Football is a funny old business, you can be up one minute and down the next, it’s been quite a weekend for Liverpool, a brilliant 2-1 win against Everton on Friday night in the FA Cup where Van Dijk rose on his debut to head in the winner was spoilt on Saturday with the news that many fans were dreading, Coutinho’s move to Barcelona was finally happening, so I’ve decided to try and dissect the events of last weekend as well as offering my opinion on what could be a crucial next couple of weeks for the Reds.
Right, let’s get all the doom and gloom stuff out the way first. I don’t need to tell people how much of a loss Coutinho is going to be and how big of a hole he has left in this Liverpool team, the word irreplaceable comes to mind, well at least for a like for like replacement. I don’t think Liverpool can just go out and buy one player to replace the little magician, the reality is we are probably going to have to buy two players to do the job that Coutinho would do in the team. We need another left winger as well as someone who can play centre midfield as at times this season Coutinho has played that well he has done both. I’ve heard people say that this is a bit like when Suarez left in 2014 and while I agree with them, my fear is that this could be a very similar situation to what Liverpool found themselves in 2009 after Xabi Alonso left for Real Madrid. I’m not so worried about replacing the goals that Coutinho scores because I think we have other players within our team that can step up, what I am worried about is replacing his assists, like Alonso Coutinho had a knack for being able to unlock those tight defences, we have seen so many times this season teams coming to Anfield and just parking the bus, literally putting 10 or even 11 players behind the ball and showing no intent in going forward at all. These are the games where you need Coutinho, or a player like that, someone who is able to unpick the lock by threading the ball through the eye of a needle. Adam Lallana is the closest we have to a player like that and although I rate him his injury problems cannot be ignored, he is injury prone and the fact is he will probably pick up another one before this season is over, even if it is a minor one.
The rumour mill has gone crazy today and we have seen literally anyone being linked with a move to Anfield. The obvious name which really stand out are Thomas Lemar, Riyadh Mahrez and Alexis Sanchez. Before I started writing this I looked up what the latest news was however it seems nowadays football changes in a blink of an eye so apologies if the information I’m about to give you is out of date by the time you read this. The Lemar deal doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, at least not in January anyway. Monaco have remained firm in their position that the French forward will not be sold this winter, although it is rumoured that Lemar does want a move to Liverpool and with Monaco not being in the Champions League anymore Liverpool will be hoping that the player is able to force through a move. The Mahrez deal really excites you provided; A) it’s true and B) he’s not the only player we sign in January. I think Mahrez would fit the bill provided we got another centre midfielder, if we could somehow bring the Keita deal forward so we can get him this month rather than the summer I think between Mahrez and Keita it would be job done. Ideally I would love us to go in for Sanchez although I don’t see the Liverpool board wanting to do that after he rejected us in 2014, and with his heart set on a move to Manchester City I just don’t see this as a realistic option, although I would love to see Liverpool have a go.
Now I know all of the FSG haters out there have been waiting for Coutinho could leave in January just so they can jump on the band wagon and get their two pence in. Well I want to address one of the arguments they have, which is “you never sell your best players in January”. While this might have been the case in the past the Neymar deal in the summer change everything with regards to football transfers, I’m not just talking about the price of transfers but also the layout, those unwritten rules do not apply anymore and I think we are going to see more and more big transfers happening in January, it’s just unfortunate that Liverpool have been the wrong end of the first really big one, but what do you do? You can’t keep a player if he doesn’t want to be there. I think as long as Liverpool can get replacements in the door in the next three weeks I think all of us fans will be saying by the end of January Coutinho who?
Now that that’s out of the way let’s focus on some more positive stuff, especially Virgil van Dijk’s impressive debut against Everton on Friday night. I knew Van Dijk would be a good signing but I didn’t realize was how much of an impact he would have on that Liverpool defence straight away, the Dutchman looked like he had been playing for us for five years, he looked calm and cool and his organizational skills were exceptional. The way he was barking orders around really impressed me as he looked like a natural leader at the back. I noticed twice when a long ball was played over the top of our defence by Everton, Van Dijk literally screamed at Karius to come and get the ball, you could hear the shouts of “your ball!!” from the Dutchman on the TV, but it wasn’t just that that impressed me it was the way he was pointing at the ball to get his point across even more, it left Karius in no doubt that was his ball. Van Dijk commanded that defence, winning headers in both boxes and let’s face it has been a long time since we have been able to say that about a Liverpool defender. He had the presence of Sami Hyppia as well as the mouth of Jamie Carragher, and to combine the skills of two of the best Liverpool defenders in the modern era blew me away. Like I said I knew he was good but not that good, I mean that was only his first game, imagine what he will be like in a month? Of course the goal capped of what was a brilliant debut but it was his presence on the field that really impressed me. I have been saying for the last year Liverpool need a new captain, I think we have just found one in Van Dijk, personally if it was up to me I would wait to get Coutinho’s replacements in, let everything calm down and then go and give Van Dijk the armband because there is no doubt he is head and shoulders above what we have at the minute in terms of a captain.
So despite us losing Coutinho I still think that there are plenty of reasons to be positive, as long as Liverpool can get the right players in and get them in January I still think this could be a very successful season for us and with Van Dijk commanding the troops from the back I am still very excited about where this Liverpool team can go.
Article by Imraan Adam
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