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Breaking Down Liverpool’s January Transfer Window Business

Breaking Down Liverpool's January Transfer Window Business
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And then there were none.

After so many rumors, so many names and so many hopes, the January transfer window passed by without any signings at Liverpool, and Brendan Rodgers will be tackling the remaining fixtures of the 2013/14 Premier League season with the squad he had at his disposal when the campaign started in August.

Amidst their injury crisis, Liverpool needed to strengthen, not only to make up for their absentees, but to inject quality into the first team and to better equip themselves for what promises to be a tough fight to finish in the top four.

With no new arrivals at Anfield and a quintet of names to leave the club, either on a permanent basis or on loan, the Reds’ shortages and problems have been left by the hierarchy to the summer, when surely there will be questions asked again of the transfer policy.

But for now, what can we make of their past month?

Here’s a breakdown of Liverpool’s January activities, featuring exits, loans, near misses, and an analysis of their transfer approach. Let us know your thoughts below.

 

Exits: Adam Morgan

Exits: Adam Morgan
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Only one player departed Anfield on a permanent basis this January, and that was young striker Adam Morgan to Championship club Yeovil Town.

Morgan had already been at Yeovil since late November, of course, having joined them on loan with an option to make the deal permanent in January.

Long tipped as one of the most natural finishers to emerge from the Liverpool academy in years, Morgan had made three first-team appearances for the Reds, with his senior debut coming as a 90th-minute substitute in an August 2012 Europa League clash against Hearts.

But with the goal-scoring form and telepathic partnership enjoyed by Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, and the development of Fabio Borini on loan at Sunderland, Morgan’s path to the first team looked ever trickier, and a permanent departure probably always looked the likeliest outcome.

 

Loans: Tiago Ilori, Ryan McLaughlin, Michael Ngoo, Craig Roddan

Loans: Tiago Ilori, Ryan McLaughlin, Michael Ngoo, Craig Roddan
Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

A total of four players went out on loan from Liverpool this January, but their long-term futures at the club may be in stark contrast after their temporary spells away from Anfield.

 

Tiago Ilori (Granada)

Having signed for Liverpool from Sporting Lisbon on deadline day last summer, Tiago Ilori joined La Liga side Granada on loan until the end of the season in January.

Highly regarded for his defensive capabilities and searing pace, Ilori failed to make a first-team appearance in his first six months with the Reds, which, given the injury crisis that struck the Liverpool central defence, was perhaps an indicator of his status as a player for the future.

A £7 million buy in the summer, Ilori now has the chance to justify his price tag and build up his senior-level match fitness at Granada. An important few months ahead of him.

 

Ryan McLaughlin (Barnsley)

While Ilori headed to Spanish shores, just like compatriot Suso, another defensive prospect joined Barnsley in the Championship.

Ryan McLaughlin made his first appearance for Liverpool in their 2012 summer tour of the USA, where he impressed against AS Roma legend Francesco Totti in a preseason friendly against the Serie A side.

Long tipped to be Liverpool’s next right-back for years to come and a potential heir to Glen Johnson down the right, McLaughlin now has a chance to show his ability week in, week out at Championship level and will be keen to impress any watching scouts from his parent club.

 

Michael Ngoo (Walsall)

While Ilori and McLaughlin are two hot prospects looking to gain first-team experience out on loan and force their way into the squad next season, two other loan departures will in all likelihood be the beginning of the end of their Liverpool careers.

Michael Ngoo, who scored four goals in the Scottish Premier League on loan at Hearts in 2013, joined League One side Walsall on loan this January, where he will be looking to pick himself up after an underwhelming spell at Yeovil Town was cut short earlier this season.

Like his reserve teammate Adam Morgan, Ngoo might not possess the required quality to star in a top-four-chasing Liverpool squad for seasons to come. If he impresses at Walsall, he might earn himself a permanent suitor come the end of his loan spell.

 

Craig Roddan (Accrington Stanley)

Young midfielder Craig Roddan joined Accrington Stanley on a month-long loan deal in January, which will also likely lead to a career continued outside of Anfield.

With a host of established names ahead of him in the first team and a few hot prospects coming through the academy, Roddan’s days as a Liverpool player look numbered as he will surely prepare to leave the club without ever having made a first-team appearance for the Reds.

League Two football will be quite a few levels down from what he’s been used to at Anfield.

 

Near Misses: Mohamed Salah, Yevhen Konoplyanka

Near Misses: Mohamed Salah, Yevhen Konoplyanka
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For all the exits at the club, Liverpool’s January transfer window will be remembered for their much-publicized near misses that have caused consternation among Reds fans.

 

Mohamed Salah (FC Basel to Chelsea, £11 million)

Linked heavily with Liverpool before and during the first few weeks of the January window, Mohamed Salah is a pacy and exciting winger who would’ve added quality to Brendan Rodgers’ first team.

A protracted negotiation with FC Basel officials lasted two-and-a-half months, according to Salah’s agent Sascha Empacher via the Mirror, and ultimately ended in Chelsea snagging the Egyptian forward for around £13.5 million, with a down payment of £11 million, which Liverpool didn’t meet.

Rodgers has since stated that he was disappointed that Salah joined Chelsea and that the near miss was “difficult to take,” according to the Guardian. Yet another name missed out by the Reds to add to the high-profile summer contingent featuring Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Diego Costa and Willian.

 

Yevhen Konoplyanka (FC Dnipro)

Where the Liverpool hierarchy failed and dallied in their pursuit of Salah, they certainly didn’t in their subsequent approach for Yehven Konoplyanka of FC Dnipro, according to Rodgers via the Liverpool Echo.

This time, the player had passed a medical and agreed personal terms on deadline day, but the bottleneck was instead at the refusal of Dnipro’s owner to sign the relevant paperwork.

While Dnipro and Liverpool’s versions of the confusing saga predictably differ, the same Echo article states that they have seen paperwork confirming a full fee transfer more than two hours before the transfer deadline.

Unlike Salah, though, Konoplyanka didn’t end up moving to another club, and Rodgers has refused to rule out another approach for the Ukrainian winger this summer. Better luck next time?

 

Approach: Top-Heavy and Too Little, Too Late

Approach: Top-Heavy and Too Little, Too Late
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From their near misses, we can observe that Liverpool’s top transfer priorities for January wasn’t to shore up their shaky defence or a thin midfield, but rather to strengthen up front: Both Salah and Konoplyanka are wingers that would have brought pace, dribbling, vision and goals from the flanks.

Whether this was because of Brendan Rodgers’ famous fondness for attacking football and desire to add to an already fearsome strikeforce, a curious lack of recognition of their need to reinforce a defence and midfield low on numbers and world-class quality, or simply a lack of available targets, we’ll never know.

But what we do know is that Liverpool took too long in securing their primary transfer targets, leaving Salah to opt for Chelsea and Konoplyanka to end up an opportunity missed.

The long time it took for Liverpool to negotiate with FC Basel led to frustration from Salah’s camp, while that in turn led to a late, late move for Konoplyanka that no doubt also frustrated the Dnipro hierarchy.

The result? A fruitless January transfer window that had promised so much but in the end delivered so little.

 

Conclusion: Massive Improvements Needed

Conclusion: Massive Improvements Needed
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In evaluating Liverpool’s transfer record, while taken in isolation this January was disappointing, we must give credit to the business done last summer and especially last January.

While it’s fair to say that the Reds’ transfer record during Brendan Rodgers’ time hasn’t been stellar, the unequivocal success of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho, added to the encouraging signs shown by Simon Mignolet, Mamadou Sakho and at times Joe Allen, means that there is still the right eye for a player and a transfer fee somewhere in the upper echelons of the Anfield club.

The biggest ramification of an underwhelming and frustrating January transfer window has to be that Liverpool have to approach the season-end run-in with the same squad they’ve had all season, accounting for injury losses.

Now it’s down to Rodgers’ man and squad management to see Liverpool solidify their hold on their current fourth place.

If he does and the club are able to use the funds set aside for January transfers in the summer with Champions League football in their arsenal, then it could prove to be a winter well spent.

The flipside, though, is what’s worrying.

 

This article first appeared on Bleacher Report, where I contribute regularly on Liverpool and the Premier League.

5 Transfer Targets Liverpool Must Land to Keep Them in Top Four Contention

Twenty days into the January transfer window, and no new signing has been strongly rumored to be close to a switch to Liverpool, much less seen at Anfield.

Given the momentum that the Reds have regained following the tough Christmas period, Liverpool fans would be forgiven for waiting anxiously for new signings to strengthen Brendan Rodgers’ squad to face the business end to the Premier League season.

Not that there haven’t been any rumors of player transfers, though: Almost no day passes without a new name surfacing, which has prompted even more discussion and debate about which players Liverpool should really be looking at.

After club owner John W. Henry flew into Merseyside and witnessed a frustrating 2-2 home draw with Aston Villa on Saturday, perhaps the need for further reinforcements has become more pressing than ever, if they are to achieve their ambitions of returning to the Champions League.

Here are five transfer targets that Liverpool must look to land this January to keep them in top-four contention for the rest of the season. Let us know your picks and views in the comments below.

 

Mohamed Salah

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Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Not necessarily the most urgent need on the pitch by any stretch of the imagination, but FC Basel’s Mohamed Salah represents a winger who can break open defences with his pace and contribute goals from the midfield area.

After incessant rumors linking Salah with a switch to Anfield almost all winter, Chris Bascombe of the Telegraph reported yesterday that Liverpool may finally be ready to launch a formal bid for the Egyptian winger.

With Daniel Sturridge returning to the side following an injury layoff, a current forward line featuring Luis Suarez, Sturridge and Raheem Sterling has goals, pace and dribbling in abundance, but Philippe Coutinho, who arrived last January, hasn’t found his top form for the Reds this season.

If Salah could be another source of match-winners to Anfield, he could turn out to be an important signing for Liverpool this January.

 

Antonio Candreva

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Claudio Villa/Getty Images

A recent new name linked with a move to Anfield is Lazio’s Antonio Candreva, who, according to Charles Perrin of the Express, is reportedly in the middle of a £7 million co-ownership tug-of-war between Lazio and Udinese.

That Candreva is linked with a move to Liverpool is somewhat surprising: The Premier League hasn’t enjoyed a good track record with Italian midfielders, and the Reds have only recently rid themselves of a big-money transfer failure in Alberto Aquilani.

But Candreva might bring something that Aquilani was never known for: pace, stamina and work rate, on top of some much-needed composure and passing ability in the midfield.

Equally comfortable in the center of midfield and on the wing, Candreva would bring an assured presence to Rodgers’ midfield amid the recent experimentations of Steven Gerrard in a holding role and the recent injury to Lucas, sustained against Aston Villa on Saturday.

 

Martin Montoya

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David Ramos/Getty Images

Besides the midfield, another priority for Liverpool this January has to be in defence.

The centre-back situation is currently embarrassingly chaotic as Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure just can’t seem to stop leaking goals, but with Mamadou Sakho and Daniel Agger to return, the more pressing need lies in the full-back area.

Glen Johnson has exhibited a disappointing and alarming decline in form this season, while Aly Cissokho’s constantly underwhelming performances are not helped by Jose Enrique’s continued absence.

The solution? A soon-to-be out-of-contract Martin Montoya of Barcelona, who has been strongly linked with the Reds. According to Liam Prenderville of the Mirror though, Montoya seems content to stay at Camp Nou and wait for a new deal.

Ian Ayre and Co. must act fast to secure a player who would be an excellent versatile defender to join the Liverpool ranks.

 

Fernando Reges

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Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Given Lucas’ injury on Saturday—he left Anfield on crutches, according to the Express—and a lack of true defensive options in the Reds midfield, it’s the defensive midfield area that they truly need to strengthen.

A name that’s been thrown around is Fernando Reges of FC Porto, who, according to Ben Jefferson of the Express, has piqued the interest of Brendan Rodgers and his management team.

Considering that he will be out of contract in the summer and that his rumored extension agreement may just be a transfer tactic, Reges would be far too good a signing to pass up on.

He would bring pace, power, stamina, excellent tackling and short passing skills to the Liverpool midfield that has been short of a strong defensive presence this season, and would be an instant upgrade in the starting XI.

 

Yann M’Vila

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Ian Walton/Getty Images

But if the Reds do miss out on Fernando Reges, all would be forgiven if the midfielder signed instead would be Yann M’Vila of Rubin Kazan.

As we discussed in our scout report on M’Vila last week, he would bring a complete package of strength, stamina, power and pace, allied with composure and ball-playing technique.

Given his history of off-field controversies, he does bring with him some baggage, but if he performs to his potential, M’Vila could anchor the Reds midfield for years to come and establish himself as one of the premier midfielders in all of Europe.

The latest rumor from the Mirror is that Brendan Rodgers is now considering a loan move for M’Vila first, before signing him on a permanent deal in the summer.

Whichever path both player and potential manager choose to go down, if Liverpool were to sign just one player to instantly make a splash this January, it would have to be Yann M’Vila.

 

This article first appeared on Bleacher Report, where I contribute regularly on Liverpool and the Premier League.

5 Keys to a Successful January Transfer Window for Liverpool

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Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Last January, Liverpool got their winter transfer window off to a strong start, having finalized the signing of Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea on the second day of the window.

This time last year, their new signing had already made his debut against Mansfield Town in the FA Cup and had already scored his first goal in Liverpool colors. The following weekend, Sturridge came on as a half-time substitute and scored against Manchester United.

It’s not just Liverpool; it seems that the Premier League in general has been slow to take action this January. The Telegraph’s list, via John Ley, of ins and outs in England’s top flight shows just how slow business has been for Premier League clubs so far.

But there is still plenty of time left for Liverpool to enjoy a successful January transfer window. Here are five guiding principles that will allow them to do just that.

 

Don’t Disrupt the Current Momentum

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Clive Mason/Getty Images

The impressive evolution of this Reds side in the past year shows that Brendan Rodgers has been molding the team as a unit with a shared philosophy in mind, and this has been particularly obvious in the last couple of months, which has seen a plethora of goals scored at Anfield.

As such, while hunting for players and potential signings, Rodgers and his management team would do well to keep in mind Liverpool’s fine form of late and take care not to introduce too many distractions or disruptions to the first team.

The goalscoring streak of Luis Suarez and pre-injury form of Daniel Sturridge mean that the forward line doesn’t have any pressing need for reinforcements, and given Raheem Sterling’s recent excellence, Rodgers has no need for a big revolution up front.

A strong squad option who could improve the starting XI would be great; any target would probably fare better than Victor Moses, who has been nothing short of abject in recent months.

The midfield and the defence obviously have problems to address, but given the lack of available options in the market in January anyway, Rodgers should only go for established players who would be able to settle into Liverpool’s game relatively quickly and easily, for stability’s sake.

 

Target Potential Cut-Price Options and Loans

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David Ramos/Getty Images

As such, cut-price options—especially those whose contracts are expiring at the end of this season—and loans should be particularly attractive to Rodgers and Co., who presumably will have cost in mind when they look for signings this January.

When it comes to players who will be out of contract in six months, Rodgers could either go in strong with a pre-contract offer that factors any potential transfer fee into the wage packages to secure a signing for next season, or he could tempt their current clubs into selling for a fee.

For players who remain important to their team and would likely command a high asking price despite the risk of leaving on a free in six months, such as Paris Saint-Germain’s Blaise Matuidi, the former option seems more desirable.

While any pre-contract agreement wouldn’t—and shouldn’t—be leaked publicly soon, the January window, with the benefit of hindsight, will be looked upon as a very productive one if such players have been pre-signed.

For players whose contract situations don’t look like they might be resolved soon, like Barcelona’s Martin Montoya, via Alex Richards of Mirror Football, the latter option above may be enough to secure a move.

There is also the possibility of loan deals, which would take advantage of the uncertain first-team statuses of many established players at big clubs around Europe. A loan deal would allow them to get valuable playing time at Anfield, and if an option to buy can be agreed, a promise of a permanent move at the end of the short-term arrangement is possible.

Our dream January transfer scenario for Liverpool is thus a combination of both.

 

Quality, Not Quantity

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Clive Mason/Getty Images

By now, it’s probably a tired cliche, especially when associated with transfer windows, but still, it bears repeating: Instead of strengthening in numbers, Liverpool should look for real quality that can improve their first team.

We only need to look at Sunderland’s group of disastrous new summer signings and Tottenham Hotspur’s underwhelming replacements for Gareth Bale to learn of the potential problems that buying too many players can cause.

Liverpool’s squad is currently hit severely by injuries. Daniel Agger is the latest casualty after his calf problem in the FA Cup tie against Oldham Athletic, according to James Carroll of the official Liverpool website, but Rodgers currently cannot afford a stockpiling of useful players, especially given that he’s only involved in two competitions.

Last January, Liverpool signed just two players in Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge. Their immediate impacts on the fortunes of the first team are now almost legendary. By contrast, in the summer of 2012, Rodgers brought Fabio Borini, Joe Allen and Oussama Assaidi to the senior squad. Only one of them is still at Anfield.

 

Allow Exits and Loans as Necessary

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Stu Forster/Getty Images

But it’s not just about bringing players into Liverpool; the January window also gives them a valuable opportunity to let players go if needed.

Last January saw the Reds terminate Nuri Sahin’s loan deal, allowing him a chance to resurrect his career back at Borussia Dortmund, again on loan from Real Madrid, and this time around we might yet see the same with Victor Moses, on loan from Chelsea and whose sole contribution was a goal on his debut against Swansea City.

Allowing Moses to return to his parent club would not only free up room for another loan from a Premier League club if available but also a chance for him to continue his career at a club that would grant him a starting spot week in and week out.

While assistant manager Colin Pascoe has dampened talk of Raheem Sterling going out on loan this month, according to Ben Burrows of Mirror Football, other players who have found first-team chances hard to come by may be granted an opportunity for first-team football in the lower leagues.

The likes of Andre Wisdom and Suso have already spent most of the campaign out on loan, while Martin Kelly and Tiago Ilori, who have found it hard to break into the first team despite the recent injury spike, may yet be on their way with the club’s blessings.

 

Take Time If Needed

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Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

All of which culminates in the final key to a successful January window: Take your time.

That this January is markedly different from just 12 months ago—last year, Liverpool were in desperate need of new players to bolster a shallow squad—is encouraging and a testament to the good work that the backroom team have done to groom an exciting young crop of players.

The Reds struck gold with Sturridge and Coutinho last time, and any similar signings this year would provide a significant boost to their top-four challenge.

But as the Coutinho transfer showed—it was only confirmed Jan. 30, a day before the window shut. Sometimes you have to bide your time when it comes to scouting and negotiating.

There’s no need to rush into anything. After all, Liverpool already have a top-four squad as of Week 20. For premium quality here on out, patience is the key.

 

This article first appeared on Bleacher Report, where I contribute regularly on Liverpool and the Premier League.

Premier League Transfers: A Dream January Transfer Window Scenario for Liverpool

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Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The January transfer window is upon us again and, just like any other Premier League club, Liverpool will be considering all possibilities and potential targets to strengthen their squad and sustain their top-four challenge.

Unlike most clubs in the English top flight, however, Liverpool will be going into the market this January buoyed by their perfect transfer record 12 months ago.

Brendan Rodgers acted decisively last winter, bringing in two quality players in Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho for £12 million and £8.5 million respectively.

Both have been unqualified successes at Anfield thus far and have established themselves both as integral parts of Brendan Rodgers’ starting XI when fit and as two of the Premier League’s most exciting attacking talents outright.

With last January’s transfers being few in numbers but so fruitful in terms of instant impact, Liverpool will be hoping for the same this year around. A strong start to the 2013/14 campaign has seen them finish week 20 in the top four and Rodgers’ squad boasts young and exciting talent in abundance.

So, with a few quality additions this month, Rodgers would be able to add to his starting XI and push for a strong second half of the season.

Here is how an ideal but realistic January transfer window would turn out for Liverpool. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Defence: Martin Montoya

Stanley Chou/Getty Images

After a productive summer that saw three additions to central defence in Kolo Toure, Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori, Liverpool are now in need of further strengthening in their full-back department.

With Glen Johnson’s poor form and injuries to Jose Enrique and Jon Flanagan, Brendan Rodgers is now left with a severe shortage on the flanks at the back, and this is where our first ideal reinforcement comes in.

Martin Montoya, currently on Barcelona’s books, would be an excellent addition to the first team, not least because of his versatility, which makes him equally comfortable on both flanks.

Earlier in the season, when Liverpool were linked strongly with Montoya—who, according to the Mirror, has pulled out of contract talks with Barcelona and whose current contract expires in the summer—we wrote a scouting report on the full-back.

Besides versatility, Montoya would bring technique and composure to the back four, and he is as comfortable in his passing as he is going forward and supporting the attack.

If Montoya’s contract situation isn’t resolved, Liverpool could well take advantage with a bid in January. He would be too good a prospect to miss out on—and one who would instantly provide quality competition and improve the first team.

 

Midfield: Fernando Reges

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

While the perfect transfer window might consist of “marquee” signings in the eyes of Reds’ fans, we instead opt for a cost-efficient, budget-friendly but productive January that sees quality added to the first team without having to shell out the big bucks.

In our midfield transfer wishlist for Liverpool’s January window, compiled back in November, we identified Olympique Lyonnais’ Maxime Gonalons as the “essential” addition for the Reds in the middle of the park.

However, according to reports in the French media (via Football-Italia.net), Serie A club Napoli seem closest to Gonalons for €12 million, which would rule him out as a viable option for Brendan Rodgers.

With that in mind, our midfielder of choice is FC Porto’s Fernando Reges who, like Martin Montoya, will be out of contract this summer, according to Transfermarkt; as such, he may command a lower transfer fee than he otherwise would.

While Liverpool’s current midfield set-up of Lucas, Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson have impressed in recent weeks against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City with their relentless pressing and quick passing, they have been found out on occasion against powerful midfield opposition in Southampton and Arsenal.

What the Reds’ midfield needs is a strong ball-winner who is capable of dominating the midfield, passing the ball with purpose and positioning himself in the right areas to shut out gaps that opponents can take advantage of. From this Squawka analysis, it seems that Reges would be the right man for the job.

Which, all in all, makes Fernando Reges an excellent, cut-price option who would go straight into the first team.

 

Attack: Xherdan Shaqiri

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In attack, keeping in mind our prerogative to remain realistic, we opt for BayernMunich’s Xherdan Shaqiri, whether on loan or on a permanent basis.

The Swiss winger was linked with a move to Anfield back in the summer, according to the Daily Star, and with his inability to force himself into Pep Guardiola’s regular starting XI, Shaqiri could be available for at least a short-term switch this time around.

Our recent list of potential loan targets for the Reds also includes Shaqiri as a player who would instantly improve the squad; his mesmerising wing play, allied with a strong physical build and an eye for goal, would be a great option to rotate with PhilippeCoutinho and the in-form Raheem Sterling.

While Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah is a name strongly linked with Liverpool and may also mean the exit of Sterling on loan, according to the Mirror, Shaqiri would be a better, more all-rounded option with more experience at the highest level.

A Liverpool forward line of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Coutinho, Sterling andShaqiri would be one of the most exciting young attacks in all of Europe and would certainly provide the ammunition needed to fire Liverpool back to the Champions League.

 

Conclusion

After a not-so-busy but superbly productive transfer window last January, Liverpool could do the same a year on with three quality, non-expensive signings, one in each area on the field.

There’s no need to dream of big-name marquee transfers at Anfield yet; Martin Montoya, Fernando Reges and XherdanShaqiri would be enough to provide a more-than-solid starting XI for the rest of the season.

Let the real action take place in the summer.

 

This article first appeared on Bleacher Report, where I contribute regularly on Liverpool and the Premier League.

The Midfield Issue: A January Transfer Wishlist for Liverpool

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On paper, it was a 0-2 loss to Premier League leaders Arsenal—only the second time Liverpool had dropped all three points in the league this season. After all, the Reds find themselves in an encouraging third place in the table after 10 games.

But in reality—and this will come as a huge dose of that after the previous weekend’s 4-1 hammering of West Bromwich Albion—this was another display, after the loss to Southampton a couple of months ago, that highlighted the deficiencies in the current Liverpool setup.

Besides the sheer class and quality in the Arsenal midfield ranks (with Mesut Ozil providing a premium addition to the likes of Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky and the ever-improving Aaron Ramsey), we saw at the Emirates Stadium the clear lack of steel, poise and presence in the Liverpool midfield.

So, in coming up with a January transfer wish list for Liverpool, we consider the midfield issue and have drawn up a list of eight midfielders that Brendan Rodgers et al should be looking at. Let us know your comments and suggestions in the comments below.

The Essential: Maxime Gonalons

Back in July, Maxime Gonalons decided to stay at Olympique Lyonnais after being linked with a £10 million move to Arsenal, according to the Daily Mail.

If Arsene Wenger’s storied record of successful signings from France weren’t a good enough reason in itself already, there’s also the fact that as Lyon captain, Gonalons has established himself as one of the best and brightest young players in French football.

A product of Lyon’s academy, Gonalons rose to the first team in impressive fashion. He possesses tactical and positional intelligence, as well as tidy passing, tackling and box-to-box stamina. In short: a much-needed presence in the Liverpool midfield.

It’s no surprise that, according to Goal.com, Napoli are interested in the anchorman. At £10 million, Gonalons seems too good a deal to pass up on (just like Tottenham Hotspur’s £9.8 million capture of Etienne Capoue this summer).

All of this makes Maxime Gonalons the essential target for Brendan Rodgers.

The Premium: Nemanja Matic

The defensive midfield name doing the rounds in recent headlines is Benfica’s midfield general Nemanja Matic, most recently linked with Liverpool by Ben Jefferson of the Express.

The former Chelsea starlet, signed aged 21, sent on loan to Vitesse Arnhem and then to Benfica as part of a £21 million swap deal for center back David Luiz, has developed impressively at his current club, winning the Portuguese Primeira Liga Player of the Year award for the 2012/13 season.

The physically formidable midfield destroyer is quick and accurate in the tackle and would add steel to the Reds’ spine.

The stumbling blocks? He’s also being linked with a return to Stamford Bridge by ESPN FC, and at a rumored £38 million (according to the Daily Star), he would cost an arm and a leg.

The Alternative: Blaise Matuidi

£38 million Matic too expensive? Not to worry, for Brendan Rodgers has two great alternative options staring right at him.

The first is Paris St. Germain’s Blaise Matuidi, who has dominated opposing midfields in a PSG shirt for two brilliant seasons. A deep-lying midfielder, Matuidi is an all-round defensive midfielder with strong tackling ability and a creative knack going forward.

His performances in France have attracted interest from abroad, and this has only been exacerbated by his contract situation at the French capital club: His contract runs out in the summer of 2014, and according to the Independent, Premier League powerhouses Chelsea and Manchester City are already preparing pre-contract offers for Matuidi in January.

But with a little ambition and nothing to lose, Rodgers could, and should, enter the fray and change the landscape by opening the bidding with a transfer fee in January. It wouldn’t be the worst decision he’s ever made.

The Steal: Fernando Reges

The second alternative option also has a contract that runs out next summer and is also a powerful defensive midfielder.

The man in question is FC Porto’s Fernando Reges, who incidentally was linked with a move to Liverpool back in 2011 for a fee of £17 million, according to the Daily Mail.

He’s slightly slipped off the radar since but was strongly linked with a move to Liverpool’s cross-town rivals, Everton, toward the very end of the summer transfer window this year, according to the Mirror.

The deal eventually fell through, leaving his club with a tricky contract situation on its hands—and potentially opening the door for Rodgers to swoop in for a cut-price fee in January for what would certainly be a top-class addition to his first-team squad.

The Rough Diamond: Yann M’Vila

By the time January rolls around, it will be a year since Yann M’Vila, previously one of French football’s very finest prospects, surprised all onlookers with a move to Russian club Rubin Kazan.

Blessed with passing ability and superb vision, M’Vila also has stamina, work rate and a mean tackle to boot, making him an ideal defensive midfielder in the Premier League. Indeed, if this BBC Sport report is accurate, M’Vila was close to signing for Everton last January and was also targeted by Queens Park Rangers, then still fighting for survival in the Premier League.

According to a report on the FIFA website, then-club manager Frederic Antonetti had this to say about him back in 2011: “He reads the game like Claude Makelele, has the presence of Patrick Vieira and can pass the ball like Yaya Toure.”

Unfortunately, he’s courted controversy with his antics off the field—his period in the national team ended after an unauthorized night out while with the U21 squad—and has been criticized for his outspokenness and attitude.

But with news that Everton are again in the frame, according to Ben Jefferson’s article in the Express, Liverpool would do well to fend off interest from their Merseyside rivals and bring M’Vila in. Given Rodgers’ man-management ability, this would be a good chance for a young prospect to fulfill his undoubted potential.

The Prospect: Will Hughes

Moving away from the defensive midfield (finally) and onto more attacking players, we come across that name on everyone’s lips when it comes to Liverpool and January signings: Derby County’s Will Hughes.

A central midfielder who is technically proficient, adept at dribbling and has an eye for a pass, Hughes has, according to this Telegraph report by John Percy, attracted the attentions of many a top Premier League club, including Liverpool.

Such is the air of resignation that Hughes will eventually leave Derby that manager Steve McClaren conceded that he will eventually “be too good,” but the Rams are still looking to keep him at Pride Park for the rest of the season.

Rodgers may well put that to the test with a bid in January for England’s next midfield hope, but would in all probability need to beat tough competition to succeed.

The Luxury: Javier Pastore

As Brendan Rodgers tries to solve his midfield conundrum and fit Philippe Coutinho into an advanced midfield duo—a system that worked well against West Brom—instead of a solitary No. 10—Coutinho’s customary position—a rumor has arisen that would represent a luxurious addition to the Reds first team.

Javier Pastore was the marquee signing to show that the new owners at PSG meant business: His £30 million capture from Italian club Palermo sent shockwaves around Europe and suggested that PSG might be a new player in the super-club class.

After scoring 17 goals in 66 Ligue 1 matches, Pastore finds himself out of the weekly starting XI as PSG’s revolution continues, and he has duly been linked with a £17 million move to Anfield, according to the Metro‘s Jamie Sanderson.

An attacking midfielder with an eye for goal and exciting creativity, Pastore would be the big-name signing craved at Anfield—but not the final piece in the Liverpool puzzle.

The Dream: Juan Mata

Nothing can excite the Liverpool crowd enough at the moment, however, than the mouthwatering prospect of Juan Mata at Anfield, far-fetched though it may be.

Sitting out of Jose Mourinho’s first team in Chelsea’s first few games this season was enough to see Mata heavily linked with a shock loan move to Liverpool this summer, as reported by the Express, but it was enough to send minds and imaginations soaring.

As long as headlines like this from the Daily Star continue to do the rounds, Liverpool fans won’t stop dreaming of a Mata arrival at Anfield.

And who could blame them? Mata wouldn’t solve the central midfield problems at Liverpool, but he could be the Reds’ own Mesut Ozil-esque ground-shaker.

This article first appeared on Bleacher Report, where I contribute regularly on Liverpool and the Premier League.