This is going to be a big summer for Liverpool Football Club and how they act during the off season will have a massive knock on effect on the direction the club takes over the next couple of seasons.
Kenny Dalglish, presuming he is offered the contract everyone suspects he will be, has a major job along with Damian Commoli and Fenway Sports Group in restructuring a Liverpool squad that has offered sub standard performances in the past two seasons across the board.
You would be forgiven for thinking that the hard work started for Kenny when after his first League game, a 2-1 defeat to Blackpool, the Merseysiders were sitting precariously in 13th place with a relegation battle a severe possibility but I personally believe the real work begins now.
A significant deadline day in the January transfer window saw Kop hero Fernando Torres head south to rivals Chelsea but the blow was softened with the arrivals of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll. This in my eyes was the first step towards a new style Liverpool we will see next season. There are many problems that require addressing in the Liverpool squad but in my view none more so than the defensive troubles.
There has been times this seasons when because of injury Liverpool have had to play players out of position and have suffered because of it.
At the moment there is a minor injury crisis with Glen Johnson, Martin Kelly, Daniel Agger and Fabio Aurelio all struggling to find fitness. This means that Liverpool face the prospect of playing a defense which consists of veteran Jamie Carragher and Scot Danny Wilson filling in at full back and Soto Kyriagkos and Martin Skrtel occupying the central roles.
The main problem I see with this is a major lack of width as Carragher and Wilson, both natural center backs, stick to their nature by not breaking forward and providing the width which Liverpool have famously lacked for some time. With Andy Carroll up front it leads to the tendancy to get the ball and overlook the midfield by adopting a route one approach which, as was displayed against FC Braga and West Brom, does not work.
The only short term solution I may offer to this is giving youngsters such as John Flanagan an opportunity to show what they are made of which will see a natural full back rather than playing someone out of position.
This problem is not a short term issue though and must be solved in the summer. Fabio Aurelio and Daniel Agger have been long term injury problems and if the team attempt to rely on them they will suffer as both struggle to put together an extended run of games. I believe it would be in Liverpool’s best interest to listen to offers in both cases although I have my doubts weather you will receive substantial bids for players with such awful injury records.
I do not believe Fabio Aurelio has a future at Liverpool but I do think that Agger could be kept and used as a 3rd or 4th choice center back or when the team requires a different style because unlike the other center backs he enjoys playing with the ball at his feet. Without Fabio Aurelio we can see a gaping hole on the left hand side of the defense as Paul Konchesky has previously shown he is not good enough to fill the role sufficiently. Therefore the side needs two left backs.
As back up I see Emiliano Insua, who returns from his loan at Galatasaray at the end of the season, as ideal. He is young and if he works close with first team coach Steve Clarke he can continue to develop.
For first choice left back I don’t think you need to look too far either as I see Leighton Baines from rivals Everton as the perfect choice. It may take some convincing for the Toffees to allow Baines to switch alliances but I think it would be a worthwhile venture for Liverpool to pursue and they will reap the awards should they choose to do so.
With the emergence of Martin Kelly at right back I think that position is well covered as England right back Glen Johnson can deputize. Unfortunately Johnson has too often displayed himself as a defensive liability as he seems to concentrate more on attacking so I would give first choice to Martin Kelly but I would also not rule out the possibility of Glen deputizing on the right wing as well as right back as I feel he could be effective there.
A big signing must be made in center back however. As I said earlier Agger is not reliable enough to be considered first choice and with Jamie Carragher aging the time is now to bring in a replacement. I would look to sell Kyriagkos on this summer as whilst he is dominant in the air he is too often penalized by officials for being all over the attackers. I think Danny Wilson is the future of the Liverpool defense and with the aid of the super talented Steve Clark he will blossom but it is to early to put our development on his young shoulders.
There will be a big chase for the signature of Bolton’s Gary Cahill in the summer and if Liverpool can capture it he will be a huge success. He will help provide the strength and depth Liverpool desperately require and I believe prepare them for all kinds of opponents.
The first choice back line for me would be Kelly,Cahill,Skrtel and Baines and this could change depending on weather the team was looking to attack a smaller opponent, with the addition of Johnson and perhaps Agger, and despite his advancing years there is still no better man do keep an opponent out of the game than Carragher so it would appear that this team is prepared for the worst, and if they can manage to hold on to Pepe Reina then the fact they have the best keeper in the league between the sticks will only add to their could-be defensive strengths.
So to finish up as we stand now Liverpool are facing down the barrel of a defensive crisis, but with a couple of shrewd signings, ideally the ones mentioned above, they could have a defense that none of the premier leagues elite will look forward to facing.