On numerous occasions this season Liverpool FC have just seemed to be lacking that something; that bit of class that can turn a match. That was evident this weekend as the Reds took on Arsenal. From the outset Liverpool employed a very defensive game plan against the Gunners. While there’s nothing wrong with that as many teams cannot come out and play freely against Arsenal, none of the teams above Liverpool in the table would deploy such tactics against them. Manchester City may be the only exception, and they have the sort of enviable depth in their squad that a few substitutions can change a defensively oriented squad into a fearsome attacking side. Liverpool does not share this luxury.
This thinnest of the squad has also realistically, even though not mathematically, eliminated Liverpool from Champion’s League contention. The lack of class within the squad not only restrains Liverpool from being as aggressive against the top sides; it also is a driving factor in games lost against sides lower in the table. Sides such as West Brom, West Ham, and Blackpool who have all beaten Liverpool in 2011 play a high pressure, aggressive brand of football which is hard to defeat when the squad lacks players who provide genuine width and precise passing. Width and quality passing can stretch out a high pressure team, pulling their players out of position and creating goal scoring opportunities. If just those three games could have been moved from the loss to the win column Liverpool would be in sole possession of 4th place, the last Champion’s League spot.
By his actions, King Kenny has seemed to realize that, as owner John Henry so bluntly put it, “There was a huge multi-year pay-roll for a squad that had very little depth.” Against Arsenal two of his three substitutes were teenage, recent academy graduates. Manager Dalglish can’t seem to tap into any of these resources this huge payroll should provide to add some much needed creativity and class when the teams back is against the wall. During recent games, such as versus West Brom where a stagnant Reds side seems to yearn for an injection of that special something, the likes of Joe Cole entered the game as the stoppage time is being announced. Maxi Rodriguez did not enter the fray at all and Milan Jovanovic has not made the squad sheet in a handful of games. These players are fully healthy. The only conclusion is that Mr. Dalglish has just come to the conclusion that these “experienced” players just do not cut it. But where should he turn?
The most commonly heard solution to this problem is expensive signings in the summer. Liverpool has been linked with everyone from Ashley Young to Jesus Christ himself. Fenway Sports Group have proved that they are more willing to invest in the squad than the previous owners who constantly forced Rafa Benitez to sign his 3rd and 4th choice as his main targets were seen as too expensive. But before FSG investors sell their beach homes and weekend yachts to fund extravagant summer moves they can look inwards to the youth team and reserve squad for that bit of quality.
Here are some of the few players that can shine given the chance in the 2011-2012 season:
The highly rated Spaniard transferred from the Barcelona academy to Merseyside in the summer of 2007. He has the ability to play anywhere across the front line. His ability to play out wide can be a key asset in him seeing more regular first team action next season. He was the Golden Boot winner in the 2010 Under 19 European Championships and is currently on emergency loan at Norwich City where he has one assist in 3 games. A knock on him is his slight frame but his excellent movement and technical ability can see him overcome that while he grows and gains strength.
Video of Pacheco performing at 2010 Under 19 European Championships:
This Manchester-born-left footed forward made his from the academy into the first team right before the 2009-2010 season. He seemed on the brink of becoming a first team regular during the 2009 season when he made his senior debut as a substitute against Arsenal in the Carling Cup and then had a late game cameo against Fulham 3 days later. He was then loaned to Huddlesfield Town in January 2010 were he had one goal in 12 appearances. He is currently on a season long to Charlton Athletic where he has made 5 starts and 17 appearances in all, returning 2 goals and 2 assists. While his production in his loan stints seems to be meager Nathan has the pace, power and ability lacking in the Liverpool squad at the moment. A few more first team appearances should polish this diamond in the rough.
Video of Eccleston scoring a crucial goal for Charlton Athletic:
Son of former Paul Ince, young Thomas is full of promise. He was one of the stars that shone Liverpool to the Youth FA Cup finals last season. He has a lethal left foot. The tricky attacker can cause Premier League defenders nightmares for years to come. He spent the first half of the season on loan at Notts County where he racked up 2 goals and an assist in 8 appearances.
Video of Thomas Ince creating a goal for Notts County:
Jack Robinson became Liverpool’s youngest debutant when he made an appearance against Hull City in the final game of 2009-10 at the age of 16 years and 250 days. Robinson’s stand out abilities were noted as his pace, ability to get forward and produced in the final third. He wasn’t able to get forward against Arsenal last weekend after being subbed for Fabio Aurelio due to the fact that he had to marshal Theo Walcott and then Andrei Arshavin. However, he did not look short of pace as he was rarely beaten down the left flank.
Video of Jack Robinson’s performance against Arsenal last weekend:
Even below these players who circle the edge of the first team are the budding Academy stars in Kirkby who seem as if they are ready to force their way into the first team. Fresh off a 6-0 drubbing of the Manchester United Youths, the buzz around the academy is deafening and there are some standouts who may be first team regulars sooner than later. Raheem Sterling scored five in an FA Cup tie this February. And among those that crushed Manchester United, goalscorers Michael Ngoo, Toni Silva and Adam Morgan seem to be the brightest of the stars that day. Don’t be surprised if one or more of these names makes a few cameos for the Reds next season.
There is bound to be an influx and exodus of talent at Anfield next season. But before Mr. Henry, Mr. Dalglish and Mr. Comolli give the nod to signing multi-million pound players to gain that added creativity and pace Liverpool Football Club lacks, they have no choice but to take notice of the promising players sitting right in front of them already.