Date: 2nd December 2012 at 4:00pm
Written by:

JANUARY is never the best time to be in the market for new players, or so the conventional wisdom goes. Clubs are generally unwilling to part with their prized assets halfway through the season, so they’ll either demand extortionate sums of money (£35m for a centre forward from Newcastle United being the most common example) or they’ll refuse to do business altogether.

However, with every hasty Andy Carroll deal there’s also a Luis Suarez, a Nikica Jelavic or a Nemanja Vidic – all players signed during January transfer windows over the years.

The impact that the signing of Papiss Cisse had on the second half of Newcastle’s season last year was immediate and almost single-handedly drove the club to a fifth place finish.

The fact is that, whether you think buying in the January sales is ideal or not, every Liverpool fan knows that the team needs to strengthen and fast, which means players need to be brought in to add to the squad as soon as possible after the window opens. And however much we’d all have liked the right business to have been done in the summer, it wasn’t, and whoever you blame for that, it’s irrelevant – we have to understand where we are at now, and for Liverpool that means bringing in players, and more specifically it means bringing in reinforcements up front.

Without Luis Suarez’s goals and creativity up front, Liverpool would be in a far worse position, which not only puts pressure on Suarez himself, it also causes huge anxiety and worry about him being injured or suspended for any period of time. Remember, there are still ten matches to go before the transfer window even opens.

So, the need for new strikers is absolutely clear, and here we assess four candidates that are currently the most commonly touted by the media as targets for Liverpool in the January window. I’ve tried to stick to those players that Liverpool might realistically be in the market for, rather than assuming that we should automatically be signing Messi, Ronaldo and Falcao in a triple swoop as some website commenters seem to believe. The four in the frame are:

Theo Walcott: shares an agent with Brendan Rodgers, was apparently a Liverpool fan when growing up and still nowhere near signing a new contract at Arsenal. If his situation stays the same on 1 January, there will be more clubs than just Liverpool looking at testing Arsenal’s willingness to let him go for free in the summer.

Walcott would be a great fit in Rodgers’ formation, probably on the right hand side of a front three, bringing pace, penetration and experience to the attacking options. In return he would get first team football every week, alongside the support and confidence of the fans and the manager. Whether that’s enough, if Manchester City or Chelsea are in the bidding, we’ll have to wait and see.

Darren Bent: a link that has only just appeared in the last few weeks, this rumour is gathering momentum as Bent finds himself frozen out by Paul Lambert at Aston Villa. Bent has a prolific goalscoring record, scoring over 100 Premier League goals at a rate of better than one in every three games.

He is a natural finisher, has the clinical edge that Liverpool need and could combine well with Suarez, but the big question would be whether Rodgers and Liverpool would want to spend significant cash on a player that’s currently not judged to be good enough or hungry enough (depending on who you believe) to even force his way into a struggling Aston Villa team. A big gamble, but not one without its merits given his record.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar: a starlet from Ajax now currently setting the Champions League alight with Schalke, Huntelaar has admirers all over Europe, and has spent time at both AC Milan and Real Madrid during his short career. His career statistics are impressive, with more than 250 goals in less than 400 career games, and most recently his record for Schalke last season was 48 goals in 47 games.

When he’s happy and settled, he scores goals for fun, and the rumour mill believes he could be available for less than £10m in January. Again though his reputation means that he has many other admirers, with both Arsenal and Spurs both apparently keen on bringing him in during the upcoming window.

He would be a tremendous capture for Rodgers, but getting a deal in place and persuading him that he has no need to look elsewhere will not be easy.

Daniel Sturridge: reports have claimed that Liverpool made a number of serious enquiries to Chelsea during the summer about Sturridge, which means that those links have inevitably resurfaced with the transfer window just around the corner.

Sturridge was apparently not keen on a loan move to Anfield in August, and Liverpool lacked the funds or the appetite for a permanent deal. Sturridge is talented, has pace and would fit in to Rodgers’ system, especially given that the manager has worked with him before in his time at Chelsea.

There are probably other options here with more pedigree and more promise, but Sturridge would certainly bring depth and other options to the forward line if he could be secured for a sensible fee.

The priority for Liverpool is additional firepower, and it is needed more urgently than ever. There is no other option other than to back the manager in the January window and bring in the players he needs to build his side. The team is creating chances, it is improving defensively and it is starting to come to terms with the style of play that Rodgers wants to adopt. All of that progress would be undone if Luis Suarez were to be injured or suspended for any period of time, and the manager would be back to square one.

As fans, we have to hope that the reinforcements come in quickly and hit the ground running – I’d far rather sign another Luis Suarez in January than the alternatives that have provided much poorer value for money.

The players and the options are there, and targets will already have been earmarked by the manager. It’s time for FSG to back the man they invested so much faith and warm words in back in June, otherwise we’ll all be feeling the cold of a long winter.

Find me on twitter @rossco1981

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