Liverpool will miss Toure in Manchester United clash

Despite a 4-2 victory over Notts County in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday night, Liverpool are counting the cost after losing Kolo Toure to injury. The Ivory Coast international was unable to complete the game after picking up a groin strain and as such is a doubt for the Reds’ weekend clash against age-old rivals Manchester United.

Kolo Toure

Toure’s signing on a free transfer has looked like a piece of inspired business by Brendan Rodgers in the early clashes this season, as the African looks to be getting back to some semblance of the form that he displayed in his Arsenal days.

Liverpool will miss his presence at the weekend if he is unavailable, and will hope that his time on the sidelines will not be too long.

Early wins provide Liverpool with an air of hope

With just two games gone, Liverpool find themselves in relatively unchartered territory – the top four. A position that will be resoundingly welcome to fans that have grown all too used to being mere onlookers to those around them enjoying the thrill of the Champions League.

Cynics will understandably be quick to roll out the old adage of ‘it’s a marathon, not a sprint’ and that it is still early days. This is, indeed, worthy of note. Even with this impressive start, many – including the majority of Liverpool fans – won’t be too surprised to see the Reds miss out on that elusive fourth spot again come May. Those around them have quality that Liverpool can, on their day, certainly match – especially with the return of a certain number 7 – yet the depth of the Liverpool squad is criminally lacking in comparison to Champions League-spot rivals Spurs.

Early days, then, it certainly is, though most Liverpool fans by this point in recent seasons would have already lost any of the hope that pre-season perennially provides. The six points Liverpool have amassed in the last two games took two months last season, with their first win coming on September 29th.

Daniel Sturridge

Many will argue that Liverpool’s form is fairly irrelevant at such an early stage yet it is the fact that this early success has come at this stage that has left fans relieved and hopeful. Too many times have Liverpool looked back at games they could and should have won and rued the difference it made to the end-of-season standings. Too many recent domestic seasons have ended before they’ve even had a chance to start; that the Anfield club haven’t allowed that to happen this term is vital and will be welcomed with open arms by fans. If success isn’t on the bill then at least keep the fans thrilled and engaged until closing time. A season ending in March is far worse than one ending unsuccessfully in May.

Two 1-0 wins are perhaps not going to grab the headlines but they are games that Liverpool would have perhaps drawn or even lost last season, and it would take even the most stubborn of opposing fans to not see the signs of improvement. Liverpool fans checking the scores at will be pleasantly surprised by their positive start to the season as they are notorious slow starters.

Reds manager Brendan Rodgers must ensure that these improvements continue, as more are needed – be they filling gaps in the squad with new signings or ruthlessly finishing off teams when the chance arises. Losing out on the likes of Willian and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will hurt a club like Liverpool. History, stature and a global fanbase isn’t enough for players when Champions League football isn’t part of the package and at Liverpool, Champions League football should and must be included if they are to continue improving and maintain these elements that do, at times, attract the biggest names.

Two wins in two to begin the season has been greeted with justifiable joy around Anfield, though fans know it must continue and they will be hoping that, come this time next season, a flurry of similar wins will come with an air of expectation rather than a pleasant surprise.

Ashley Williams wants a move to Arsenal or Liverpool – but do they want him?

Ashley Williams has been very good for Swansea in his two years in the Premier League and has apparently caught the attention of Arsenal and Liverpool. Swansea have been adamant that they haven’t had any bids for Williams and are laying down an asking price of £10m to try to put rumours to bed. However, with reports that he may be at the stage where he asks to be allowed to speak to any interested clubs, Williams is pressing ahead with his desire.

Apparently, Williams sees his future at Arsenal. But, there are more than a few questions to be asked as to whether Arsenal are actually realistically in the chase to sign him. Firstly, Williams is 29 years old. Arsene Wenger doesn’t sign 29 year olds. In fact, his almost phobic approach to 30 year olds already at the club getting more than one year contracts has only recently ceased. If he signed at Arsenal, he’d be there for at most three years. Wenger doesn’t tend to do things for three years. It might be a different if he was signing Xavi or Cristiano Ronaldo for three years, but with respect, this is Ashley Williams.

Williams also is not an upgrade on either of Arsenal’s starting centre backs. In fact, he’d probably be fourth in the queue behind Thomas Vermaelen too. Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny were excellent together last season and formed the second tightest defence in the Premier League. If Williams did go to Arsenal he’d be sat on the bench. Why does he want that? He has certainly been impressive at times in his first two years in elite competition but he won’t displace either starter any time soon. Arsene Wenger has searched for central defensive solidity for many years and now that he finally has it, surely won’t be tempted to mess around with his excellent pairing.

Ashley Williams

The only way that Williams would get in to the Arsenal lineup is if they, for some reason, decided to sell Laurent Koscielny to Bayern or Barcelona, his two main suitors. However, Koscielny has four years left on his contract, and is very happy at the club. Indeed, Arsenal seem to be in a position now where they are looking to push up the table towards trying to win the league. Selling Koscielny will not be part of that plan.

The other teams rumoured to be interested seem to be Liverpool and Everton. Liverpool is logical as Williams worked with Brendan Rodgers at Swansea. However, Liverpool’s ownership are unlikely to sanction a £10m outlay on a 29 year old. The Fenway group have made it very clear that they will only invest in players who they could re sell or have for a long time. They’ve only just sold Andy Carroll at a £20m loss and Williams would lose all £10m of face value that they pay for him. Liverpool haven’t signed anyone other than free agent Kolo Toure over 25 under Fenway ownership. Everton could make sense, but again the price tag is a concern. If it was more like £5-6m they may be able to pay it but Roberto Martinez knows how to find overseas bargains and paying inflated prices for players from English teams hasn’t been a way for Everton to do things in many years.

Ashley Williams may be making a huge mistake in asking to leave Swansea. He is the captain of the club and has grown up with them as they have moved through the divisions. The kind of clubs he wants to move to don’t look to be ideal options for him for various reasons – age, price, need, so it’s unclear how heavily pursued he will be.

West Ham’s purchase of Liverpool’s Andy Carroll – inspired or mad?

Andy Carroll’s much-expected move to West Ham was finalised on Wednesday and is widely believed to end up costing the East Londoners £46m in total – a transfer fee of around £15m and a relatively staggering six-year, £100,000-a-week contract. The question on everybody’s lips is whether Carroll, who scored seven goals in 25 appearances during an injury-plagued loan spell at Upton Park last season, is worth this club-record fee. Just why are West Ham willing to spend so much on a player that Liverpool are prepared to lose £20m on?

The fee the Hammers have paid for the England forward pales in comparison to the £35m price tag Liverpool paid in 2011, yet will still be seen as a hefty fee and neutrals will question just what Carroll has to offer.

Since his move to Liverpool, the former Newcastle man has been much maligned by many, with that fee hanging around his neck like a millstone. Carroll will feel that such a consensus is unwarranted after an impressive run of form towards the end of last season, in which he netted the winner in the FA Cup semi-final against Everton and a consolation goal in the final. Just as Carroll was beginning to settle on Merseyside however, out went the man who had shown so much faith in him – Kenny Dalglish – and in came Brendan Rodgers, a man whose preferred style of play was never going to make provisions for a six-foot-three striker. Those hoping Carroll would be utilised as a Plan B were left disappointed – a regular place as a mere squad player was never going to be an option for someone who cost, and was continuing to cost, so much.

Andy Carroll

The predicament at Anfield was a typical one when the player in question is of Carroll’s ilk. At his best, Carroll terrorises even the most astute of defenders in the air and has a projectile left foot that is always a threat to opposing goalkeepers. At his worst; the pony-tailed Gateshead man is conspicuously left cantering around the final third leaping into defenders just to feel involved when games aren’t catering to his strengths.

At Newcastle, Carroll was at times unplayable – as Arsenal and indeed Liverpool will testify – and when the Anfield club came in for the striker it was to nobody’s surprise – after all, Tottenham and Chelsea were also known to be keeping a close eye on him. It was of course the astronomical fee that Liverpool paid that shocked the football world and, more than likely, the player himself.  As the disbelief began to fade however, there was a genuine belief that this was the step that this rising star needed in order to completely fulfil the potential he had shown. Of course, this wasn’t the case and those who have watched the striker closely from his impressive Championship days have been left with a residual sense of frustration and disappointment.

Carroll is certainly capable of reaching double figures next season under Sam Allardyce, who is sure to give his new striker the run of games, fitness permitting, he so desperately needs. A strike partner is yet to be shipped in at Upton Park after Allardyce’s failed attempt to audaciously land Alvaro Negredo from Sevilla, but whoever is brought in must play to and off Carroll’s strengths. The aerial strength of Carroll is such that he is more than capable of assisting as many goals as he can score – something he hinted at several times last season alongside Kevin Nolan. There are few defenders who can handle Carroll at his best and if Allardyce has the tools to tap into this rich source of goals then Upton Park may well have a new hero. The player himself must also play his part, as the coming season will be vital with the pressure very much eased on his still young shoulders. He will no longer have pound signs floating over his head whenever he fails to meet a cross or squanders a chance, and hopefully Carroll will eye this as an opportunity to remind us all of the player he is capable of being.

Ask any Liverpool, or even Newcastle, supporter about Andy Carroll and the majority will, perhaps reluctantly, speak fondly of the lummox that was their number 9. While others will scoff at the amount that has been spent on Carroll – his two transfers combined far outweighs the money that has ever been spent on Robin van Persie for instance – West Ham fans should be comforted by the lack of ill-feeling towards their new man from those around Anfield. One thing that Carroll is certain to provide fans is a mixed bag of frustration at his unfulfilled but palpable talent and resounding elation when the smiling Geordie wheels away after scoring. The Upton Park faithful will hope for more of the latter and you would suspect that so will those at Anfield and St James’ Park, where a frustrated soft spot for the big man well and truly remains.

Liverpool to sign Christian Atsu for £3m – absolute bargain?

Liverpool have embarked on an inventive and unorthodox transfer policy so far this summer and adding Christian Atsu would continue that. In the same way that Iago Aspas has come from Celta Vigo, Luis Alberto is arriving having been on loan in the Spanish Second Division and Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Shakhtar Donetsk, Atsu is a little off the beaten trail. Liverpool seem to have learned from getting their fingers not so much burned as torched by Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing at a combined £70m+ and are no longer looking at the nearest options. They are signing players to fit a specific philosophical approach that they have been scouting in unusual areas. Players that Brendan Rodgers, a noted coaching manager rather than distant selector, can work with. This is where Atsu fits in.

Atsu doesn’t come to Liverpool with any real pedigree; he is a project for Rodgers to coach. Unlike Mkhitaryan, who has shown his quality on a consistent basis in major European competition and strong domestic league, Atsu arrives with pretty much one and a half seasons under his belt. In 2011/12 he went on to Rio Ave scoring six and making four goals in 27 games before returning to Porto for 2012/13. He didn’t really make the impact expected, stuck behind James Rodriguez who has just cost Monaco £40m. He only appeared in 17 games, all but one of which he was either subbed off or on. Porto have been taking things steadily with and easing him in to the team. The sale of James Rodriguez perhaps makes it surprising that they would let him go as the spot in the team has opened up nicely for him. Is this something Liverpool fans should be concerned about?

Christian Atsu

Well, not necessarily. Porto and Liverpool play different styles of football for one thing. The pure physicality of Atsu is less of an advantage to Porto than it would be for Liverpool who need his pace and strength to compliment their little technicians. Not that they are in the same breath talent wise, but it’s a similar concept to Real Madrid operating with the physical prowess of Cristiano Ronaldo alongside the smaller technical players. This different angle of attack is needed in the Premier League where defences will be more rugged and against teams who will come out and attack.

In Portugal, Porto face only a few games a year where they are not camped in the opposition half. You don’t need a speedy, mostly counter-attacking player when you are against a brick wall. You need clever canny players. So Porto feel they can do without. Although Liverpool will primarily be looking to dominate possession and take games to the opposition, there were flickerings of Rodgers returning to his Jose Mourinho counter-attack routes, which they unleashed with devastating effectiveness on Newcastle and Fulham towards the end of the season. If they do sell Luis Suarez we will see this more and more.

Atsu fits in to this. He has the raw pace and has shown that he can get himself involved in goals during his loan spell at Rio Ave. He’s being brought in for Rodgers to coach up and refine. As long as he doesn’t try to force him in to a short passing technical game, he can flourish. With only a year left on his contract at the Estadio da Luz, a fee of around £3 million is being touted, which looks like excellent business for the Reds. If, as looks possible, Liverpool keep counter attacking, he could be polished up in to a diamond.

Liverpool’s goalkeeper – Reina or Mignolet?

For the various issues Liverpool have to address with their squad, goalkeeper wouldn’t appear to be the most pressing. Pepe Reina, despite not being what he was a few years ago, is still a good quality option. Good enough to be heavily linked to Barcelona even. Considering that they haven’t done anything about their possible left back weakness or sorting out a quality centre back, it’s surprising that they are prioritising a goalkeeper. Simon Mignolet is a top class goalkeeper; last season he was in the top five in the league and stood head and shoulders above his Sunderland teammates, but is he that much better than Reina in order to justify a £10m outlay?

The answer to that would only be obvious if they have a sale for Reina in mind. A sale that as yet, is remaining fairly secretive. What is unclear at the moment is where he could go. Barcelona need a replacement for Victor Valdes but not until next summer and Real Madrid have two quality keepers. Elsewhere in La Liga, Atletico Madrid have a gap now that Thibaut Courtois is temporarily back at Chelsea. However, unless Mourinho chooses him as first choice it’s unlikely he won’t be back in Madrid. Real Sociedad are in the Champions League and could be an interesting option. They could stand to upgrade in goal but are unlikely to have £6-8m to spend. The same could be said of Valencia or Sevilla who are both short of money. So La Liga is probably out of the question unless Liverpool drop the price a lot.

Pepe Reina

Outside of Spain there are some possible destinations. The main one is Napoli, and this is where Reina could go. With Rafa Benitez having been appointed and the incumbent Morgan De Sanctis being 36 years old, they have a weakness. They have some money and may have a lot more if they sell Edinson Cavani and also offer Reina Champions League competition. AC Milan could also be a good spot for him as they have a weakness between the sticks. In England the obvious option is Arsenal who are surely on the lookout for a goalkeeper, particularly if one is on sale. In fact, it seemed as if Mignolet would go to them rather than Liverpool at one stage. The final option will be Monaco who should not be discounted. They have all the money they need and could become a major club in the next few years.

Liverpool should be able to get £6m for Reina despite him being 30 years old. There are enough clubs who need a keeper and will feel they can justify it so they won’t be stuck with both. But that means Liverpool are down £4m in order to swap Reina for Mignolet. And that is being done before addressing any other weaknesses. Is he worth it?

Mignolet has made his name as an exemplary shot stopper but last season showed much improved penalty box command. One area Liverpool were vulnerable last season defensively was against the ball in the air. For all his qualities Reina is not the most commanding in the air or with his fists. Mignolet is a different proposition. He is big and authoritative, overcoming some really poor defenders at Sunderland to record a lot of clean sheets. If Rodgers wants ball playing defenders he needs a keeper who can dominate the box, and that is what Mignolet does. He is also very quick coming off his line to shut down shooting angles and helping after defenders make mistakes, something he’ll encounter behind the current Liverpool back four. His distribution from hand is excellent but his kicking isn’t great. He won’t have the variety of distribution with ball at feet as Reina.

So overall then, assuming one of the logical destinations outlined above make the move for Reina Liverpool will have spent about £4m for Mignolet. He’s five years younger than Reina and has better authority against the aerial ball. It will prove worthwhile but only if they sign a proper central defender. It’s a good move but something of a luxury one.

Suarez has every right to leave Liverpool – but future stars mustn’t get the opportunity

By Jack Poland

As the increasingly tiresome Luis Suarez transfer saga barrels its way through gossip columns on a daily basis, many Liverpool fans are justifiably concerned about going into next season without their divisive, yet undeniably gifted, forward. Absurd digressions aside, Luis Suarez was phenomenal last season – lighting up even the drabbest of games with his hypnotic dribbling and markedly improved finishing, managing 23 goals in total.

Suarez himself has added his voice to the rumours on so many occasions, that even the self-styled spokesman of all things football Dave Whelan may soon be asking the Uruguayan to pipe down. The lure of Real Madrid and the endless chastisement from the British media are just two of the reasons Suarez has given for considering his future. To the Reds fans though, such explanations are irrelevant. For all the fans care, his prime reason for leaving could be his disappointment with the abomination that is the new away kit – as long as he is not in a Liverpool shirt come the end of his suspension it will certainly be seen as a huge loss and fans will simply learn to move on.

The problem Liverpool supporters may be slowly beginning to learn however, and something that manager Brendan Rodgers must address, is the emerging pattern of star players moving on without having made a lasting impression in terms of honours. One suspects Suarez’s real reason for looking elsewhere lies in his warranted belief that, as a world-class player, he belongs in a world-class team that is challenging for trophies – an explanation that fans, with a heavy heart, must accept. If their star man is to leave this summer, a priority for Rodgers must surely be to not allow a player to be able to use the same rationale in the future. What Liverpool fans wouldn’t give to lay the blame for the departure of a player on the manager (Rafa Benitez – Xabi Alonso to Madrid) or even the player himself (Steven Gerrard almost – 2005) rather than the performances of their team.

Luis Suarez

When Fernando Torres left Anfield for Chelsea, the pain that came with it for Liverpool fans was short lived with the arrival of Suarez from Ajax. The transition was seamless yet the relief merely masked the heavy reliance on their star men. In Torres and Suarez, Liverpool have had the enviable fortune of boasting two 20-goals-a-season strikers amongst their arsenal yet have only managed to win a League Cup since the signing of Torres in July 2007.

If, or when, Suarez departs, the main objective for Brendan Rodgers and managing director Ian Ayre must be to use the vast sum that would come with the transfer to buy players that contribute to the talent that is slowly merging at Anfield in Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge. The reasonably priced signing of Spanish forward Iago Aspas and the potentially canny decision to sign Ivorian stalwart Kolo Toure on a free must surely be welcomed despite those expecting a £40m marquee signing should Suarez depart. A quick glance to the claret and blue section of East London should serve as a reminder that panic buying after the loss of a influential player isn’t always the most sensible option.

In the absence of Suarez through suspension Liverpool began to look like a team enjoying their football, scoring 12 in their last five league games, and although the loss of such a quality player would be a blow, the solution may not necessarily lie in a like-for-like big money signing. In disregarding other needed improvements in the squad they may well deprive themselves of a genuine chance to build a squad capable of qualifying for the Champions League.  Rodgers has to ensure that the likes of Coutinho and Sturridge contribute to the success of the club rather than let them be harvested for two or three seasons just for a Champions League team to prise them away as the endless cycle continues.

As pre-season approaches, Liverpool find themselves in a rare position of stability as many around them go through substantial transitions, and it would hurt fans if this current transfer saga knocks any effort to capitalise on this off course – a hurt that would last far longer than any felt with the loss of Luis Suarez.

Where do Liverpool need to strengthen this summer?

Liverpool have had a wretched record in the transfer market for the best part of four or five years, and it is because of this that they have lost their guaranteed Champions League qualification status. It makes this an important summer for Brendan Rodgers, who has been speaking of the need to add depth to the squad. The poor work in the markets in previous years has left Liverpool with a paper-thin but expensively assembled squad. There were some signs of better decision making with the January signings of Daniel Sturridge and especially Philippe Coutinho, so can Liverpool keep that up this summer and what do they need to do?

Liverpool have a strong first team but almost no depth. The problem is, depth is a hard thing to buy. Can Liverpool buy players of significant quality if they are just coming to push the first team? With the exception of the central defence, maybe left back and a possible Suarez shaped hole there isn’t a glaring weakness in the full strength side. Not one that can be addressed when not in the Champions League at least. The best way to build depth is through the youth system or by relegating previous purchases to depth status. But those previously bought players cost a stack of money so they are constantly chasing previous mistakes.

The first issue for Liverpool to solve is the Luis Suarez situation. He has asked to leave and is a valuable asset to sell. If Liverpool can get Real Madrid to pay them £50m they will be very tempted to sell him. It seems increasingly likely that this will be the case so for the sake of argument lets assume that he is on his way, and treat him staying as a bonus for Liverpool.

Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool manager

If Suarez goes then Liverpool will only have Sturridge as a central striker unless they can’t sell Andy Carroll. Liverpool need to find some competition for him to push him to improve. Rodgers has committed to him as their future so they are unlikely to sign a David Villa or Mario Gomez. Soon to be incoming Iago Aspas can operate centrally but isn’t an ideal option due to his lack of size. Perhaps someone like Wilfried Bony of Vitesse Arnhem or even Demba Ba could be bought with a chance to compete to take the spot. That way they wouldn’t have to guarantee it to a new big name and relegate Sturridge to the bench or out wide. Rodgers also needs to get value from Fabio Borini considering he cost £10m

Liverpool had central defensive issues that will only get worse with Jamie Carragher’s retirement. Martin Skrtel, who has been linked with a move away, regressed badly last year and Daniel Agger looks worse when not partnered with a rugged organiser. They’ve signed Kolo Toure, but that isn’t going to get them in to the Champions League spots. Their first choice seems to be Schalke’s young Greek star Kyriakos Papadopoulos and he would be an excellent signing. Schalke are supposedly holding out for £18m for him but at just 21 he offers amazing potential. He’s big, strong, quick and a ferocious defender. He’s not afraid of getting vocal with more experienced teammates either. If Liverpool pocket £50m for Suarez and £12m for Carroll they can certainly afford this. They could then sell Skrtel and still have enough depth with Wisdom and Pearce.

Although he’s done decently enough, Jose Enrique could certainly be upgraded upon. Liverpool could steal a march on Man United and Chelsea by moving for Southampton’s Luke Shaw. Shaw would be given the chance to win the job from Enrique and establish himself as their left back of the future. They’ve got some OK young full backs but no one of Shaw’s calibre.

Liverpool are spending a lot of time adding attacking midfield options, and this has accelerated with doubts over Suarez. Aspas has been bought to play there, Luis Alberto seems to be arriving from Sevilla and Shakhtar’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan is being heavily linked, supposedly close to signing. Rodgers needs all of these tricky technical players to fully implement his system and give Gerrard and Lucas plenty of options to pass to. It’s much easier to rotate these players around in various competitions with Aspas and Luis Alberto battling for a spot next to Coutinho and Mkhitarayan in all likelihood. They’ve also got Downing and Borini to consider here. And then, what of Sterling, Shelvey and Ibe? Loans perhaps?

They may also consider some midfield depth with Lucas injury prone and Gerrard getting on in age. They paid over £30m to get Henderson and Allen so they need to get proper value out of them but neither inspires much confidence in Kopites.

It’s a tough summer for Liverpool. They’ve got a good team with few obvious weaknesses. They can’t afford and lack the Champions League football to attract to huge upgrades like a Cavani, Higuain or Sneijder, who are all gossip column regulars and it is hard to sign sufficient quality to just sit on the bench. This combined with a need to push their young players and lumbering themselves with expensively bought and maintained players from past windows who need game time gives Brendan Rodgers a tricky balancing act to pull off.

Liverpool to sign Iago Aspas – what can the Kop expect?

Liverpool are closing in on the capture of Spanish forward Iago Aspas from Celta Vigo, and unlike the Kolo Toure signing, this feels much more like a Brendan Rodgers move in the ilk of the Philippe Coutinho signing. For Celta Vigo Aspas played near enough as a striker which is represented in his goals tallies over the last few years. He scored 12 in La Liga this year, which was proceeded by a 23 goal season in the Segunda Division, which fired Celta to promotion.

Now, before you worry that his signing will forbear Luis Suarez’s departure, it is important that Liverpool fans shouldn’t expect to see him playing as a striker in England. At 5ft 9in he is far too small to play as the lone striker in Rodger’s 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 system in the Premier League. Quite apart from the presence of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge in situ, his talents wouldn’t be maximised as a striker. Instead, he should form part of a very fluid attacking four with the aforementioned strikers and Philippe Coutinho. Presumably this would be with Sturridge up front most of the time with almost total roaming license for the other three.

Iago Aspas

Aspas’ main strengths are his pace, movement, finishing and inventiveness. This is not dissimilar to Suarez or Coutinho. In their base formation, he may well find himself starting in one of the wider positions to allow Suarez or even more likely, Coutinho, to operate in the ‘number 10’ position behind the central striker. This would even work if they do sell Suarez, as Rodgers will no doubt have his eye on a replacement. Either way, it will give Liverpool a buzzing, moving trio behind Sturridge, who will be able to hang around the box and on the last shoulder of the defenders looking for through balls.

Last season, Liverpool’s attack really surged in to life with the January arrival of Coutinho. He immediately got on to the same wavelength as Suarez and at times they looked to be forging a potentially devastating partnership. The problem for Liverpool, and why they suffered several 0-0s, is that this only gave them a central threat unless one of them wondered out wide. Stewart Downing has lost what little pace he had, Suso and Raheem Sterling are very raw and Jordan Henderson is best used in a three-man midfield. It meant that they always had a weakness in one of the attacking spots, and if teams focused their defensive structures towards stopping Suarez, Liverpool suffered. Aspas will give teams something else to think about because he will be a flurry of movement at pace, the two things defenders hate most in an opponent.

The other extra dimension is his finishing ability. Too often the goalscoring burden fell on Suarez last season. Sturridge is a frustrating finisher, equally capable of scoring with all three shots on goal or missing with ten. Coutinho looks capable of reaching double figures if played centrally and now they can add the goals of Aspas. Between them, all of the various options Rodgers used on the right of the attacking trident last year couldn’t muster up double figures, barely even five. Now, they are adding a forward who scored 12 goals in the more tactical La Liga in a team in which he was pretty much the sole attacking threat. At Liverpool, he will initially be seen as the fourth threat; the unknown. This could allow him more space and freedom as the defensive attention is elsewhere.

Aspas should bring goals, intelligence, movement and pace to the Liverpool attack and looks an ideal accomplice to Coutinho, Suarez and Sturridge. He has more than a little Juan Mata to his game, so if he settles in perhaps instead of having the ‘Three Amigos’ at Chelsea, we could be talking about a new ‘Fab Four’ on Merseyside.

Liverpool sign Toure from Manchester City – a step forward or back for the Reds?

Liverpool’s transfer market success rate has been more bad than good for a couple of years, and so fans of the Reds will be wondering if Kolo Toure is going to be more Philippe Coutinho or Stewart Downing. On the surface, it looks like the latter but before writing it off completely, it is best to try to understand the logic behind the move. Reports abound that Martin Skrtel could be joining Rafa Benitez at Napoli, so is Toure an upgrade on him?

Toure is 32 years old now and the raw physical ability that he relied upon to compensate for weaker positional play and a proneness to horrible errors is naturally fading. The first thing you think when you see this signing is that he has obviously being brought in to replace Jamie Carragher, to add experience to the Liverpool defence. That could be true, but if it is, it’s a big mistake.

Kolo Toure

The reason Carragher was able to operate to a high standard at 35 is that his game was never reliant on physical gifts. He has always been a master of positioning and organisation, which gives him the capability to be in the right place at the right time. He didn’t get in to footraces because he was already in the right place. Therefore, the natural drop off in what pace he had didn’t unduly affect him.

For Toure, a player lacking such positional awareness and consistency, this is a real concern. He played his best football alongside Sol Campbell at Arsenal and Vincent Kompany at Manchester City. Both of these men played as the leader of the defence, they were the one shouting out the orders and keeping Toure in position. The Ivorian could easily out sprint both of them, which gave him the advantage against the quick players, but he needed their guiding hand.

Jamie Carragher

At Liverpool he is likely to be partnered with Daniel Agger, a player who has too many similar weaknesses to make an ideal combination. Agger’s play has regressed over the last few years after a series of injuries and it is notable that his best form last season came when Carragher usurped Martin Skrtel in the first team. Agger isn’t vocal and is a bit of chance taker. Sometimes this results in wonderful interceptions but it does lead to avoidable goals. The same can be said of Toure. Agger is not quick. At his best he relied more on cerebral capability but he seems to have lost that edge.

The question is, who is going to lead the Liverpool defence? Toure and Agger are both good defenders but their weaknesses are too similar. They are good in a battle or in a chess match but in an open game, which Brendan Rodgers’ tactics will often result in, they are vulnerable. There are going to be positional issues when things get stretched or hectic.

Skrtel was really poor last season and was not much better the year before. The irony here is that the reason he struggled alongside Agger is that his positional play isn’t great and he needs someone to keep him in position. He likes a war but not a battle of wits. This is exactly how you could describe Toure. If Skrtel does go, Toure is just a like for like. It doesn’t fix the problem, it just changes who the problem is.

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