Over the past few seasons, Liverpool have become lost in mid-table obscurity. And the main culprit for this sad state of affairs at Anfield has been its defence, which was often found to be desperately lacking last season.
Among all the teams that finished in the top seven, only Tottenham conceded more goals than the Reds. And now, with the retirement of talisman Jamie Carragher, Liverpool find themselves facing the tough task of having to rebuild their defence, bringing in quality players, if they are to compete for the top four next season. Here's a look at what Brendan Rodgers needs to do to ensure that his defence remains secure for next season.
Brendan Rodgers moved quickly to sign Kolo Toure from Manchester City on a free transfer, supposedly to replace Carragher. Now, this move makes sense in order to add depth to the defensive line, but Toure is a significant downgrade from Carragher, especially when the form of the two players are compared over the past season.
And while Martin Skrtel could certainly regain his form and perform for the Reds next season, it would be a gamble to not consolidate their defence.
Brendan Rodgers does have the likes of Martin Kelly, Andre Wisdom and Sebastian Coates to choose from as the fourth defender, but none of these players are quite up to the level that the Reds require at the centre.
What Liverpool need is a quality centre-back who already has experience playing at the highest level. The player should also be young and should come at a reasonable price.
Only then can Liverpool even begin to think about finishing in the top four next season. Some possible options are Ajax's Toby Alderweireld, Sporting's Tiago Ilori, Swansea's Ashley Williams and Reading's Alex Pearce amongst others. Of these, only Belgian Alderweireld ticks all the boxes for the Reds. Ashley Williams could well serve to be the ideal signing, but the Welsh captain is 29 and is also a bit overpriced considering his 12 million pound valuation.
And while Tiago Ilori is definitely talented, the Portuguese defender is unlikely to give immediate results and thus should not be the priority for the Reds. And Alex Pearce would just be a bit-stop, who will almost definitely not be starting for Liverpool, and should not be pursued. Making one marquee signing in defence, combined with ensuring that both Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel stay, should be enough to make sure that the Anfield outfit will not be short-handed at the centre of defence next season.
However, central-defence is not the only position which needs strengthening. On the left hand side, Jose Enrique is the only established defender that Liverpool have at their disposal. While Enrique has performed reasonably well for the club, he has often been out injured, which has cost the Reds dearly.
With midfielder Stewart Downing being their second choice left back, the situation is far from ideal for the Merseyside club. Recent reports suggest the club are looking to sign Aly Cissokho from Valencia.
Should he arrive, the Frenchman could prove to be a quality signing who would not only provide cover, but also competition to Enrique for the starting spot.
The right side of defence is comparatively secure, with Glen Johnson being ever so sure yet again last season. And with Martin Kelly shaking off his injury problems and the emergence of Andre Wisdom, Liverpool look to be relatively well off in this area of the pitch.
With their attacking players finally adapting to Rodgers' system towards the end of last season and starting to fire, defence should remain the priority for Liverpool. If Rodgers can indeed find the right players and the right combination to work in defence, Liverpool could once again challenge for honours. A Premier League title is still a distant dream, but a top four challenge is a distinct possibility for the Merseysiders if they do secure their defensive-line.
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