The never-ending story finally has its conclusion. Our long international nightmare is over, and Charlie Adam will sign for Liverpool after completing his 17th medical (rough estimate). Danny Wilson and Jonjo Shelvey continue to be mentioned as possible makeweights on loan, but that hasn't been confirmed.
Adam and Blackpool were a football purist's dream last season: eminently watchable and frequently magical. That the club was relegated on the last day is further proof that life is not fair (also, that defending is kind of important). Yet I'm still warier of Liverpool spending £8-10m on Adam than £16m on Henderson.
Adding both Adam and Henderson to a side with Gerrard, Meireles, Lucas, Shelvey, and Spearing (and, technically, Aquilani and Poulsen) seems overkill. That Liverpool's are shallower than a Pygmy kiddie pool is no great secret, and added depth is necessary all over the pitch. But I still wonder how Adam fits, even with Liverpool likely to divest at least two central midfielders (Poulsen sold, Shelvey loaned, Aquilani still doesn't count). It's not as if the CMs on their way out played key roles; combined, Shelvey and Poulsen saw 1082 minutes of Premiership action. And we're not even conceding the remote, inconceivable, illogical possibility that Meireles might be sold.
The bigger fear, however, is that Adam will prove another single season flash in a the pan, a big fish when the pond isn't much bigger than a puddle. Adam thrived at Blackpool because Blackpool built its attack around his strengths while trying to minimize his faults. Vaughan and Southern/Grandin/Phillips carried countless gallons of water while Adam sprayed nanometer-perfect passes from his sedan chair in the center circle. Adam monopolized every free kick, penalty, and corner, which seems slightly less likely with High Priest Steven Gerrard involved. 10 of Adam's 12 goals (seven penalties, two free kicks, one corner) and five of his nine assists (four corners, one free kick) came from set plays. Adam didn't defend, but he didn't have to; Blackpool doesn't defend either.
Those set pieces sure were magical though. Like when he scored directly from a corner. Or when he embarrassed van der Sar with this swirling free kick. Or this free kick, a sumptuously floated assist. Or either of these corners.
Adam's also got a cross in him when popping up out wide. And he's not too bad on the break either: cleverly scoring and assisting on the counter this year. Noel dutifully analyzed Adam's weaknesses a couple of weeks ago, while Tangerine Dreaming wrote an outstanding firsthand dissection, but it's easy to see from the above highlights how those qualities could mesh with Liverpool's current capabilities.
I've been playing with potential formations since the previous season ended. One of the hazards of having not football to watch, I guess. And I'm still not sure what "base" formation Liverpool will prefer come August, although I have a suspicion.
I've included the oft-discussed potential signing of Stewart Downing in these diagrams, albeit in parentheses. Initially, Wickham was also mentioned; that's how long ago this post was drafted in anticipation of Adam's signing. Wickham's moot now, although Liverpool still seem likely to sign a young-ish striker if Ngog is finally sold. But the sale of Downing feels like a matter of time, no matter news of Villa recently rejecting Liverpool's latest bid.
That the first finished summer business was signing two central midfielders leads to an assumption that 4-3-3 is most likely deployment, with six midfielders for three spots and a front line containing some combination of Carroll, Suarez, Kuyt, and one or two new signings. The formation easily becomes 4-2-3-1 if Meireles, Adam, or Gerrard pushes forward, with the two other midfielders holding. But given Dalglish's preference for 4-2-2-2 last campaign (which Joel Radaj analyzed brilliantly for Liverpool Offside), that formation is also possibility.
In a 4-2-2-2 with these players, the lineup would be more malleable. Any central midfield pairing seems possible: Gerrard and Lucas, Lucas and Adam, Gerrard and Henderson, etc. Adam and Gerrard seems a frighteningly defense-free duo, while I worry that any midfield without Lucas or Spearing would be prone to attacks through the center, but that doesn't seem to concern the club considering its supposed transfer targets. In this formation, both Meireles, Henderson, and Kuyt could play as attacking midfielders (along with any new signings and/or Maxi) instead of in central midfield or up front respectively.
Liverpool needs more left-footers. Liverpool could certainly use a left foot capable of Adam's passes, Adam certainly is fun to watch, and £8-10m certainly isn't the end of the world. I should wait until the summer's business is finished before passing judgment, but there appear to be at least two or three bigger holes in the squad than another central midfielder. As a former manager might have put it, I'm most afraid it's another lamp at the expense of a coffee table.