Before writing this article I asked 10 random LFC supporters which position they would strengthen in the remainder of the transfer window, through a popular Liverpool Facebook page. 4 of them said Left-Back, 3 of them said Centre-Back, 2 for a new striker and 1 for another winger. I appreciate this small-scale survey is by no means an entirely accurate way to gauge public opinion but I do believe most Reds fans would put a new LB near the top of their transfer wish-lists. However, in the light of Comolli suggesting we may have to offload players before we can bring anymore in, as Liverpool have spent much of their reported £50million war-chest, would any potential funds for a new LB be better utilized elsewhere?
Many may dismiss this argument out of hand but in my opinion it is an interesting debate to follow through, because I believe our strength in depth at LB at this moment is not as bad as many make it out to be.
Aurelio has all the qualities needed to be a top, attack minded, LB; he has a top draw left peg, a decent turn of foot, a good first touch and distribution, but he also possess enough tactical awareness to get into position to defend when necessary. On his day he is as good, if not better than most LBs playing at Top 6 clubs at the moment, Benoît Assou-Ekotto of Spurs, or Gael Clichy of Manchester City for example. However, as everybody knows he is very rarely without an injury concern; as yet he has not played a minute of pre-season football and to be honest I’ve lost track of what injury it is this time! Last season he managed 21 appearances, and the season before that 23, so I think we can expect around 20 again for the 2011/12 season. When fit he will hopefully be able to fill the berth at LB.
Then backing up Aurelio could be Insua once again. The main worry with this scenario would be that it is very similar to the 2009/2010 set up at LB, where frailties at LB were key to many embarrassing defeats. However, he has so far played well in pre-season, his best display coming against the Malaysian XI, and seems to have matured as a defender. He could quite plausibly be second choice LB but if it were up to me I would play Glen Johnson at LB when Aurelio is out. In my opinion he was more defensively sound in this position than at RB, probably because it wasn’t as natural for him and he had to concentrate more. He possesses a very neat left foot as well as right so opposition full-backs would be wary to whether he would send them down the line and get a cross in the box, or cut in and have a shot. His only performance of pre-season so far was poor, against Valerenga, but this could be down to his lengthy lay-off and not an indicator off his ability.
Playing Johnson at LB would also allow Kenny to start the thoroughbred that is Martin Kelly at RB; this scenario is more than likely because when Kelly was fit he forced Johnson over to LB, possibly showing that Kenny rates him higher than Johnson? Many people see Kelly ending up as a CB, this may well be the case when Carragher retires but at the moment I see him being deployed as a RB due to his immense fitness levels and pace. If we do buy a new LB I would still start Kelly at RB and deploy Johnson as a right-sided midfield player, rather than buying a new one, or defensive cover for either full-back; however, my preference would be buying a new CB not LB.