Dalglish finding the balance between congestion and versatility in Liverpool’s midfield

With some haste, a majority of Liverpool supporters will tell you what their side require this transfer window: a centre-back, a left-back, a striker and some natural width. Far from that list would be another central midfielder.

Few loyal to the Merseysiders would dare question Kenny Dalglish but it would be fair to say there have been slight whimpers of uncertainty following the Jordan Henderson signing. Questions are being posed as to why he is continues to bolster the already over-populated central midfield area, when there are other departments in need of investment. However, Dalglish represents a figure of trust for those faithful to the club, and perhaps it is he being held in such high-esteem, which grants the Scot unquestioned licence in the market.

There is an abundance of central midfielders competing for places at Anfield. Steven Gerrard, Raul Meireles, Jordan Henderson, Lucas Leiva, Jonjo Shelvey, Jay Spearing, Christian Poulsen, Joe Cole and even forgotten man Alberto Aquilani will grapple for games – although the futures of that final three are unclear. No secret has been made of an underlying British foundation being laid at Liverpool, but there is also an emphasis being placed on adaptability and rotation. These players surely offer scope for a 4-4-2, a 4-4-1-1, a 4-3-3 with three central playmakers or even a 4-5-1 away from home, to stifle an opposition’s creative midfield.

Henderson is a young, hungry and talented English footballer, some say over-priced, but a separate valuation policy has developed for home grown Premier League players. He is considered a central midfielder because Steve Bruce used him to plug an injury enforced gap at Sunderland, but many would argue he is naturally more right-sided. Although not an outright winger, his passing range and crossing ability will offer his new side something fresh. He is not the finished article, and although his price tag may suggest otherwise, don’t be surprised if Dalglish primarily nurtures him into the first-team.

To succeed in modern football a manager needs varying tactics and formations at his disposal, and to lack a plan B, or indeed a plan C, is a fundamental flaw. The flexibility of Dalglish’s side in the second half of last season was evident, and his transfer strategy apparently looks to compliment this. The evidence implies then that Dalglish is building an interchangeable midfield. Most will agree that Gerrard defines flexibility and Meireles showed last season, although not as effective, if needed he could play on the right. Some suggest if the perennially linked Charlie Adam also arrives, then the Portuguese should make way, but surely such a move negates the notion of strength in depth.

On the surface it may look like an over-congested area of the squad, but look no further than Manchester United’s failure – and equally Barcelona’s success – in the recent Champions League final, to demonstrate the importance of a vibrant midfield. There are few better weapons as a manager than having versatility at your disposal.

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