June 29, 2017, 03:00:14 AM

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Liverpool FC, football, sport / Re: Summer Transfer Window 2017
« Last post by Tes on Yesterday at 08:56:09 AM »
Left-Backs & Defensive Midfielders Are Buzzwords, But Liverpool Need A Centre-Back Partnership Too

James Milner at left-back, Jordan Henderson as the nominally holding midfielder. If Liverpool supporters had been told in May that would be the case for a League Cup second round fixture at Burton in August, they might have looked worried, but a train of thought along the lines of “it’s only Burton” would likely have prevailed.

Right, and perfectly acceptable for a good performance and result as it turned out, but it’s not only Burton—it was also Burnley and it’s also likely to be the case against Tottenham Hotspur. As incredible as it seems, two of the areas the Reds most needed reinforcements in over the summer were seen as perfectly fine, worthy of sales rather than additions. Fair enough if Jurgen Klopp believes his options to be capable of coping and playing the game he wants to play, but Liverpool have another pressing need to sort out: the centre of defence.

Unlike left-back and defensive midfield, this area of the team has been revamped: a 50 percent changeover in personnel, no less, with Kolo Toure and Martin Skrtel replaced by Ragnar Klavan and Joel Matip. Bundesliga signings were expected to be reasonably commonplace for Klopp, but it’s a fair bet most Reds supporters would have been hoping for a Johannes Geis, Jonathan Tah or (say it quietly) Mario Gotze rather than a defender they didn’t even realise existed, despite playing against him twice the previous season.

So far, it has been a decidedly mixed bag once again for Liverpool’s back line, early days though it might be.

Alternately impressive and shambolic in possession, it’s without the ball where the defenders cause most alarm. Positionally they each make errors, their timing of when to step out of the line and challenge higher upfield is inconsistent at best…and yet each look capable of having the odd monstrous performance and stopping everything, too.

The big issue is that Liverpool have not been able to arrange a preferred pairing and establish an understanding in defence, not just this season but for years previously.

Jamie Carragher’s retirement and Daniel Agger’s consistent injuries meant Martin Skrtel was often in the side by default, but even he was in and out under Brendan Rodgers initially. The Ulsterman then switched between a back three and a back four, signed, stuck with and then dropped Dejan Lovren and, somewhere in the middle, made Emre Can a midfielder-turned-centre-back-cum-right-back.

The defence has been muddled, meddled with, left to fend for itself and heavily criticised because of individual errors…but those errors all stem from having no cohesion, no leadership, no automatic fall-back position to a determined barrier between the opposition attackers and the much-maligned Simon Mignolet. In short, not enough coaching.

As soon as the ball is lost, the default for successful teams is to regain shape, take up appropriate positions and align themselves to win back possession—whether that’s by pressing high, sitting in a low block or whatever other solution the coach comes up with. Liverpool’s defensive mechanisms have been ill-prepared at times, and seemingly barely thought out at others. And so much of it can be traced back to not having a regular pairing at the back who know each other, trust each other and have a simple understanding of who takes on which job at any given moment.

It doesn’t help, of course, that the team’s best defender—Mamadou Sakho—has been alternately injured, ignored, injured again, falsely suspended and then kicked off a pre-season tour. The Reds need him at his best, but it’s looking more likely that they won’t have him at all, at least over the first half of the season if a loan spell is arranged to “regain fitness.”

Lovren and Matip, then. It still looks the most likely duo, even with Klavan getting the nod at the start of the Premier League campaign after a more impressive pre-season, and it would help Liverpool tremendously if Matip could live up to the high praise lavished upon him by Klopp after his free transfer was confirmed. Powerful in the air, strong in possession, recovery pace and aggression—Matip has all the basic tools for success, but defending relies on so much more. The faces ahead of him will likely not change too much this season, with fewer matches and less rotation, and the former Schalke man must ensure he makes the most of that consistency which has been missing in seasons gone by.

Whether or not more additions are made before the transfer window shuts, Liverpool will get nowhere near their aim of winning titles without creating a far more solid defensive base than they have managed so far, and that must start with establishing a regular pairing in the centre.

A good piece, and appropriate for where we are now. Actually, where we still are, as this was published  in August of last year, 6 days before the Summer window closed. The Winter window came and went, the current one officially opens in days, but apart from the reference to fewer games, outside of possibly Van Dijk and Keita (and neither are exactly nailed on), the date could be changed to 2017, but everything would still be current.
Liverpool FC, football, sport / Re: Summer Transfer Window 2017
« Last post by Tes on Yesterday at 08:32:12 AM »
Although a striker doesn't seem to be on the agenda for this coming season, I would love us to nip in and beat Everton to Henry Onyekuru of KAS Eupen.
20 years old, and having scored 22 goals in the Belgian league last season. Buy him, and send him on loan to one of the bigger Belgian or even Dutch teams for this coming season.

We're approaching a crossroads with both Sturridge and Origi. If both have seasons again like they did last season, then we are going to need to move both on, and even if we don't play as regularly as other teams do with a main striker, we need one, at least, and to have the option.

Solanke could possibly be developed as a false nine or even a more conventional striker, but if we have to let Sturridge and/or Origi go next Summer, we would then already have one option oven ready for next season.
Liverpool FC, football, sport / Re: Summer Transfer Window 2017
« Last post by Tes on Yesterday at 08:03:39 AM »
We're not the only ones worrying about a left back solution:

Are Liverpool’s problems at left back set to continue?


"He is undeniably limited as a fullback; his attacking contributions were a large cause of that frustration, with his cut inside crossing a particularly poor part of his game last season"

That and the fact that he isn't, wasn't and never will be a left back, or even as a 'converted' player, is he or will he be of the standard required to remain as a top four team or avoid the embarassment of elimination at the group stage of the CL.

"Although it seems unlikely that we won’t bring any sort of left back in this summer, it seems just as unlikely that we’ll be spending big money on one. Especially with centre back and central midfield signings seemingly prioritised at the moment.

Even if we don’t sign those players, the fact that we could be willing to spend so much money to strengthen in other positions suggests that if a left back were to come in, it would be relatively cheap.

Why should this be the case though? I can understand (to a degree) that the second choice cover/competition is either a young player still developing in parts (mainly lacking experience) or an older player nearing the end of his career, as we aren't in a position to assemble a squad with top class cover and competition in every position.

What we can't do is not have a top quality player in all eleven places/positions of the first team.
To not have even an established player, who's position it actually is, really is nothing short of madness.

To strengthen (further) positions that already have a quality starter, plus at least one player capable of covering there, whilst ignoring the fact that we don't have a single player who is a left back, especially once Moreno is sold, beggars belief and understanding.

I can understand scrimping, at this stage of the squad's development, on cover in the full back positions and the fourth centre half, but to do it in on the starter/main player in any position just builds avoidable weakness into the team.
Liverpool FC, football, sport / Re: Summer Transfer Window 2017
« Last post by Tes on June 27, 2017, 06:48:42 PM »
Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho returns to Anfield to start training for pre-season friendlies


If we don't snare Van Dijk, then surely the case for keeping Sakho gets even stronger. Klopp has shown who's in charge, after telling Sakho to prove himself on loan last Summer, he dumped him in the U-23s until he did just that in January. He's served his punishment and Klopp's shown who's boss and stayed strong.

Now, for the sake of common sense let's look at keeping Sakho. Sakho and Matip seems like the best partnership available to us out of our current resources.

Also, as clubs will know we want rid of Sakho they will lowball us and we're more likely to get less than the current (crazy) market rate. Additionally, as we've sold Sakho, putting ourselves in even greater need of a centre half, clubs will again try to hold us to ransom by quoting massively inflated prices for their centre halves.

As we're hardly the most savvy of negotiators either, we're likely to end up with a centre half no better than Sakho and at a huge nett cost.

Sakho on form is arguably better than Lovren and I think a better partner for Matip, so Plan B (which doesn't involve Van Dijk) could be to upgrade on Lovren, whilst keeping Sakho, therefore Lovren only gets into our 4th best partnership (Matip + Sakho, Matip + Upgrade, Sakho + Upgrade all being ahead).
Liverpool FC, football, sport / Re: Summer Transfer Window 2017
« Last post by Tes on June 27, 2017, 01:53:34 PM »
So it looks like we're out of the woods regarding disciplinary action over Van Dijk, but possibly also without a hope of resurrecting the deal, at any price.

It's hard to work out whether Southampton have played a blinder or ultimately shot themselves in the foot.

It seems like they only reported us once Van Dijk had come out and said he wanted to played for Klopp, hence massively lowering the chance of an auction developing. It's been well documented, and we know it's absolutely rife anyway, that both City and Chelsea had contact with Van Dijk, or his representatives, but Southampton were happy to let that happen if it created interest from 3 clubs, rather than just us.

However, having forced us to back off, which may seem like a good result, Southampton may have now left themselves with a player that doesn't want to play for them, the way out to the club he wants has been barred, and Chelsea may be very reluctant to meet such a huge fee for a player who's publicly declared his desire to play for Klopp rather than Conte.
Does the fact they've just appointed such an inexperienced manager aid their cause or add another issue to the problem? Maybe it makes no difference.

If Southampton decide to deal with us but add a punishment premium of £10M or more to 'our' price, do they risk the chance of us walking away properly?

Not getting the manager's first choice target is a definite blow, and the way we've managed to put ourselves in such a position is not just a problem on this transfer, but it reinforces what we've been saying for too long, and that's those in charge of recruitment at the club are simply not up to the standard required, and there needs to be a re-vamp once this window is shut.

But there's an equally big issue for me, and that's the seeming lack of (an) alternative(s) to Van Dijk. Maybe, hopefully, that's not the case and work is being done quietly (for once) behind the scenes to try and bring in an alternative.

At the moment it has all the signs of being a repeat of the Alexis Sanchez transfer, where we have a definite no1 target, but then failing to land him, we will cast about with no real clue for an alternative, and possibly end up with a panic buy.

We definitely need at least one more centre half. Sakho is obviously out of the picture, so from that perspective we're faced with a repeat of last season. Matip seems to suffer his fair share of injuries, Lovren likewise and there's still the question of his suitability as a first choice, and then there's Klavan. Maybe Klavan will have a second season footballing epiphany. There's likely to be no Lucas either.

I know it's still relatively early in the window, but time has a way of slipping by quickly, but at the moment the signs don't look good at all for next season's defence.
Like with the centre half situation, there's an absolute screaming need for at least one left back, but this seems like a very low priority too.

Without straying into the argument of having a defensive midfielder or not, in order to help improve our defending, then surely the minimum requirement, and two of the top three priority signings for this Summer, had to be a left back and a central defender, both first eleven players, not just cover/competition standard, and they'd need to be likely to remain free of injury, especially the centre half, as our need for them to be ever present was pressing, due to what we already do/don't have and their abilities to always be available for selection.

But now having addressed our need for additional/maintainance of pace in our attack and a goal getting ability to further spread the supply of goals rather than it be concentrated on one or two players, which I think has it's downsides as great as it's upsides, surely we now have to totally focus on the other side of our game/team and that's the ability to keep them out at the other end. Just as you 'invest' in getting goals and leads in the first place, you have to equally invest in keeping a lead and turning a lead into a win when the final whistle blows.

So far, Van Dijk apart and a tenuous fleeting link to another 'name of the moment' in Mendy, there's little sign of the weight of priority needed, actually being applied.

And that brings me on to another gripe and that's the lack of 'imagination' in our targets. They mostly seem to be players that have come off one good season, current headline makers.
Our three most successful 'recent' transfers have been players with obvious talent, that are either being underused but with the ability to be so much more or players ready and obviously able to take the next and largest leap in standard - Coutinho, Sturridge and Suarez. How long ago does it seem like we picked up those sorts of players - maybe we'll be adding Mane to that list.

It seems the higher Michael Edwards has risen in the identification and recruitment process, the less inspiring and imaginative our target list becomes.
Surely stats only give you an idea of 'who would be worth taking a look at' and by that I don't mean an enquiry as to availability, but a proper eyes on, in person scouting of the player, and not via a bunch of DVDs or either other digital media.   
Liverpool FC, football, sport / Re: Summer Transfer Window 2017
« Last post by Tes on June 27, 2017, 12:19:29 AM »
But it is worrying we're not looking to sign a top class left back.

With us turning down a deal for Faouzi Ghoulam with Moreno going the other way, because we apparently want £15M cash, does that mean we are looking at left backs in the sub £15M bracket?

Surely we're looking for a first choice left back, as we don't actually have one (especially if Moreno's on his way), rather than competition for Milner, and surely any left back we sign has to be an upgrade on Moreno.

Suggesting that we're looking for 'competition' for Milner (as the Daily Post is) suggests that Klopp still sees Milner as a left back, which is worrying in itself, and is a left back that is better than Moreno, but who's on a par with Milner, rather than being a huge upgrade on Milner, actually what we need?

Surely, where left back is concerned, Milner should only be seen as someone who could 'do a job' there if really needed, rather than being one of the two options (presuming you have two left backs in a squad of 25).

Also if we want £15M cash, rather than the 'value' of £15M 'going towards' the price of a left back, just how little are we looking at spending on a left back, and what sort of standard are we going to end up with for that price?

Faouzi Ghoulam is hardly the worse left back in the world, and is quite highly rated. If we were going to 'do' the left back again on a budget (like last Summer) then we should have pushed the boat out and gone in hard for Sead Kolasinac and got him.

If we end up selling Moreno (or even if we don't), surely Milner can't play in all the league games plus the CL as well, and that's if he avoids injury and suspension all season. If Moreno's gone, who plays in the matches Milner doesn't/can't, as there doesn't seem to be much talk of Gomez playing there again, and surely Gomez needs games at centre half to develop there. 

If we're looking at Oxlade-Chamberlain, which seems a possibility from reports of an enquiry and even a bid being made, then wouldn't that money be better spent on a left back first?

Maybe we have a bigger budget than expected if it can stretch to Keita, Van Dijk, Oxlade-Chamberlain and a left back of the required quality.

So far it just seems as though it was a 17 year old Ryan Sessegnon or a fanciful link to a £39M Mendy.

It just doesn't feel like the priority required is being placed on a position for where we don't have a single suitable first choice. You can sometimes get by being under strength in a certain position, but not totally without anyone suitable for that position at all.
Liverpool FC, football, sport / Re: Season 2017/18
« Last post by Tes on June 26, 2017, 10:39:54 PM »
Even if we sign Van Dijk or someone of his level, surely we have to adapt our style of play otherwise Van Dijk could end up looking no better than what we have already, as the defence would still get swamped with the lack of protection it gets.
Liverpool FC, football, sport / Re: Summer Transfer Window 2017
« Last post by Tes on June 26, 2017, 07:13:02 PM »
So now it's being reported everywhere that Keita's price has just gone up to €80M.

I long for the day when we did our business behind closed doors. Granted, it's hard to stop a club going to the media when we make an enquiry, possibly in order try and start an auction if  they are prepared to sell, and obviously a lot of stuff in the media is pure specualtion that hasn't and never had any basis in reality, but it just seems like our transfer targets are all out there, any have an annoying habit of proving to be accurate eventually.

We need to go back to total media silence, so we're not briefing the media at all and find a way of keeping more of our approaches out of the media.
Liverpool FC, football, sport / Re: Summer Transfer Window 2017
« Last post by Tes on June 25, 2017, 04:29:03 PM »
Liverpool don't want Faouzi Ghoulam - they want straight cash deal for Alberto Moreno


"However, the ECHO understands that Ghoulam isn’t a target for Liverpool as Jurgen Klopp looks to sign a left-back to compete with James Milner for a starting spot. "

 :'(   :'(   :'(


Liverpool FC, football, sport / Re: Summer Transfer Window 2017
« Last post by Tes on June 25, 2017, 02:20:48 PM »
We're not contemplating Mbappe.......it is all paper talk. We have no interest.

Clichy is no better than Milner and Milner isn't even a proper left back which shows you how badly I think Clichy is, so I don't think he'd be a good signing. But it is worrying we're not looking to sign a top class left back.

Jurgen has tracked Keita for a lot longer than one year. He is Jurgen's Number 1 target signing and wants him badly. However I rate our chances of signing him at around 20%.

Clichy's not that bad. I'm certainly not wanting him as 'the solution' but whilst he may not be the world's best, he'd free up Milner to return to a more appropriate position for him, and his experience would be more than useless. We lack experience in the squad as it is. I'd hope he wouldn't be the only left back we'd sign, but I'd prefer that to a situation where we've sold Moreno and end up with no left back, and Milner can't play ever game either.

Really it goes without me spelling it out that I'd prefer two quality left backs as opposed to our current situation, but at least someone like Clichy gives us an obtainable left back as a starting point.

As far as Keita goes, of course Klopp will have known about him whilst at RB Salzburg, but my worry is that we're not going to see this level of spending each Summer, so every huge outlay is going to need to hit the mark. Maybe Klopp sees things that are exactly what he wants and that he thinks can be moulded perfectly how he requires with Keita, which is why he's prepared to pay such a huge fee for a player with really only one senior season under his belt.
Also he's another that would depart for the AFCON. Previously I wouldn't have been too bothered, but when you see what a hole Mane left, do we really want to be losing 3 first choice players every other January. OK, we may have 'upgraded' other players in the squad by January '19, and there be a much deeper, more malleable squad by then, but you'd expect these players still to be first choices by then, otherwise we've laid out huge sums for short term return.
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