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Monday, August 1, 2011

Left-Back Crack-Up

If one thing that pre-season friendlies have reaffirmed  for newly resurgent Liverpool is that they are still frail in the the back. King Kenny has hinted at this himself, but so far has done nothing to change it.  In building the Dalglish  dynasty, the Merseyside club have procured many  new faces to plug the gaps that need filling. With an overloaded midfield,  some width, and a attacking force to reckoned with, one hole remains unfilled. The vacant spot of left- back has been a perilous void, ever since the departure of John Arne Riise. With out any talent brought in to address this issue directly, the left- back spot has been a bi-polar position for the reds in recent times, full of nutters, un-tested youth and player's playing out of position. From the Benitez era to date, we have seen a whole host of different faces try to scale the void and make the spot their own, but to no avail as of now. To look at Liverpool's books , you would find that they have a few players that can, and have occupied that position. Much speculation has been a drift with Liverpool reportedly chasing Newcastle's Jose Enrique, but just of a few day's ago Newcastle have stated no formal bid has been submitted. Can Liverpool work with the player's they have or does a marquee, international-quality left-back need to enter the fray. Let us take a look at Liverpool's options and assess:

Fabio Aurelio's return to prominence?
Take Brazilian Fabio Aurelio, once regarded  as one of the best left-backs in Spain playing for Benitez's Valencia, now finds himself very much a fringe player at Anfield. Troubled by Injury Aurelio didn't feature much the last couple seasons, but when fit showed flashes of brilliance. All you have to do is look at his prowess from a set piece, best represented  in Liverpool's Champions league semi final vs. Chelsea, catching Petr Cech out at his near post. When Roy Hodgson took over the helm, Aurelio look set to leave Liverpool but resigned, yet still played infrequently.  Besides his neat work with a dead ball, Aurelio runs rather hot and cold for me, not consistent enough for week in week out selection, spotty in defense and attack, as he often likes to bomb up the wings. He has been used as a left wing-back when Dalgleish uses 3 at the back with 2 wing-backs, allowing him to impose himself offensively. Is he  Liverpool's answer to their left back predicament? way jose…but a good back up to have.

Emiliano Insua is another left back currently on Liverpool's roster, yet isn't seen playing in red all that often. The former Boca Junior's man in neither an unproven youngster, or a regular first teamer, having made 44 appearances for Liverpool since his signing in 2007. Last season he was loaned out to Galatasaray, but since has joined Liverpool in their pre-season tour, looking impressive and even notching a goal in their 6-3 win over a Malaysian side. Dalgleish could have bigger plans for the somewhat forgotten Argentine this season, other than loaning him out. He is a promising talent no doubt  but I often get the sense that he doesn't really want to be playing his football at Anfield, and might possibly be eyeing a move this summer. In the 2009-10 season when Liverpool came close to claiming the title, Insua enjoyed a good run of games due to then left back Andrea Dossena's poor form, and Aurelio's injury woes. To insure he gets a central role this season he has to improve in some facets of his game. He is slight in the tackle, and slight in stature standing a mere 5'10, contributing  to his ineptness in the air. He is slow to react and has slow acceleration from a standing position, though looked quick when he could run into attacking positions. Under the guidance of King Kenny maybe Insua can turn into the player he looks he can, and some of his faults should be cured with regular playing time. Another loan I feel would be detrimental to his development and possibly turn him off Liverpool all together. Is he the answer?…possibly, but could give a few Liverpool fans near heart attacks with his decision making.

Glen Johnson needs no introduction as he is a strait up starter in the Liverpool set-up. Primarily a right back, was used on the left last season to supplement the lack of options at their disposal. His performances where passable in this foreign position, to which he didn't look so happy in, a part of the  English players mentality  when asked to play out of position… but I digress. What made this acceptable was that there was back up on the right- Glen's normal position- in the frame of Martin Kelly. Young, but a tremendous prospect! Liverpool's most exciting talent  to emerge from their youth system in a while plays pretty exclusively right back and has a knack for getting forward. Kelly's rise to significance and a stretched back line justified  moving  Johnson onto the left. Kelly is one for the future, and I could see a situation occurring where Johnson plays as the right wing-back in a 3-5-2, for he is almost better going forward than back, and Kelly playing as the left sided center-back. What I can deduce from last season is that Johnson playing on the left is not the answer, so a new signing seems necessary.  
Answer to Liverpool's left-back woes?

In summary Kenny will have to either trust in youth, or splash the cash and bring a top quality defender to AnfieldCarragher, and Johnson's lack of defensive clout, it is a back line that needs added steel. At one time rumored to be in for Udinese's Christian Zapata, but proceedings have since cooled and now looks like only a dying ember of hope, that the Colombian will sign with the Merseyside outfit.  Liverpool are most heavily linked with Newcastle's want away Argentinian, Jose Enrique, and if signed would do a job for the team, as a consistent performer for many years up in Tyne side. Enrique is the best and the easiest option at the moment, as I would really like to see Liverpool chasing somebody of Phillip Lahm's stature, but where the club stands at the moment renders that just unrealistic. Liverpool cannot afford to endure another season of conceding unnecessary goals due to a weak back line, it needs reinforcements, In the center and on the left. Buying a quality left -back should be Dalglish's next move in the transfer market. The old expression always rings true that successful teams build from the back, an expression that in viewing his signings this summer, is not in the Scot's vocabulary.  

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