Liverpool‘s sole summer signing thus far has come in the shape of former Sunderland midfielder Jordan Henderson.
Though by preference a central midfielder—where Liverpool are now well stocked—Henderson can also feature on the right-hand side of midfield, where his pinpoint crossing and willingness to work the flanks will be a big plus for the Reds, come the start of the new 2011-12 season.
But day after day the club is linked with more natural wide players, from out-and-out, old-style wingers to wide forwards and everything in between.
Here we take a look at six wide players who could be on the move from their respective clubs this summer and assess their relative strengths and weaknesses to give a better idea of whether they would be a good fit for Liverpool.
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The current Aston Villa winger Stewart Downing is an often-recurring name in the media rumour sections these days and has been frequently linked with a move to Liverpool, with Tottenham probably a close second in the list of possible destinations.
Let’s face it: He’s not the first choice of most fans to fill what has been for several years a problematic position on the left side of midfield.
However, it is also quite possible—perhaps even you could go as far as to say “likely”—that Downing will begin the new campaign a Liverpool player.
Terrific crosser of the ball.
Downing has a very good left foot on him, and the most clearly obvious thought about signing him for Liverpool would be the ammunition he can provide from the flanks for the likes of Andy Carroll.
Has good stamina and can also play on either flank, though on the right is limited to cutting inside as his right foot is far weaker.
Reliable player to call upon—started all 38 Premier League games in 2010-11 and improved his goal threat considerably, scoring seven goals and directly providing a further seven assists in the league.
Does not have the blistering pace that others on the list have in abundance.
Does take up good positions, but his lack of acceleration could be a problem in key moments.
His price tag as quoted in some media outlets is surely prohibitive. If Ashley Young—a more prolific, faster, and younger teammate—moves for £17 million, then it stands to reason that Downing should be considerably less.
He has rejected Villa’s overtures towards signing a new deal, which could help push through a move.
Not everybody’s cup of tea, but Downing is a consistent player and does provide good delivery.
A similar type of player to Albert Riera perhaps, though certainly more hardy and likely to prolong spells of good form than the Spaniard was.
Further down on the list in terms of ability than others—but more likely to sign for the Reds I’d argue.
I think Downing will end up a Liverpool player—hopefully for no more than around £12 million.
A bit of a surprise name perhaps, but David Hoilett’s performances last season marked him out as a real prospect to watch in the coming season.
At 23 he is not a youngster, but he did have something of a breakthrough season last year, especially in the second half of the campaign. As our own Jay Spearing has shown, it is never too late to stamp your authority on the first team.
Hoilett—sometimes known as “Junior”—is a tricky player who can play on either flank, and he found his goalscoring boots last term, netting five goals in 17 league starts.
He also made a further seven substitute appearances in the Premiership.
As is crucial for wide-attacking players, Hoilett does possess that burst of pace and the ability to get past his man with the ball at his feet. The second half of 2010-11 saw him reach levels of consistency in his performances not previously seen during his time at Blackburn Rovers, and he also began to show that he has an eye for a goal.
In addition Hoilett only has one year remaining on his contract, which could prove crucial in any transfer discussions.
Probably the lowest-priced player on the list on account of his only recently establishing himself as a Premier League player.
His experience—or lack of it—must count against him.
At this time Hoilett has played fewer than fifty top-flight league games in England, and at times his raw talent, not yet merged with the ability to make the right decisions consistently, can be frustrating to watch.
He has also not yet proven himself consistently over an entire season.
Tactically, he would have a lot to learn, switching from a hard-working and organised outfit—more or less—like Steve Kean’s Blackburn to an attack-minded and fluid system such as that Kenny Dalglish wants to implement at Liverpool.
An unlikely signing, probably—certainly there have been no reports of interest from the Reds’ camp, but still one worth watching out for.
Would represent more of a gamble than other signings—such as the more established Downing—but would also be far cheaper.
Charles N’Zogbia has been linked with a move to Liverpool for years, even dating back to his Newcastle United days.
N’Zogbia is a versatile performer who can play on either flank, as a second forward, or even at left back. His pace and trickery make him an unpredictable attacking force who defenders can struggle to deal with.
Along with Hugo Rodallega and Ali Al-Habsi, N’Zogbia was arguably the biggest reason why Wigan survived in the Premiership this season, with his ability to score and create goals at important moments a huge asset for the Latics.
Pace, close control, and a willingness to run at defenders.
Naturally left-footed, though more comfortable with his right than, for example, Downing.
A very good set-piece taker, and his versatility is another asset.
His shooting is good and he makes very good runs off the ball, especially in counter-attacking situations.
There is a school of thought which sees Charles N’Zogbia as a classic “big fish in a small pond” at Wigan.
In addition, dating back to his Newcastle days, he has garnered something of a reputation amongst coaches as being a bit of a prima donna, getting upset when things do not go his way within the team.
He also has a tendency to go missing during games sometimes—something which a regular performer in a title-chasing side (which Liverpool has aspirations of being) cannot afford.
In fairness, probably as good a value-for-money attacking signing as we are likely to see this summer.
Approximately £12 million should secure the transfer for a player who netted nine goals in 32 games and provided another five assists in the Premier League in 2010-11. Not bad for a winger in a team who only escaped relegation on the last day of the season.
N’Zogbia’s goal threat marks him out as a decent signing—but his attitude and inconsistency at times go against him somewhat.
Supposedly recently recommended to Kenny Dalglish by goalkeeper Pepe Reina, Cazorla is a Spanish international who was part of the Euro 2008 winning squad.
Capable of playing on either flank, Cazorla loves to drift inside and get involved in the build-up play, to which he contributes greatly with clever movement and fantastic passing ability.
At 26 years of age, he is coming into the prime of his career and after four seasons at Villarreal may be ready to move on and test himself at another club.
Not the type of winger who will hurtle up and down the touchline, Cazorla nonetheless does possess the ability to take men on out wide with close control and quick changes of pace and direction.
His crossing is good, but it is when coming to the edge of the penalty area from out wide that Santi does most of his damage.
Led the Villarreal assists chart this season with an impressive 10 in 34 league starts, his ability to find space and pick out a teammate with a quick, incisive pass is what makes him such a danger.
Also weighed in with five league goals.
Cazorla is as much about movement off the ball as he is with it.
Only the second right-footed player on this list, but more than competent with his left as well.
Quite literally, his weakness is his strength.
A slight build and only 1.65 m tall, Cazorla is wiry but can be bullied off the ball at times by imposing opposition—if they can get close to him, that is.
Has not always been as regular a goalscorer as he possibly should be and also suffered with injuries for a time, but played the majority of league games for his club last season so has hopefully put that behind himself now.
Obviously has never played in the Premier League before, which doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but is worth mentioning.
The “Reina recommendation” seems a tenuous link, and though I admire greatly Santi Cazorla, I find it difficult to imagine him coming to the Premier League at this stage.
Has always seemed a player who does well in his own league because that is the type of football he loves—would he have the same impact in the greater-paced hustle and bustle of the Premier League?
His compatriot David Silva has shown that it can be done, no problems, but as much as I’d like to see Cazorla play (and play well) for Liverpool, I can’t help but think this one is a no-goer.
After Carlos Tevez, Vincent Kompany, and Yaya Toure, Adam Johnson is probably the player at Manchester City I rate highest.
How he struggles at times to get into the City side baffles me—with such a direct and genuinely excellent player sitting on the bench, I cannot understand why Mancini persists with trying to fit extra central players into his team, often leaving the Citizens looking unbalanced.
As sweet a left foot as you could ask for and comfortable playing on either side of the pitch, Adam Johnson is the best winger England have at their disposal, and he would be a great signing for the Reds.
Though not as explosively quick as, for example, Hoilett or N’Zogbia, Johnson certainly has plenty of pace about him.
His close control and dribbling technique are first class, especially when opposition defences try to double up on him.
Cutting in from the right side on his favoured left foot is when Johnson is most dangerous as he can find the far corner or an oncoming player with great accuracy. He would almost be a mirror-image of Suarez coming in from the left flank on his right foot, as he does to such great effect.
Also a very good corner-kick taker.
His tracking back to help out in midfield and defence is not always as strong as it ought to be, and he can be a little repetitive in trying to beat his man instead of sometimes looking for a more simple pass to a teammate.
The biggest problem may be that he plays for Manchester City—are they going to sell him to a rival?
Price tag notwithstanding, Adam Johnson would be an exceptional capture for any club.
Surely most managers would have Johnson—as creative and game-changing as he can be—as one of the first names on the team sheet.
He made 31 league appearances in 2010-11, scoring four goals and providing five assists, but over half those appearances were as a substitute.
Would truly be an immense signing for the Reds, even at £20 million, but the biggest obstacle would be to persuade Manchester City to part with a player who would benefit one of their rivals considerably.
Juan Mata: a terrific player with a terrific mentality.
Perhaps slightly different from the other left-footed attackers on the list as he actually prefers to play on the left rather than on his opposite flank cutting in—though Mata is equally comfortable playing through the centre as a second striker, which in times to come may indeed be his most prolific and damage-inflicting position.
At 23 years of age Mata, combines youthful athletic ability with experience garnered through four full seasons as a regular first-team player, in addition to Champions League experience.
He is also a World Cup winner with Spain and has four international goals in just 11 appearances.
A more naturally offensive player than most others on the list, Mata is almost the archetypal left-forward in a 4:3:3 system.
He combines goal scoring with creating to great effect, and following on from nine and 11 league goals in the two previous seasons, he netted another eight in 2010-11.
He also claimed 12 assists in 33 games.
Can play all the way across the front line in various formations, and his dribbling ability and willingness to shoot make him such a dangerous opponent.
Perhaps a little more one-footed than a player of his calibre should be, though Mata’s almost exclusive use of his left foot shows just how good it is.
Is certainly the highest-priced player on the list, and Valencia are sure to have no shortage of takers if they do make him available.
For such an outlay, the Reds would require an immediate return, and though Mata has the talent to make himself a stand-out player in any team, he is usually keen to occupy the same sort of areas in the attacking third as Luis Suarez did in the second half of last season.
Having said that, I’m sure Dalglish would find a way of making them work well together!
Another one who would be a truly inspirational signing were Liverpool to clinch this deal.
The rumoured interest has been there for some time, and after offloading David Silva and David Villa last summer, Valencia may be under pressure to do a similarly large deal with Mata this year—though as mentioned, competition for his signature would no doubt be fierce.
Mata is a player who can win matches on his own, and though the fee would be huge, he would surely pay it off in no time.
Liverpool‘s sole summer signing thus far has come in the shape of former Sunderland midfielder Jordan Henderson.