28 July 2011

Liverpool 0-3 Galatasaray

Flanagan Kelly Kyrgiakos Robinson
Poulsen Shelvey
Degen Cole Insua

• 46' – Kuyt for Degen
• 46' – Aquilani for Robinson
• 46' – Jones for Doni
• 68' – Spearing for Shelvey
• 70' – Ayala for Kelly
• 82' – Coady for Poulsen
• 82' – Wisdom for Carroll

Baros 8' 39'
Elmander 85'

Almost exactly like Hull, except the third conceded came much later and was far sloppier, and without the wholesale halftime changes. Similar personnel (if a slightly weaker side), similar tempo, similar lack of possession, similar kamikaze defending, and similar impotency lead to the same result.

Despite my attempt to overvalue preseason results earlier this week, the sole conclusion to be drawn from this similarly disappointing defeat is that Liverpool are paying far too many inferior players far too much money.

It's once thing to see the likes of Kelly – in an unfamiliar role as center-back – or Insua underwhelm. It's quite another watching Cole, Poulsen, Kyrgiakos, and – somehow returning from whatever alley Liverpool attempted to abandon him in – Degen stumble aimlessly around the Ali Sami Yen.

Galatasaray's pressure was almost instantaneous, and Baros' 8th-minute goal felt a long time coming. Insua caught out of position led to Ujfalusi wide open and drew both Kelly and Kyrgiakos out of position, leaving Baros open at the center spot to punish his former club with a neat volley.

Liverpool slowly began to nullify the rampant hosts after the opener, slightly more secure than against Hull but not especially impressive considering they were playing with six nominal defenders. But having blown their lone real opportunity, when Kelly couldn't make true contact after Kyrgiakos knocked down Shelvey's free kick in the 36th, Liverpool again conceded thanks to an asinine individual error.

Poulsen, of all people, was ostensibly marking the dangerous Baros on a corner. The Danish midfielder, facing Baros, had absolutely no clue where the ball was when a Galatasaray player won the near post flick-on, and the striker effortlessly ghosted in behind for the header.

The second half, which saw Kuyt, Aquilani, and Jones replace Degen, Robinson, and Doni, unsurprisingly saw subsequent improvement, which you should get when replacing two out-of-position fullbacks with an attacker and midfielder; Cole moved out to the left with Aquilani behind Carroll. The Italian aided Liverpool's previously futile efforts to keep possession, continuing to increasingly blunt Galatasaray's attacks, but Liverpool remained blunt at the sharp end as well. Carroll threatened on a couple of set plays, while the Gala keeper smartly saved Aquilani's 65th-minute first-time effort after good work from Kuyt down the right.

Then, despite few chances for the home side, Liverpool completely lost the plot in defense in the final few minutes. Flanagan, Ayala, and Spearing were too clever in trying to play from the back, and Elmander blasted in a wonderful volley when Flanagan was caught in possession on the right. A fitting capstone.

I understand putting players in the shop window. Liverpool really need to get the likes of Cole, Poulsen, Degen, etc (even Aquilani, Insua) off the books, and by proving they're fit is one of the few ways to do so. I just worry that it's taking time away from players who Liverpool will actually need. But with another friendly immediately on the horizon, in Norway on Monday, we'll increasingly see more of the first team and it's unclear whether that lot are actually holding anyone back.

Carroll got a full 90 minutes for the first time in a long time, Kelly finally played at a potential position for the future (where he may well be needed next season), Flanagan did well until his brain lapse in the 85th minute, Shelvey had his moments (if inconsistently), and Kuyt and Aquilani clearly improved the side.

It's only preseason after all.

25 July 2011

Infographic – Preseason as Precedent

After constantly intoning that Saturday's overwhelming mediocrity counts for little in the grand scheme of things, I thought I'd actually compare how Liverpool's fared in previous preseasons to the subsequent league campaign. I'm well aware that preseason games don't count for points (among other caveats), but bear with me; it's the best way to force this forced comparison.

For all my repeated insistence that preseason results mean less than zero, there seems some correlation. Over the last ten years, when Liverpool has been very good in preseason, they've almost always had very good league campaigns. And when they've had very bad preseasons (see: the last two years), they've usually had very disappointing seasons.

Since 2001-02, Liverpool have averaged more than two points per preseason game five times: '01-02, '04-05, '05-06, '07-08, and '08-09. Only once did Liverpool subsequently fail to average at least two points per league game: '04-05 – Benitez' first season – which was Liverpool's second-worst campaign in the last decade (of course, Istanbul somewhat made up for it). Otherwise, the club carried July and August's impressive form into the Premiership.

Comparatively, results vary below that two points per game cutoff. Sometimes, Liverpool dramatically improved, as in 2006-07, when the side lost every friendly not on British shores but finished third in the league. Sometimes, Liverpool stayed terrible, as you may remember from last season. But we can conjure excuses for 2010-11's terrible preseason – Liverpool only played three friendlies because Europa League qualification began in July, and any results with Hodgson as manager simply can't be used to establish precedent.

Preseason is preseason is preseason. Be happy when it goes well, and hold your breath until August if you find the need to worry before it's necessary.

Granted, after three preseason games so far this summer, winning two and losing one, Liverpool are right at that two points per game barrier. I guess over the next three – against Galatasaray, Valerenga, and Valencia – we'll find out whether the upcoming season will be a successful one.

PPG difference from preseason to league:
2010-11: +1.20
2009-10: +0.52
2008-09: +0.01
2007-08: -0.50
2006-07: +0.59
2005-06: -0.84
2004-05: -0.72
2003-04: -0.31
2002-03: +0.25
2001-02: -0.39

Full list of results for each campaign's preseason friendlies are in the comments.

23 July 2011

Liverpool 0-3 Hull City

First Half
Kelly Carragher Ayala Robinson
Poulsen Coady
Cole Aquilani Maxi

Second Half
Flanagan Kyrgiakos Wilson Insua
Spearing Adam
Kuyt Henderson Downing

Brady 21'
Koren 34'
Simpson 58'

Let's get the excuses out of the way now.

• It's preseason
• It's because Liverpool wore blue (fine, white with cyan trim)
• Hull, at home, wanted it more
• It's preseason
• Liverpool were missing Suarez, Gerrard, Reina, Lucas, Johnson, Meireles, Agger and Skrtel.
• All of Hull's goals had an element of luck
• It's preseason

Continuing defensive mistakes are both frightening and disappointing. Liverpool rarely looked like scoring, especially in the first half. The side frequently looked flat, slow, disjointed, and second-best. Of course, it is preseason. All that matters is players' fitness.

Nonetheless, the first half was particularly torpid. With the likes of Cole, Aquilani, Ngog and Poulsen involved, Dalglish shined a spotlight on those Liverpool would like to sell. Georger succinctly summarized the subsequent result on Twitter: "If this is a shopwindow tactic, the store is on fire and any potential customers are fleeing for their lives."

It's tough to decide which was more disconcerting: conceding two regrettable goals or the complete inability to dictate possession in midfield. Hull's 4-4-2 often danced through Poulsen and Coady while Liverpool resorted to chipped balls over the top, often from Carragher or the Danish midfielder. Sometimes Ngog held play up, trying to involve runners, sometimes attackers looked to run past the last defender. It rarely worked; the lone drama came when Hull's on-loan-from-Liverpool keeper Peter Galaxy (© @sidewaysdown) saved Ngog's blast set up by Aquilani, with Cole ballooning the rebound into orbit.

Meanwhile, Hull tallied twice. First, Robbie Brady steamed down Liverpool's right with both Kelly and Cole caught upfield. Coady backed off long enough for the winger to cut in and around the retreating Kelly (at least he, unlike Cole, actually retreated), with the fortunately-deflected shot curling into the far corner. 13 minutes later, Hull's midfield triangles easily carved through Liverpool's tender underbelly, again giving the attacker – this time Robert Koren – space to sumptuously blast in from the top of the box.

Liverpool looked sharper after the interval with more of the first team involved, including new boys Downing, Adam, and Henderson. Downing nearly notched with his first touch, set up by Kuyt but well-saved by Basso, before again testing the keeper with a tame half-volley. But Hull's third came at the worst possible time, sending the visitors back to their corner just as momentum mounted. Hull again passed and moved through the midfield, ending with Kilbane's open cross from Liverpool's right. Adebola beat Wilson in the air and Insua played Simpson (just) onside, turning and firing past Jones.

After five or so more wonky minutes, Liverpool reestablished the upper hand, but that upper hand was often parried by excellent defending from center-backs Chester and McShane, as well as McKenna from midfield in the second half. Carroll poked wide following a swift counter-attack, Henderson had the ball in the net but was well offside, and Basso smartly prevented Kuyt's injury time consolation. That's about it. Otherwise, Liverpool attacks broke down in the packed final third, while Downing was far less effective on the right after switching with Kuyt midway through the frame.

But, in case I haven't mentioned it yet, it's preseason. No one got hurt, and Clarke and Dalglish have more footage of mistakes to use in their ongoing attempt to beat defenders out of their complacency.

The next stop on the Fumble Toward Sunderland train stops in Turkey in five days time against Galatasaray.

16 July 2011

Liverpool 6-3 Malaysia XI

First Half
Flanagan Carragher Agger Robinson
Spearing Coady Adam
Meireles Cole

Second Half
Kelly Kyrgiakos Wilson Insua
Shelvey Poulsen
Kuyt Aquilani Maxi

- Hansen for Gulasci 69'

Adam 27' (pen)
Rahim 42'
Ngog 68' 70'
Maxi 75' 90+1
Safee 79' 82'
Kuyt 90+4'

Liverpool made sure to entertain on its Far East trip, scoring 10 while conceding six in its two Asian preseason games. Adam tallied his first for the club, Ngog and Maxi both notched for the second-straight match, and Aquilani ran the show after coming on for the second half.

The first half line-up seemingly attempted to be 4-3-3, with Spearing-Coady-Adam forming an effective triangle in midfield, but Cole and Meireles were both too far removed from Carroll and far too wasteful for the formation to truly work.

Liverpool had a near monopoly on the ball, patiently building from the back with Adam in a starring, tempo-settling role, but either of Liverpool's "wingers" would summarily lose possession before truly threatening the Malaysian goal. Midway through the frame, Adam's dangerous deep cross won a soft penalty, with Carroll seemingly pushed by a defender, and the new boy notched both spot kicks after having to retake the first for a supposed encroachment.

But with Liverpool unable to turn possession into more goals, as they did in Guangzhou, Malaysia equalized three minutes before intermission after Adam handled, conceding a free kick 22 yards from goal. Both the wall and Brad Jones' positioning were questionable (read: terrible), but Safiq Rahim's unstoppable blast wasn't.

Again, halftime saw wholesale changes and a completely different XI, similar to the first half against Guangdong – a more orthodox 4-2-3-1 with Ngog up top. Shelvey, holding central midfield with Poulsen, and Aquilani, behind Ngog, were the creative axis, passing their way through the Malaysia midfield time and time again after taking 15 or so minutes to settle.

Ngog took Liverpool from 1-1 to 3-1 in the space of two minutes, first scoring after Insua's cross luckily pinballed around the penalty area for an easy tap-in, then blasting a sweet 18-yard shot past the keeper after Aquilani cleverly found him. Five minutes later, Liverpool had four for the second straight match, again set up by the Italian, who found an open Insua in space with time to send in a low cross for the on-rushing Maxi.

The collapse came earlier than on Wednesday, as Malaysia reduced arrears to 4-3 with goals from Safee in the 79th and 82nd. Hansen was at fault for the first, palming a cutback from the byline to Safee's feet; Wilson was at fault for the second, allowing Safee in behind to run onto Ismail's long-range throughball. The extra time after Liverpool's cheap concessions allowed the visitors time to add even more emphasis to the score, with Maxi's second in the 91st and Kuyt's capstone with the last kick of the game in the 94th.

Once again, there were more positives than negatives, a somewhat-unusual occurrence in Liverpool preseason friendlies. Aquilani, Adam, Shelvey, Spearing, and Kuyt all played well, Ngog and Maxi scored again, Carroll worked diligently in holding up play, and the young fullbacks again showed their clear promise. Cole and Meireles disappointed (as did Hansen in again conceding twice in less than half an hour of action), but I'm tempted to attribute the latter to being shoehorned into an unfamiliar position across from the black hole that is Joe Cole.

The most ink will be spilled over Liverpool's misfit toys: Aquilani was the star of the show, again getting a shout-out from FSG's John Henry, while Insua assisted two of Liverpool's five second half goals. Neither is guaranteed to be on Merseyside come August, but neither did their cause any harm, especially the purposeful Italian.

Liverpool have a week off before the next friendly, back on British shores against Hull City.

FYI: I'll be away for the next four or five days, most likely without internet until Tuesday or Wednesday. Thankfully, Downing and Doni have been signed, so chances are I won't miss anything massive. But if something notable comes up, I'm sure Ed and Noel at Liverpool Offside will eloquently and thoroughly opine on it.

You kids play nice while I'm gone. Don't try to set the babysitter on fire like last time.

14 July 2011

On Stewart Downing

Done deal subject to a medical, announced on the official site last night.

Downing has been consistently good in the league for more than five years, whether as the big fish, small pond focal point of UEFA Cup runners-up Boro or outshining the more-hyped Ashley Young as Villa's Player of the Season last campaign. Eight days away from turning 27, he's entering the prime of his career, contrary to Liverpool's supposed focus on developing diamonds.

Like Adam (and Carroll), he's another left foot in a squad that desperately lacked them. Like Henderson, he's versatile; Downing can get chalk on his boots on the left or cut in from the right, where he spent most of last season and notched seven goals and nine assists.

The easy comparison is Downing's a rich man's Riera – the last true left winger on Liverpool's books. Each's willingness to whip in crosses and well-rounded game are the most tangible similarities, but Downing's better in every regard, most notably in his aforementioned versatility and knack for scoring at the back post. For example, his winner against Liverpool just two months ago (see also: Stoke, West Brom, and Wolves, among others). Also, he doesn't seem a self-absorbed, selfish, teen-punching shithead.

This article from Football 365 spells out what Downing can add to Liverpool, even if it features the dreaded, often-misused Moneyball concept, as well some insightful stats from Opta.

135 - Stewart Downing has completed more crosses in open play than any other player in the Premier League over the last three seasons. Whip.

34.4 - Stewart Downing has averaged 34.4 appearances over the past five Premier League seasons. Reliable.

Not enough stats? More from Opta's Twitter feed? How about:

421 - Since Aug 2004, only 4 players (Lampard, Fabregas, Gerrard & Giggs) have created more PL chances than Stewart Downing. Craftsman.

56% - Downing, Adam & Henderson created 239 chances in the PL last season, equivalent to 56% of Liverpool's 2010-11 total (429). Blueprint.

243 - Only Leighton Baines (247) fired over more crosses in open play than Stewart Downing in the 2010-11 Premier League. Supply.

40 - Since August 2004, Stewart Downing & Steven Gerrard have both assisted 40 Premier League goals. Homologous.

In theory, Downing's talents will be seamlessly symbiotic with Liverpool's gargantuan number nine, his crosses pollinating Carroll's field of colossal headers. He fills a gaping, obvious hole in Liverpool's growing panorama of abilities and can play in the 4-3-3 or 4-2-2-2 I suggested after Adam's signing or the 4-2-3-1 we saw in the Guangdong friendly.

~£19m, give or take a million, represents a substantial investment. As did ~£8m for Adam or ~£16m for Henderson. Liverpool fans have become well aware that vaunted Premier League experience comes at a steep premium, especially when UK passports are involved. But after Hicks and Gillett's criminal parsimony, we can't complain when the manager gets his man, no matter the number of zeros sent in the opposite direction.

That was the case with Suarez, Carroll, Henderson, and Adam. And it's the case with Stewart Downing.

Quick update: Respected journalists (and I don't use those two words together often) Gabriele Marcotti and Tony Evans have both mooted Downing at left wing-back. So is the following formation feasible?

Seems a stronger, more attacking version of the 3-4-2-1 or 3-5-2 played against Stoke and Chelsea respectively.

13 July 2011

Liverpool 4-3 Guangdong

First Half:
Kelly Carragher Wilson Flanagan
Poulsen Spearing
Cole Shelvey Pacheco

Second Half:
Wisdom Kyrgiakos Agger Robinson
Coady Adam
Kuyt Aquilani Maxi

• Hansen on for Jones 71'

Poulsen 19'
Ngog 22'
Steer 45+1'
Coady 72'
Carroll 85'
Liu Lin 90'
Hongbo 90+2'

Three sloppy goals conceded – one in first half injury time, two in second half injury time – take the shine off of what was otherwise one of Liverpool's best first preseason friendly performances in recent memory.

Despite wholesale changes at halftime, Liverpool played 4-2-3-1 throughout. The first half saw a similar line-up and start to many of Liverpool's Europa League games, with Cole, Shelvey, and Ngog featuring. The away side was increasingly in control, playing some clever pass and move football and circling the ball across the pitch, with two goals coming in quick succession around the 20 minute mark.

First, Cole's delicious cross found Poulsen wide open at the back post, where the Dane coolly (and surprisingly) beat the keeper with a side-footed placed shot. Three minutes later, Cole's good work led to Shelvey in space between the midfield and defense, where he found Ngog with a perfectly-angled throughball. The Frenchman took one touch before sliding under the keeper.

Liverpool continued to patiently dominate for the rest of the half, but were undone with seconds remaining. Kelly was caught upfield, Poulsen couldn't get back to cover, and Gulasci rashly came out and missed the left-sided cross, allowing Steer to head in.

We saw an entirely different XI in the second half, with more first-teamers in addition to debuts for Adam, Coady, and Wisdom. Aquilani made his return in red, playing behind Carroll with Kuyt and Maxi on the flanks, while Meireles wasn't included in the match-day squad. Due to the inclusion of Adam and Carroll, Liverpool looked for more ambitious long-range passing, which took time to settle.

However, a little less than 30 minutes after the restart, a Liverpool break led Carroll setting up Coady. The mountainous Geordie held up play well before finding the youngster, who took one touch before blasting past the substitute keeper. With five minutes to play, Liverpool added a fourth through the #9, playing a clever one-two with Maxi before slotting in from eight yards. Liverpool falling asleep in added time, conceding twice as Kyrgiakos, Agger, and Wisdom made mistakes, makes this result far closer – and far more annoying – than it should have been.

It's impossible to divine much from preseason matches, but on the whole, Liverpool impressed. With slightly different styles in either half despite the change in formation, the side scored four – once on an excellent cross, once with a clever throughball, once aiming for Carroll over the top on the break, and once with a one-two pass and move. Cole and Shelvey bossed the first half, Adam increasingly set the tempo in the second. Both Ngog and Carroll notched, as did the 18-yard old Conor Coady. As did Christian Poulsen, of all players. No matter that it was against a second division Chinese side. And, to be fair, it is the middle of that second division side's season, but Liverpool looked the fitter in the final stages despite conceding twice.

It's hard to pick out best players in but Shelvey, Cole, Robinson, and Adam were most notable in my eyes. Shelvey and Cole dictated play in the first half, Adam did in the second. Since everyone probably cares more about Adam, I thought he was very Adam. He often looked for over-ambitious passes – some came off, some didn't – but increasingly played it simple as the match went on. He was constantly on the ball as the deepest midfielder, where he put in some impressive tackles.

What worries were all three goals conceded. All three were sloppy and lazy. All three were easily preventable were certain players paying attention. But that's preseason; it's slightly more explainable when it happens in meaningless matches and at least they're getting those mistakes out of the way now.

Liverpool next face a Malaysian XI on Saturday at 5:30am eastern time.

12 July 2011

Infographic – I Get Older, They Stay The Same Age

As much as I hate my birthday (and have since I turned 21), I'm actually publicly acknowledging it this year for some reason. A moment of weakness, most likely.

So, with a lack of content worth scribbling about – at least until tomorrow's first friendly against Guangzhou (8am on FSC in the US) – I thought I'd post a self-indulgent infographic showing my age relative to Liverpool's squad from the season before.

I guess my lifelong goal of featuring at Anfield is long gone, even if goalkeepers have a longer lifespan. And in lieu of more self-absorbed reminiscing, I'll mention two facets which actually make this worth posting.

First, it's interesting to see how many more players Liverpool has used over the years. The club went from averaging around 18 players per campaign in the mid-80s to more than 25 since 2000. Such are the demands of the Premiership these days.

Second, this chart demonstrates the well-known fact that Liverpool's squad got older prior to last season. Four of the five players bought by Hodgson are older than me, not counting Aurelio (who is, but never really left) or Wilson (negotiations started under Benitez). At the same time, the squad got smaller, constricted by Hicks and Gillett's dire need to get marginal players (Aquilani, Insua, El Zhar, Plessis, etc) off the wage bill.

FSG's focus on youth and depth will assuredly change next season totals. As will the fact that we'll all be yet another year older. Here's hoping Carragher and Gerrard never retire. I'm pretty sure they'll always be older than me.

Sources: Flip Flop Fly Ball for graphic idea, LFC History for squad lists.

06 July 2011

On Charlie Adam

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.