News of Andy Carroll’s ‘imminent’ departure and all the replacements we have lined up is everywhere, but whether or not there’s any truth to all the headlines, one thing is for sure – Clint Dempsey’s name seems to be popping up everywhere.
Which has inevitably sparked a lot of debate amongst Liverpool fans.
The jury is obviously still out on whether the American is the type of player we need (we haven’t even signed the player yet, so who knows for sure), but regardless of whether or not we actually do follow through on Brendan Rodger’s self-confessed interest in the midfielder / striker, I know that my mind is at least made up.
While many fans lament that we’re never going to compete for a top four spot with the likes of Dempsey in our first team, my take on things is that Dempsey isn’t even a player for our first team. He’s definitely a very good option to have on our bench.
Strength in depth is what Liverpool really needs if it is to mount a sustained challenge in the Premier League, and I dare say it was what we lacked the most last year. We lost Lucas and Adam, and our midfield fell to pieces. When Suarez was suspended, Carroll was left to fend for himself up front.
With Brendan Rodgers now at the helm, Liverpool will in all likelihood switch to a 4-3-3 formation, and this will surely leave us even more short, up front. With Maxi and Kuyt both gone, the only players we have now who’d fit into that front three would be Suarez, Carroll, Downing, Borini, Bellamy, Joe Cole and possibly Gerrard (though I’m of the opinion that our skipper’s best strengths at his age are in central midfield).
That’s 7 players in all, but not really. While I greatly respect what Bellamy is capable of with a ball at his feet, youth is not on his side anymore, and nobody really knows how many games Bellamy has in him over the course of a season. Downing performed very poorly last season, and while I still harbour hopes that he’ll come good this year, his track record wearing the red of Liverpool does him no favours.
Nobody knows if Carroll will manage to weave his way into BR’s tiki-taka plans, and Joe Cole is highly unpredictable when it comes to form. To sum up what I’m trying to say, we are sorely in need of reliable cover in our final third of the pitch.
But that’s only if things go wrong.
On the field though, things don’t always go as planned, and that’s where a player like Dempsey fits in. Dempsey would probably know that he is unlikely to oust the likes of Suarez and Borini out of the starting XI, but to have proper depth in a team, sometimes, the best thing to do is to buy for the bench and go for players who know they have to work their way up in order to make it into our first team so that when they do find themselves named as substitutes, they don’t go into superstar sulks.
I mean no disrespect to Dempsey – he’s done last season what most Liverpool players failed to do which is score and create goals aplenty – but at the age of 29, one has to wonder how long he’ll keep that up. If he does make it into the first team, then good for him, but to have him as a utility player to beef up our midfield and attacking options, that would definitely improve the overall quality of our squad.
All in all, I feel that quite often, the best way to truly gauge a team’s strength is by assessing the quality of its bench. Liverpool has its first team more or less sorted out, but we’ll surely do well to invest in players like Dempsey to ensure that competition within the entire squad remains high.
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