LIVERPOOL manager Kenny Dalglish made his fifth summer signing on Friday, with the capture of Jose Enrique from Newcastle for £6m bringing his side’s total summer spending to £50m… And they aren’t done yet! The Reds have been strongly linked with a new central defender and reports are suggesting that owner John W Henry has offered £10m to Stoke City for the services of their captain Ryan Shawcross. But after keeping 14 clean sheets last year, the fifth highest in the league, do Liverpool need a new central defender?
Despite keeping 14 clean sheets Liverpool conceded 44 goals, which was more than Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal. At current Liverpool have three established central defenders- Jamie Carragher, Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger- and one fringe defender- Sotirios Kyrgiakos- as well as promising young defenders Martin Kelly and Danny Wilson, all fighting for two available centre-back positions. Last year the preferred pairing was Carragher and Skrtel, they formed a solid partnership and are likely to continue as first-choice this season. Carragher is a talismanic figure at Anfield. He is a hero, a legend and a leader, an irreplaceable defender who has played with great passion for the Reds for the whole of his career. But he is now 33, and although he still has a few more seasons left in him, he is approaching the end of his career and the Reds have to be prepared for his retirement. Furthermore, with Kyrgiakos being linked with a return to Greece and Daniel Agger being plagued by injury since his arrival from Brondby in January 2007, Liverpool need a new central defender, but who?
Martin Kelly is seen by many Liverpool fans as the next Jamie Carragher. He had a fantastic debut season last year despite mostly being played out of position at right-back. His solid performances for the Reds meant that England’s first-choice right-back Glen Johnson was forced to play at left-back. Unfortunately, Kelly’s season was cut short by injury and he was replaced in the team by another talented scouser, John Flanagan. Kelly’s natural position is at centre-back and in years to come it looks as though he will become an Anfield regular, but if Liverpool are to regain Champions League football this year they will need experience at the back and Kelly isn’t experienced enough just yet.
Having already missed out on Phil Jones, who moved to Manchester United in July, Dalglish could consider Stoke City captain Ryan Shawcross. The defender from Cheshire is a former Manchester United trainee, which might not go down too well with the Anfield faithful, but moved to Stoke (initially on loan) in 2007 and was part of the team that gained promotion to the Premier League. Shawcross is a tall, commanding centre-back who is committed to a tackle, good with the ball at his feet and is strong in the air. He is a no-nonsense defender who will not be easily pushed around by strikers and is more than willing to give it back, similar to a young Jamie Carragher. At 23 Shawcross fits Fenway Sport Groups policy of recruiting “young and preferably British talent” and would develop his game under Carragher’s guidance. He has represented England at under-21 level and was an unused substitute for England’s game against Egypt in March last year. He is reportedly available for around £10m, and with Stoke recently recruiting Jonathan Woodgate and Matthew Upson on free transfers the Potters may be willing to sell.