11 July 2007

On Benayoun and Babel

Benayoun’s signed, and Liverpool is in talks with Ryan Babel.

That progressed quickly. Well, the Babel move has progressed quickly (and out of nowhere); Benayoun has been an open secret all summer long.

As I’ve said before, I’m pleased with Benayoun’s signing, especially for £4 or 5m, which is miles below what he would have cost after 05-06. I’d rather not have lost Garcia, but I still am doing my utmost not to think of Yossi as Luis’ replacement. He’s similar in that he can play on the left or right and 'in the hole,' but he is a better passer, especially short, defense-splitting passes, and can be less erratic. Supposedly, Rafa’s had his eye on the player since he was at Racing Santander. We know Benayoun can perform in the Premiership, and his “decline” last season was understandable given West Ham’s troubles and adjusting to a new manager. With Mascherano, Liverpool proved they can make use of the Hammers' talented malcontents. Also, I think he’ll fill a similar role as a “squad player” to that of Zenden, and Yossi’s a clear improvement over Zenden.

I’m less gung ho about Babel, but that’s mainly due to unfamiliarity with the player. Yes, he’s not an out-and-out left winger, which Liverpool looks to need, but he can play in that position. His versatility will be a plus if/when he signs; I actually think it’s the key point. All of the players Rafa’s gone for this summer are versatile and can adapt to different positions in the course of the same game. The fact Babel’s so highly rated as a 20-year-old, and had been chased by Arsenal for the past year or more is also heartening; that Liverpool’s entered the race for his signature basically out of the blue (compared to Arsenal’s long courtship) shows that maybe some transfers can still be conducted without the tabloids getting a scent. Even if Babel doesn't have a huge impact on next season, that he's only 20 will be an enormous boon. He'll have time to adjust to England, settle at the club, and find his preferred position. And he will get playing time, that I'm sure of.

I would not be surprised if this was the extent of Liverpool’s major summer spending, obviously not counting youngsters, whom Benitez will continue to buy like they’re going out of style. The addition of Torres, Benayoun, Lucas, Voronin, and Babel should more than compensate for the players sold or released. A month or so ago when folks feared that Liverpool didn’t have the money to sign big names or make a mark in the transfer market seems ages away now.

All these players will offer different possibilities than Liverpool had last season, and I truly think that Liverpool will have one of the deepest and most varied squads in the Prem. I really am getting way too excited about the upcoming season.

I will say this, though. If I thought forecasting a lineup in the match previews was hard last season, I’m going to be completely out of my depth for the next. With this personnel, Liverpool should be able to switch between 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 4-5-1, 4-2-3-1, or 3-5-2 depending on the opposition and players available. Yikes.


Anonymous said...

I'm feel the opposite. I'm excited about Babel, not so much about Benayoun.

While Yossi will no doubt help out and provide some depth and new options, he'll be relevant for two seasons at most before Rafa upgrades and renders him fodder for reserve games.

I agree that Babel may not have the immediate impact, but his long-term future is certainly brighter. I also wonder, if he's right footed, how hard it would be to teach him to play on the right flank, and allow us to use him on either side?

Ace Cowboy said...

As much as it pains me to disagree with ya, I'm with Sven here too. Babel is gonna be nasty, hopefully sooner rather than later. But we're willing to wait for him to come around, regardless. I have a feeling he's gonna come on quickly.

Yossi, on the other hand, is a guy I've often referred to as "all sizzle, no brisket." He's got great moves, but he's a poor man's 2005 Ronaldo -- flashy, but no going forward and putting it all together. He showed flashes of his old form this season, but it was a down year for him at West Ham. I don't see him playing every match, and as such, I'm not sure I see him getting into a good groove.

Either way, I'm a big fan of the signings so far this summer. Would love to see a legit left fullback signing, allowing us to move Riise up to the wing, but that's just, like, my opinion, man.

nate said...

I'm excited over both, it's just we know what Liverpool's getting with Benayoun, which makes me feel more secure in regards to the move.

Babel has the potential to be off the charts, but for now, it's potential. £11.5m is the third highest sum Liverpool's ever spent on a transfer. With what I've seen of Babel, I'm far more hopeful than not that this transfer will be huge for Liverpool, but with young foreign players, especially those without a defined position, there's always the possibility they won't settle or it won't work.

Also, and it pains me to admit this, but I wonder how this signing will impact the return of Kewell. Obviously, Babel's not going to claim a starting spot by August 11th, but I've really hoped to see the return of the Harry Kewell we've seen before, as I think he can bring an awful lot to Liverpool. And it looks like Babel's a player in a similar mold; can play on the left wing, or as a striker, or in the hole. Two players for every position, I guess.

Still though, I can't wait to see this year's team, Babel definitely included, in action.

nate said...

Oh, and I also wanted to mention this, because it struck me yesterday, but the Babel move makes me think of Arjen Robben (not the diving douche part), who was an out-and-out striker with PSV and a winger in England.

Make of that what you will.