Throughout this season, Liverpool have received unending plaudits for the swashbuckling, incisive attacking style, and attracted similar levels of derision for their frequent defensive calamities. As such, there is likely to be much reshuffling within the backline throughout the summer.
Yet although defence remains the obviously deficient part of Liverpool’s set up, Rodgers may also want to invest in their strike force, especially considering the added demands brought by the Champions League.
The statistics and impact of Suarez, Sterling and Sturridge have been evidenced time and again this season, and with the 100 goal barrier broken for the first time since 1896, there is little concern that the trio can step up again in 2014/2015. However, having drawn blanks against Manchester United in the League Cup, and both Arsenal and Chelsea in the league, and occasionally found themselves unable to pick apart tightly meshed defensive units through their usual, lightning-quick attacking forays, recruiting players of a different style may be crucial to sustaining this seasons progress.
All of Liverpool’s front line offer incredible energy, pace and intelligence to their play, but to a man lack any real physicality with which to dominate teams. This was most obvious against Chelsea, where, even in the dying embers of this most crucial game, varying their approach and going direct was just not an option, due to the lack of height and aerial strength compared to their larger opponents. Using what is rumoured to be a sizeable transfer budget to lure another striker, of different talents, to the club would be hugely beneficial in allowing Rodgers yet another dimension to his already impressive attacking talents.
Indeed, despite, and perhaps because of, his impressive form on the other side of Merseyside, a surprise bid for Romelu Lukaku could turn Liverpool into an ever greater force domestically and in Europe. Whilst Rodger’s made clear from his treatment of Andy Carroll that he wasn’t keen on target men, Lukaku offers so much more than his obvious physicality and presence. He has demonstrated throughout his impressive season with the Toffees, and previously at West Brom, that he is highly capable of performing in an attractive, attacking side.
Indeed, according to Squawka, he has won 40% of his headed duels this season, and 40% of all tackles; in a side that prides itself on winning the ball high up the pitch, this is an important statistic. In comparison, Suarez has managed to win just 26% of headers and Sturridge only 18%, whilst both average similar percentage for tackles. Adding this level of versatility can only improve an attack which will be under more pressure than ever to perform throughout next season; Fabio Borini may yet have a future, but Liverpool’s current third choice striker, the infamous Aspas has offered little demonstration of his talent, and in any case possesses a similar skillset to those already established ahead of him.
You could also make a case that Lukaku’s physicality and aerial prowess will aid Liverpool in defence, where they have conceded the third-highest number of headed goals (12) in the league this season.
His endless running and intelligence will allow him to seamlessly slot into this side in a way that the rather one-dimensional and regressive Carroll couldn’t. As he has shown in recent weeks, he has performed well when pushed out wide to the right, meaning that his inclusion would not necessarily be to the detriment of Suarez and Sturridge through the middle. His transfer fee, a reported £20million, and his wages should also fit well within Liverpool’s means with Champions League revenue behind them.
Alongside Lukaku, numerous other options to bolster the attack should be considered. These include a renewed bid for Yehven Konoplyanka, who would most definitely offer a strong wide option and offer respite for Raheem Sterling, with the possibility of next season stretching to well over 50 games dependent on progression in the cup competitions. Failing that, Antoine Greizmann, the dazzling Real Sociedad winger, has many admirers, and at just 22, would fit Rodger’s remit superbly.
Despite the imperious nature of Liverpool’s attack, reinforcements should be seriously contemplated considering the step up in quality expected from Liverpool throughout the whole of next season. Furthermore, recruiting players of proven quality and reputation who are still yet to reach their peak years must be the aim for a Liverpool side desperate to build on this season’s undoubted success and build a side that will endure long into the future.
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