Liverpool produced a display worthy of three points against Manchester City at the weekend, but once again, errors proved costly and the Reds were unable to record a win. They have now taken a point at home and away against City and have done the same to Chelsea at Anfield and Stamford Bridge, but have been unable to take the full spoils against the top teams in the Premier League this season. Brendan Rodgers admits Liverpool lack “two or three players that can really help the group” to chalk up wins in the toughest matches, so who are they? talkSPORT look at the three areas the Reds need to strengthen in the summer, and who they should aim for to fill those roles.
Pepe Reina's mistake that led to City's equaliser in the 2-2 draw at the Etihad was a moment of madness that could happen to any goalkeeper. The problem for Reina, however, is that these errors have occured more frequently, with Opta claiming his individual mistakes have led to eight opposition goals in the last two seasons. If Liverpool really aspire to compete with the top sides again, they need a 'keeper capable of producing his best in key games, rather than one who is prone to concede when Liverpool are dominating. Reina may be suffering from complacency at the moment and could prosper from competition for places.
One man whose performance this weekend was in stark contrast to Reina's is Barcelona goalie Victor Valdes. The Catalan produced a stunning double save at the end of Barca's away trip to Valencia, preventing the home side from taking three points from the game. Valdes has proven the difference for Barcelona in key contests in the past, producing ice cool stops to deny the likes of Didier Drogba and Cristiano Ronaldo, and he could be available for the right price in the summer, with his contract due to expire in 2014. His Barcelona schooling means he would fit the requirements Brendan Rodgers expects from his keepers in terms of their ability with the ball at their feet, while his handling is better than the man he drove out of the Nou Camp, Pepe Reina. Could history repeat itself for the current Liverpool no.1?
Position: Central defender
A dip in form has left Martin Skrtel's place in the Reds starting line-up in doubt, with Jamier Carragher starting Liverpool's last three Premier League games. Carragher can't go on forever and shouldn't be relied upon as a permanent solution at the back, so signing a quality centre-back will ensure Liverpool have competition for places in the heart of their defence, as well as extra options should any injuries occur. If they really want to compete for a top four place, a top class defence is essential.
The kind of football Liverpool are hoping to build their success upon in the coming seasons requires central defenders who are both capable of suppressing the opposition as well as playing a proactive role in building attacks. In that regard, Ajax defender Toby Alderweireld is begging to be signed. The Dutch club's vice-captain is excellent on the ball, well suited to the physicality of the Premier League and a threat from set-pieces. He can also fill in at full-back, so would give Liverpool plenty of options across their back four. Bayern Munich scouted him during Ajax's 3-0 win over Venlo at the weekend, affirming his quality, and he looks likely to move on from the Netherlands in the near future. Liverpool could do well to emulate Arsenal and Tottenham, who have both had success in signing defenders Thomas Vermaelen and Jan Vertonghen from Ajax in the past.
Position: Central midfielder
While Jordan Henderson's form has turned for the better in recent weeks and Steven Gerrard capped off an excellent display against Manchester City with a fine goal, Liverpool still need more depth in the centre of midfield. Joe Allen is suited more to a deeper role as an alternative to Lucas Leiva and certainly isn't the playmaker to make the Reds tick, so bringing in someone capable of picking a pass and driving Liverpool forward is key to their future success. Gerrard will be 33 by the start of next season and the need for an additional, highly talented midfielder will only grow as the year progresses.
Liverpool would love to have Xabi Alonso back, and though that's not likely to happen, the next best thing may be Real Betis midfielder Beñat Etxebarria. The Athletic Bilbao youth product has an excellent range of passing, the type of accuracy Liverpool have missed since Alonso's transfer to Real Madrid in 2009. Beñat also has an eye for goal, both in open play and from free-kicks, he gets forward, so adds another cutting edge to his ability to run a game. His form has taken a dip in recent weeks due to his disappointment that a move from Betis failed to materialise in January, but that shouldn't fool Liverpool supporters as he's a player who would be an asset to their side.
Could Valdes, Beñat and Alderweireld be the three players to help Liverpool push on and bring back the glory days? Let us know below...