If there is one area the current Liverpool side needs to improve on if we are to continue our charge for a top four finish, it is our central midfield.
The defeat to Arsenal showed that our central midfield is very vulnerable when they are up against quality opposition. Against the lesser teams we can get away with it by having Gerrard, Lucas or Henderson in there but we need to find a more long term solution and personnel to fill that role.
With the current 3-5-2 formation Liverpool are playing, the two central midfielders are key components. Liverpool legend John Barnes has spoken out about the central midfield problem and thinks that playing with two defensive midfielders in there would be a good solution. Speaking on 5times.co, Barnes said:
Tactically we have a few changes to make to make the 3-4-3 or 3-4-1-2 work for us, if you look at the top end of that with Suarez, Sturridge and Coutinho or Moses and the two wing-backs attacking too, do you really need any other attackers? If you play with another creative midfielder I think you leave yourself short. Steven Gerrard is still caught between what role he is there to perform and you can’t do both in modern football, certainly not at his age. Jordan doesn’t know that defensive role either, but I think that is what is needed. Two naturally defensive midfielders who say: ‘We are going to sit here and win tackles, we are not going to break forward.’
I totally agree with John Barnes! Having two players in there will make us more solid. With Coutinho being the attack-minded player in midfield we would still have an attacking threat from the middle. The problem then for Liverpool would be which two players play those defensive roles in midfield and control the engine room.
Lucas is the only out-and-out defensive midfielder we have and Liverpool would need to go into the market to bring another one in. The other option is to convert Steven Gerrard into a defensive midfielder which may work if he is given strict instructions that this is his new role now and he must just sit back, defend and dominate the midfield.
One player who would be perfect for Liverpool to bring in and fill this role is Xabi Alonso. The Spanish midfielder performed this role very well during his time at Liverpool and has continued to perfect it at Real Madrid. With rumours rife that he may be wanting to leave Madrid, Rodgers would do well to try convince him to return to Anfield.
Benfica’s Nemanja Matic is also being linked with a move to Liverpool. The 25-year old Serbian midfielder has been playing very well as a defensive midfielder and caught the eyes of many clubs across Europe. The only down side is that Benfica may want as much as £28million for his transfer; a few which may be out of Liverpool’s reach.
If Liverpool are not able to bring in a new player or two to fill these roles then looking internally is the only solution. As mentioned, Gerrard could do the job with Lucas as they currently are but Gerrard would now need to mould his game into that of a defensive midfielder. The other option may be to bring Joe Allen into the mix and also instruct him to just play deep. Allen played a few games in that role last season when Lucas was out injured so he would be no stranger to that position.