Top ten transfer panics that could be caused by slow starts, featuring that Liverpool midfield

Date published: Tuesday 23rd August 2022 7:12 - Matthew Stead

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson and James Milner

The Premier League season is three games old and the transfer window remains open for another week. Liverpool are among those who may panic.


10) Southampton (striker)
As unexpected as the comeback was, perhaps the most surprising element of Southampton’s win over Leicester was the method by which it was secured.

Not since those heady days of February had a Saints striker scored in the Premier League. During that unbeaten month, Armando Broja, Shane Long and Che Adams netted in wins over Tottenham, Everton and Norwich respectively, while it was Adams again who equalised in a draw with Manchester United.

Ralph Hasenhuttl might be persuaded to keep the 26-year-old based on his King Power heroics but whether Adams stays or leaves for Premier League pastures new, Southampton are short up front.

Their other options are entirely limited to the bright but goalless Sekou Mara and Adam Armstrong, who has two goals in 31 games since joining for £15m. Great as it would be to see Theo Walcott used as a centre-forward in this, the year of our Lord 2022, it’s perhaps best to look a little further afield.


9) Bournemouth (centre-half)
With the best defensive record and most clean sheets in last season’s Championship, Bournemouth might ordinarily have felt they could focus their attentions elsewhere in terms of summer improvement. But Scott Parker declared his backline to be “ultra-light” in late July for a reason.

The Cherries reluctantly returned loanee Nat Phillips to Liverpool soon after promotion, while the decision not to test the 36-year-old legs of Gary Cahill with a 17th season of Premier League football was mutual. That pair played 17 and 22 games respectively – especially during a miserly run-in – but have been replaced only by Marcos Senesi.

The £13m centre-half debuted with a late cameo in the 4-0 defeat to Manchester City and made his first start against Arsenal, only to be substituted at half-time with Gabriel Jesus-related motion sickness. Jefferson Lerma ended up filling in but he is two things: an avid collector of yellow cards and specifically not a Premier League defender.


8) Chelsea (striker)
Quite how a new centre-forward would have helped Edouard Mendy remember how to use his legs or helped the rest of the Chelsea squad overcome the harrowing experience of their coaching team having to travel by Stagecoach is anyone’s guess. But Thomas Tuchel has examined the players available to him and decided that Romelu Lukaku’s shape was the problem, rather than the size or dimensions of the perceived hole he was designed to fill.

Raheem Sterling was the central striker in a three against Everton, when Chelsea had 15 shots but scored only from a Jorginho penalty. Kai Havertz partnered the former Manchester City forward against Tottenham, when Chelsea had 16 shots but scored only from two defenders. The same system was deployed against Leeds, when Chelsea had 14 shots but required something even stronger by full-time.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a 33-year-old who ended his previous Premier League spell with no goals in six games and an enhanced reputation for causing problems rather than solving them, might not be the solution. But Tuchel remains insistent on pursuing the Gabon international and Wesley Fofana, who will be tasked with aiding their similarly troublesome central defence.


7) Wolves (striker)
It was late last week when Bruno Lage declared Wolves to be “still looking for a striker”. Their wasteful defeat to Tottenham a few days later, in which they forced three saves from Hugo Lloris out of 20 shots shared between 10 players, predominantly new signings Goncalo Guedes (five) and Matheus Nunes (four), will have done little to persuade the manager to abandon that search.

Hwang Hee-chan is, in generous terms, limited. Former record signing Fabio Silva was shipped off to Anderlecht for the season. Guedes and Daniel Podence is no strike partnership. Raul Jimenez missed the start of the campaign through injury but a record of six goals in his last 38 Premier League games hardly engenders confidence that the attack is about to be unlocked.

Goncalo Ramos, Andrea Belotti and Sasa Kalajdzic have all been mentioned recently, but then so has Pedro Neto in regards to Arsenal.


6) Aston Villa (centre-half)
Steven Gerrard sought to make a clear and concise statement but it was soon undermined by an unavoidable addendum. For the first game of the season he paired new signing Diego Carlos, proudly snatched from under the noses of Champions League clubs, with Ezri Konsa; Aston Villa subsequently lost 2-0 to Bournemouth. Much to the presumed chagrin of Graeme Souness, Tyrone Mings was then restored to the starting line-up in place of Konsa for the 2-1 win over Everton. But a long-term injury to Carlos brought Villa back to square one with Mings and Konsa, who were painfully exposed by Crystal Palace.

Gerrard was determined to break up a partnership which has long looked rudimentary but that bold move has been reversed through necessity after less than a month. Calum Chambers offers an alternative option which the manager has not been titillated by and Watford have been allowed to borrow Kortney Hause even amid the chaos and upheaval.

When Jan Bednarek is the most likely answer, the question hardly bears contemplating for too long.


5) West Ham (centre-half)
Even if one has to slide down the pyramid to Halifax Town, bottom of the National League, for the next team in English football yet to score a goal this season, few would argue that West Ham’s need for firepower is greater than their demand for defensive reinforcement. Gianluca Scamacca and Maxwel Cornet are waiting patiently for their opportunities to inspire attacking improvement. Thilo Kehrer’s first attempt at shoring up the backline did not go so well.

The injury to £30m summer signing Nayef Aguerd has left West Ham’s plans in flux all summer. Kurt Zouma has not been able to achieve full fitness for months, Craig Dawson is currently sidelined, Ben Johnson is demonstrably not a centre-half and the results are inconclusive at best for Angelo Ogbonna.

Jakub Kiwior of Spezia and Fenerbahce’s Attila Szalai are being discussed internally. David Moyes has spoken publicly and frequently on the need to freshen up his squad, while simultaneously making little use of the new players he has been given. A transfer deadline day move for Joseph Yobo seems likely at this stage.


4) Manchester United (winger)
The tide seemed to turn against Liverpool on Monday night
but neither Erik ten Hag nor the Manchester United support will allow themselves to be swept too far away. Casemiro cannot be the last new face through the door.

His arrival from Real Madrid does finally tick a central midfield box which was left unmarked for years. With Lisandro Martinez joining to prove whether size really does matter in Our League, attention will turn to an attack which ripped through Liverpool as the exception to a rule of profligacy and uninventiveness.

The return of Anthony Martial will help but between the Frenchman, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, there is an abundance of talent with scant consistency to tie it together. Cristiano Ronaldo currently exists with a question mark above his head and Anthony Elanga will have a part to play in the supporting cast rather than a leading role. The attacking equation needs another variable.


3) Everton (striker)
“I know everybody’s eyes are on that position and I’ve been pretty honest that we’re looking there but the idea that it’s desperation is not there,” Frank Lampard said last week on Everton’s pursuit of a striker.

The Toffees manager is wise to keep his cards close to his chest and not weaken the club’s potential bargaining position. With cash hardly flowing at Goodison Park there is an importance in separating hope from reality; Everton won’t be signing a striker for tens of millions.

An optimist would argue they don’t even need to, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin nearing a return and Salomon Rondon content to run the channels and hold up the ball until then. But the former has to prove he can be relied upon to carry the attacking burden without breaking down, while the latter is an inadequate alternative for any longer than a couple of weeks.

Everton have scored only from an own goal and a Jordan Pickford long pass which sent Demarai Gray through against Nottingham Forest, both of which came in the 87th minute or later. It isn’t a sustainable blueprint for survival with Richarlison gone.


2) Liverpool (midfield)
‘Liverpool FINISH their incoming transfer business, ELEVEN WEEKS before the deadline,’ screeched one headline, but Jurgen Klopp doth protest too much. Back in July, the Liverpool manager was belligerent when it came to their supposed need for midfield reinvention.

“I don’t think something will happen in midfield. If the situation stays like it is, then tell me why would we?” he asked. “We can go through it. Where do you want to start?

“So, Fabinho, Thiago, Henderson, Milner, Keita, Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott, Fabio Carvalho, Oxlade-Chamberlain. Now you tell me what kind of player are we missing?”

We’ll leave that question to fester in the light of defeat to Manchester United. But those Liverpool midfielders, in order: excellent but increasingly exposed, knackered, old, older, wants to leave, barely plays, teenager, teenager, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Put it that way and it’s more difficult to figure out what kind of player Liverpool aren’t missing in midfield.


1) Leicester (anyone)
The only player Leicester have signed this summer is back-up goalkeeper Alex Smithies from Cardiff. Their four first-team additions last campaign – Patson Daka, Boubakary Soumare, Ryan Bertrand and Jannik Vestergaard – have started 35 Premier League games between them for the Foxes and their combined contribution to this disastrous start is 69 not so nice minutes from Daka.

One has to go back to October 2020 for the last window in which Brendan Rodgers was able to properly enrich his starting line-up. That the signing in question was Fofana, a defender consigned to the stands to watch a defensive capitulation against a team Leicester beat 4-1 three months ago, doesn’t half sum up the King Power predicament.

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