia, but if Liverpool could haggle that down to a more realistic £9m, they would get a decent player.
8. Fabio Coentrao
The other clear weakness for Liverpool is at left back – mostly because only Mrs Carol Konchesky seems to rate Paul these days.
Furthermore, Fabio Aurelio would be a fine player to have on the bench, but would look out of place in the first XI of a club with as lofty ambitions as Liverpool.
He is solid, but ultimately not quite good enough – like a fair few of Liverpool’s players at present.
Benfica wing back Fabio Coentrao is quite a talent though.
The Portuguese international is sort of like a reverse of Gareth Bale – he began as a left winger but has become far more effective attacking from left back.
The 22 year-old is an exciting player for a full back, and waltzed past players at will during the 2010 World Cup for Portugal, but the fact that Liverpool play a more pressing game these days than under Roy Hodgson means that they are likely to have more of the ball as well as play a higher line.
This would enable the pacey Coentrao to recover should the ball be knocked over Liverpool’s defence, and with Pepe Reina practically playing as a sweeper anyway he will be in good stead.
9. Taye Taiwo
If Liverpool are looking for a safer option at left back though, Taye Taiwo is their man. With his contract at Marseille fast running out, Taiwo is thought to be available for just £4m.
With around 5 months left on his deal, Taiwo’s valuation could well drop further before the month is out, and as a consistent deliverer of solid performances he will have plenty of admirers across Europe.
10. Yann M’Vila
The final player on this list is Yann M’Vila, and while the 20 year-old defensive midfielder has great potential, his signing could signal the end of some Liverpool players’ Anfield careers.
Lucas Leiva has seemed to improve year on year at Liverpool, and is no longer the subject of derision from the terraces and on the messageboards, but Christian Poulsen has not proved a popular purchase and at the age of 30 is unlikely to improve.
Jay Spearing was decent in the Merseyside derby, but at 22 years old he perhaps should be thinking about regular first team football by now, while Alberto Aquilani looks set to cement a permanent move to Juventus.
Yann M’Vila offers excellent cover in front of the back line and has broken into the France team at just 20. He offers very little goal threat, but is a good passer who is highly disciplined in his role and would free up others to contribute to attacks.
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