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Strength In Depth Key For Rodgers

Wednesday 15th August 2012
Arsenal's interest in Nuri Sahin has died and the player has reportedly rejected a move to Tottenham, making Liverpool firm favourites to seal a loan deal for the Real Madrid player.

While it may only be on a one year basis, the securing of Sahin would be an impressive feat by Brendan Rodgers and would strongly bolster Liverpool's squad. Sahin's relationship with former teammate Xabi Alonso and Rodgers' relationship with Madrid boss José Mourinho are cited as the main reasons why Sahin would choose Liverpool over Arsenal or Spurs. Sahin would become Rodgers' third acquisition of the current transfer window along with Fabio Borini and Joe Allen.

Sahin stands head and shoulders above these two in terms of ability. While never quite making it at Madrid last season, the Turkish international still commands impressive pedigree on the European stage. He was named player of the Bundesliga in the season 2010/2011 ahead of players like Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, new Manchester United signing Shinji Kagawa and the much praised Mario Gotze, and was the main contributer to Borussia Dortmund's title win.

What Sahin would bring to Liverpool is a multitude of options for the forthcoming season. The signing of Joe Allen already strengthened Liverpool's midfield and Sahin would add a touch of class. With Rodgers likely to implement a 4-3-3 formation the options for Liverpool in midfield are strong. Lucas was a revelation last season until picking up his injury, managing to win more successful tackles than Vincent Kompany in much less game time. It is almost certain the Brazilian will start shielding the back four. From there Liverpool have the option to play Gerrard, Allen, Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam, Jay Spearing or Jonjo Shelvey. Add Sahin into the mix and things look promising at Anfield.

While it easy to look at this and say Gerrard is a certainty to start, one must remember Liverpool will be competing in the Europa League this year as well as two cup competitions and a challenge on the top four in the Premier League. Gerrard has a had a recent past plagued with injuries and a lack of fitness, and last season he missed 20 of Liverpool's 38 Premier League games. Liverpool could well have 50+ games this season should they have a successful run in any of the cup competitions, in which case Gerrard, as well as other members of the squad, are certain to need frequent rest in order to maximise their ability. Players like Henderson, Adam and Shelvey may seem way down the pecking order, but will get game time.

This is a good thing for Rodgers, as suddenly Liverpool do not appear to have such an average squad. Last season Liverpool were forced to play Jay Spearing in some key games due to injuries and it proved costly, and this year the same problem should not arrive. Rotation and keeping key players fresh is important and now quite possible with the wealth of options available to Rodgers. If the rumour of swapping Charlie Adam for Clint Dempsey comes off, this will only strengthen Liverpool even further.

The issue of strength in depth is one that must be addressed in other areas of the pitch too. Pepe Reina's position is not under threat and only for the bizarre "head butt" incident with James Perch would have maintained an astonishing record of straight appearances for Liverpool. This however may be the cause of why Reina was performing below his standard last season. Should Rodgers need to give him a rest next season, Doni may not be a keeper trustworthy enough to allow Rodgers to keep Reina fresh.

The problem remaining for Liverpool in terms of strength in depth is at the back. Should Liverpool manage to fend off ever growing interest in Daniel Agger, they are still left with the issue of covering one of the best yet most injury prone centre-backs in the Premier League. It is unlikely that Agger will last the whole season without picking up a knock of some sort and even if he avoids it he will still need to be rested at some stage. At which point Liverpool look bare. Sebastian Coates has plenty of talent but has not yet received a lengthy run in the Liverpool starting lineup, and many would feel reluctant in playing Jamie Carragher in a big game. Should José Enrique pick up an injury at left-back Liverpool are also forced to throw in the very young Jack Robinson or play Glen Johnson out of position.

Rodgers admits he is not finished in the transfer window yet and there is still time to strengthen in these areas. Liverpool now have one of the best goalkeepers when playing well, a reliable if thin defence, an impressive and deep midfield and with Carroll, Downing, Suarez, Borini, Joe Cole as well as the exciting Raheem Sterling they also have many attacking options. The question that remains is whether Liverpool have the right blend of class and graft. Can they mix Lucas Leiva with Nuri Sahin to form a formidable midfield line-up? Can they find a way to utilise Andy Carroll's strengths when playing through Suarez is not working?

While the signings of Santi Cazorla, Eden Hazard and Shinji Kagawa by their rivals make Liverpool seem as though they fall short of a top four finish this year, the sheer level of options for Brendan Rodgers means they will be a lot closer than last time around.
Shane O'Mahony

Total articles: 5

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