Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Liverpool Must Strengthen Defensively

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 is 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 is 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.

Mkhitaryan Set For Liverpool Medical

Liverpool is on the verge of signing Shaktar Donetsk midfielder Henrikh Mkhitarayan.

The Mirror says Mkhitaryan is due to fly to Merseyside to undergo a medical on Tuesday, and the Anfield giants' boss Brendan Rodgers is expecting to complete the deal by the end of the week.

The Liverpool manager is looking to land a goalscoring midfielder this summer and the Armenia international fits the bill having scored 25 goals last season for the Ukrainians.

Rodgers will fund the deal, in part, through the sale of Andy Carroll to West Ham for £15m.

England striker Carroll is due in London on Wednesday for a medical, with a view to completing the move by the end of the week.

Liverpool & Arsenal Rivals For Wonderkid

Liverpool and Arsenal are ready to go head to head in a battle for West Bromwich Albion wonderkid Yan Dhanda.

According to the Daily Mail, the 14-year-old has been catching the eye of the Premier League’s biggest clubs since West Brom spotted him at an Asian Soccer Star event.

Dhanda has been making a name for himself with the Baggies youth side and the report claims both Arsenal and Liverpool are ready to try and persuade him to move away from the west Midlands.

Gunners manager Arsene Wenger has cultivated an excellent youth set up at Emirates Stadium and he has a good record of convincing young stars to join Arsenal.

Meanwhile, Liverpool’s owners instilled a policy of developing youth players more cleanly since their takeover and Dhanda would have examples like Raheem Sterling in front of him proving that young players are given a chance.

The report claims Dhanda’s progress has been so impressive that FA coaches have invited him to a training camp for England U16s, despite being two years younger than most of the other players.

Liverpool To Rekindle Interest In Nolito

Liverpool look set to rekindle their interest in Benfica's Nolito in the transfer window.

The Spaniard, who can operate as either a winger or a forward, was on Liverpool's agenda in the January transfer window, however a deal failed to materialize.

The 26-year-old struggled to cement a regular first-team berth and Brendan Rodgers is keen to resurrect his flagging career.

A report in Portuguese paper A Bola has it that Liverpool are continue to monitor his situation.

They also suggest that his transfer value has deflated from the £12.8m he was valued at last summer.

Nolito is under contract with the Portuguese giants until 2016.

Liverpool & Tottenham Target Algerian Midfielder

Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur are both interested in signing Sochaux midfielder Ryad Boudebouz, according to talkSPORT.

The 23-year-old has been heavily linked with a move away from France this summer, with the Premier League touted as his most likely destination.

Reds boss Brendan Rodgers is believed to be considering a move for Boudebouz, as he looks to strengthen his attacking midfield options at Anfield next season.

However, Liverpool will face direct competition for the player's signature from a domestic rival, with Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas equally keen to lure the Algeria international to White Hart Lane.

Boudebouz has just over 12 months to run on his existing Sochaux contract, and failure to tie him to a new deal could result in the Ligue 1 club having to sell, or else risk losing the player for nothing next year.

With interest high, Sochaux are unlikely to be short on offers for Boudebouz, with Bayer Leverkusen and Rubin Kazan just two of a growing number of European sides monitoring his situation closely.

Liverpool's Opening Offer For Sevilla Starlet Rejected

Sevilla sport director Monchi has revealed that they have rejected an offer from Liverpool for attacker Luis Alberto.

Alberto spent last season on loan at Barcelona B, grabbing 11 goals and 17 assist, which has seen the Reds lodge an £8m move for him.

Monchi appeared to confirm the interest to Sevilla's in-house TV station, in comments repeated in Marca, but said he expected the Anfield club to return with a more attractive offer.

"If there has been interest from Liverpool, we are not going to deny that," Monchi said. "The numbers suggest that he is leaving. The player has received an important offer, but at the moment he is a Sevilla player. The first offer the club has is very good, but we are not satisfied yet."

Liverpool To Miss Out On Teen Starlet To PSG

Liverpool are set to miss out on youngster Lucas Digne after PSG agreed a €15m fee with Lille for the 19-year-old, according to French source Lavoix Sports.

Reds boss Brendan Rodgers had reportedly identified Digne’s signing as a priority this summer after the youngster was shortlisted for the Ligue 1 young player of the year award following an eye-catching campaign.

Rodgers wanted the 19-year-old Frenchman to provide competition for current first choice left-back Jose Enrique but Digne is now set to swell the ranks of Ligue 1 champions PSG.

The teenager, who is currently with France at the under-20 World Cup, made 40 appearances for Lille last season in all competitions, scoring three times.

With PSG’s Maxwell set to turn 32 this year, the mega-rich Parisiens are keen to sign a replacement at full-back and were also linked with Chelsea’s Ashley Cole before the England star signed a contract extension earlier this year.

Suarez Will Have To Hand In A Formal Transfer Request

Liverpool has told Luis Suarez that he must have hand in an official transfer request if he wants to leave the club this summer.

The Uruguay international, who is currently playing at The Confederations Cup, has given several interviews about his desire to quit Anfield this summer but, as yet, he has not informed Liverpool's senior figures.

If Suarez is going to be sold to Real Madrid, as he desires, Liverpool will expect him to submit an official transfer request, while they would also want to recoup a fee in the region of £50million. As yet, Madrid has not made a formal bid for the 26-year-old.

Suarez has often maintained that he loves Liverpool but his fractured relationship with referees and the media are cited as the reasons that he wants to leave the Premier League.

Andy Carroll To Join West Ham

England striker Andy Carroll is set to complete his protracted transfer from Liverpool to West Ham, subject to the passing of a medical, it has been confirmed.

It has been widely reported that Carroll would undertake his medical on Tuesday afternoon, and it has since been corroborated by the son of West Ham owner David Sullivan that the deal is done.

Carroll has agreed a six-year contract with West Ham to make his loan move from Liverpool a permanent one, with the Anfield club set to make a loss of £17.5 million on the 24-year-old Geordie.

The Independent claims Carroll will receive a salary of £100,000-per-week over the course of his long-term contract, taking the total expenditure of West Ham on the package to a whopping £46 million.

Liverpool and the Hammers had agreed a fee of £15.5 million plus an extra £2 million in additional clauses almost a month ago, but it was left to Carroll to negotiate his permanent exit from the Merseyside club.

Carroll returned from holiday this week to complete his transfer to Upton Park, and could now be confirmed as a West Ham player on Wednesday, having spent the entirety of last season on loan with the club.

The former Newcastle forward scored seven goals in 24 appearances for West Ham, having missed a large portion of the campaign through injury.

Carroll is still carrying a knock he picked up at the end of the season, and he could miss the start of next term.

Borini Scores In Loss To Spain

Fabio Borini scored Italy's second, but it was too little too late against a Spain side that had all but wrapped up the U21 Euro final on the strength of a Thiago Alcantara first-half hat-trick.

A final that, outside of the opening ten minutes, went about as expected, with Spain dominating en route to a 4-2 victory and their second straight Euro U21 final. After exchanging goals in the opening ten minutes, the reigning champions took the match over, scoring twice more in the half--once on a penalty that never should have been to seal Thiago's hat-trick--and eased to another piece of silverware for a nation that's as dominant throughout every level as there's been in world football.

Fabio Borini logged a full ninety for the Italians and scored a delightful goal in the 79th minute, hitting Lorenzo Insigne's layoff on the first touch into the far corner. By that point the match was too far gone, with Spain stifling any momentum from there, but it was a nice way to round off a solid tournament for Borini--three starts, two goals, one of which won the semi-final against Netherlands.