Grading Liverpool’s Summer Signings – Who’s Passed The Test?
So, we’re a quarter of the way through the season, early season blues or lack of match sharpness are no longer an excuse, and we can start to really evaluate what we’ve seen so far. To that end, here’s my verdict on Liverpool’s new signings. I’m not including Suarez or Carroll in this for obvious reasons, nor Coates or Bellamy due to a lack of game time.
This was the player I was most excited about from Kenny Dalglish’s summer acquisitions. Adam was impressive last season for a Blackpool side that were lost without him, and for me he was a breath of fresh air in his willingness to try new things without fear – yes most of them might not come off, but you only need one or two to work per game to have a real match-changing player in your ranks. However, after starting every league game so far, I can’t honestly say I’ve seen much of that experimental, risk-taking attitude from him.
He has attempted a couple of things, but has been far more concerned about being neat and tidy in central midfield, which is surely not enough to warrant freezing out and selling Raul Mereiles. Some glimpses of his quality have been seen and he certainly hasn’t played badly, but we need more than just another player who doesn’t play badly; we need someone who is going to affect the game like only Stevie Gerrard has in the past and Suarez seems capable of now. I’d rather he went for 10 outrageous things per game, and two or three came off, than that he went for one or none at all. On the whole however, he’s in a Liverpool side playing decent football, and he’s played every game so he must be doing something right.
Grade – B
I must confess I never liked Downing much at Middlesbrough or Villa, he always seemed very limited for a winger, making few attempts to beat his man and with a final ball that was average at best. As he has grown more experienced that final ball has improved, but I reiterate that I was not convinced by him as a solution to our left wing woes. And overall, I stand by that opinion. He did OK in the first couple of games (his fantastic effort against Sunderland springs to mind), but for me if you took Downing out of the team, you wouldn’t miss him. And that’s not what you want from the only out-and-out winger in the squad. Again, I wouldn’t say he has played badly, but he hasn’t added much to the side, and certainly hasn’t offered more than Maxi would, or especially Bellamy. Downing has always seemed to be a player people say needs to be given time, or make excuses for; “he’s young, he’ll be a great player in a couple of years.” Well, he’s not young any more, and that time is now.
Grade – C
Last season, I watched quite a bit of Sunderland, and thought Henderson was ineffective almost every time I saw him play. Therefore it came as quite a shock to me when I heard we’d signed him in the summer for a substantial sum. I assumed I must have missed something, that Henderson actually contributed far more to those games than I thought. Speaking to a couple of Sunderland fans on holiday who said they were glad to be shot of him didn’t do much to help that fragile confidence however. And I must say that so far I’ve been disappointed: one very well taken goal aside, Henderson has contributed nothing to Liverpool this season, and has actually been more of a hindrance than a help.
Dirk Kuyt must be wondering what he has done to offend Kenny, with his starting place given to a youngster who has looked frankly lost in a lot of the games he’s featured in. However, is that really his fault? Henderson is being played on the right of midfield, and he is not a wide midfield player. He is a central midfielder, and on the one occasion to my memory he has been played there he played substantially better. He was neat and tidy in possession and won the ball back more than once – in general, he just seemed more at home. It is hard enough coming to a club with the tradition and expectations of Liverpool; it is even harder when you’re stuck out on the wing instead of in your preferred central position. Therefore, whilst Henderson undoubtedly must do better, it is worth remembering that even great players like Paul Scholes or Xavi wouldn’t do so well if you stuck them out on the wing either.
Verdict – C+
Now this is one signing I have been pleased with. You might remember Enrique in Newcastle’s relegation season a couple of years back: he looked awkward, lightweight and generally poor. Fast forward to last season, and Enrique had toughened up and wised up, having an excellent season for The Magpies back in The Premier League. With the injury prone Fabio Aurelio our only real Left Back, we needed someone to count on in that position week in, week out. And in Jose Enrique, I think we’ve found him.
Enrique is an excellent defender, indeed I’m struggling to think of a time this season he has been beaten in a one-on-one duel. He is also good going forward and may yet forge a good partnership with Stewart Downing (if Downing pulls his socks up). The only criticism I could make is that he dallies too long on the ball sometimes and gets into awkward positions instead of simply clearing his lines. But all in all he is extremely solid and reliable, and his signing has to go down as a very good and astute piece of business by Kenny Dalglish. Best signing of the summer by Liverpool, and surely one of the best new signings in The Premier League.
Verdict – A
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