AS we approach the final stretch of the league marathon this season there can be no doubt that our biggest issue – besides all the other obvious ones – is a crippling inability to put the ball in the back of the damned net. It’s not one that we’ve been used to over the years as it’s been well over a decade since we last lacked a ‘poacher’, or even a smattering of 10-15 goals a season players. Since Robbie Fowler broke through and firmly established himself as a 25-30 goal a season player we’ve either had a top striker or a group of top players that contribute the lion’s share of our goals over the course of a season.
From Fowler himself and Owen, through to Garcia and Gerrard; then Crouch, Benayoun and Kuyt and then Fernando Torres. And those are just the players that come to me immediately, there have been others that have contributed 5-10 goals per season that have come and gone over the years that barely warrant a mention.
In the last two seasons though, we’ve lacked any one player that contributes in the same way, even Suarez – as amazing a footballer as he undoubtedly is – has been far from prolific, as has Steven Gerrard who we’d come to rely on for 15+ goals a season over the past 5-6 years. It’s been a hell of a tough year and there’s nothing more frustrating that watching some attractive approach play rendered pointless by a lack of prowess in front of goal. Which is why I’m taking a brief look at some of the candidates to come and solve that problem that we’ve had associated with us over the past few months.
Matias (Ezequiel) Suarez – This Suarez is the most obvious to mention first perhaps, seeing as there were a lot of reports of Reds’ interest on Sunday morning. While this is an interesting one I think a lot more is being made of it simply because he shares a surname with a rather unknown player currently on our books. On the surface it would appear to be a good signing because Suarez is a strong and quick attacking player but our main aim in the summer has to be an injection of goal-getting prowess; his goal-scoring record might leave something to be desired given that he has scored only 45 in almost 150 appearances for Anderlecht. While he can also fill in as a wide player (and no doubt has done on a number of occasions for the Belgian side) you are usually looking for upwards of 30 goals a season from a striker that plies their trade in either Belgium or Holland, particularly at the quoted £20 million that Anderlecht would be looking for. You also have to keep in mind that Milan Jovanovic plays in the same Anderlecht side and has managed 12 goals himself this season. Certainly, at 23 years of age, he has a long career ahead of him and goal-scorers generally don’t hit their stride until their mid-twenties (unless your name is Messi) but with that goal-scoring record, we’d effectively be replacing the no doubt out-going Dirk Kuyt in the summer with a younger, more South American version.
Ezequiel Lavezzi – Taking the biblical trend one step further and claiming Ezequiel for his first name, Lavezzi certainly offers more experience, having played for Napoli’s first team in the Serie A for the past 5 seasons. He has greater experience of playing at a higher level and is 3 years older than his countryman. But, once again, Suarez’s fellow Argentine is anything but prolific, having scored barely 50 goals over the past 5 seasons for the Neapolitans. Lavezzi’s main function in the Napoli side is as a support striker/wide player in the ‘front 3’ that Mazzari often prefers with Cavani as the main striker with Lavezzi and Hamsik supporting on either side. Should Liverpool be in the market for a small, nifty wide-midfielder then Lavezzi might be the man to look to but as an out-and-out goal scorer he doesn’t quite have the track record to solve our problems, as far as I can see.
Demba Ba – Heavily linked with Liverpool in January (as much because of Suarez’s prolonged absence, as anything), Ba is one of those players from whom you never know what you’re going to get. Sometimes he is an awesome, powerful player in the same mould as Didier Drogba, at other times he can be anonymous, much like he was against the Reds in Newcastle’s defeat at the end of last year. Given that Newcastle took him from West Ham for nothing any money they made on him would represent a huge profit and a great bit of business, so that would perhaps make him the least expensive on this list but with every game he plays and every goal he scores his price will escalate. You have to also take in to account that the last time we bought a striker from the Geordies we got severely burned and may not want to take that chance again. Still, you can’t argue with 16 league goals in 26 games and if he could be prised away from Newcastle for around £10-£12 million, we may well consider him a bargain by this time next year.
Fernando Llorente – The Spaniard is probably the choice of a lot of people for any number of reasons but his goal-scoring record – for one of the lesser lights of the strongest league in the world – is no doubt up there. Having scored 82 goals over the past 4 seasons for Bilbao Llorente has averaged around 20 goals a season. Given that the club’s highest finish in that time was 6th (usually around 10th-13th) this makes his record all the more remarkable given the quality of team-mates he tends to be surrounded by (Martinez aside). The Spaniard is a big lad too at 6’5 and, like Ba and Cavani before him, would give our front line a focus and a ‘target man’ that would offer us different options. Much like both those players he would offer us a more mobile, ‘all action’ centre forward option that we don’t currently get from Andy Carroll. The stumbling blocks for the Reds though may be that he is 27 and has recently signed a new contract with his club which – reportedly – included a buyout clause from anywhere between 30-50 million Euros. Given the current exchange rate we’d likely be paying more or less the same fee in pounds, and with the player being the wrong side of 25 I couldn’t see the clubs’ owners being prepared to splurge that much money on a player that would have little sell-on value in a couple of years’ time. Fingers crossed though, eh?
While there are no doubt a number of different options available, I’d be surprised if any list of strikers that the club draws up for the summer window didn’t include the names above. Whether they’ll be at the top of the list remains to be seen but they are all certainly some of the hottest properties around right now and if they could be brought in for acceptable fees I’m sure none of us would grumble too much with the injection of attacking quality each of those players would bring.
But as our main pain point this season has been in the goal-scoring department I believe an out-and-out goal-scorer/poacher should be our main priority, preferably one that could work with Suarez. For that reason my choice would be Luis’s fellow countryman, Edinson Cavani.
Which of these players would you like to see added to our squad in the summer?
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