Liverpool's Relegated Player Transfer Roulette

Liverpool's Relegated Player Transfer Roulette

Liverpool have already felt the brunt of the financial pinch caused by the ongoing pandemic.

Long linked with Timo Werner, the Reds — who were either unwilling or unable to match the financial package on offer in West London — were beaten to the signing of the German international by Chelsea.

The prevailing sense, as suggested by all of the journalists close to the club, is that reigning European, World, and English champions will be relatively quiet in the upcoming transfer market. As a club, unlike Chelsea — who are ostensibly a plaything for their billionaire oligarch owner, Roman Abramovich — Liverpool are self-sustaining and only spend money they can earn themselves, be that through commercial income, match-day revenue or the money generated by player sales.

All these streams of income, however, have been impacted by COVID-19 in various scales of severity and the Reds will have to cut their transfer cloth accordingly this summer, if they are to be active in the market and increase on the minimal amount they spent last summer where Adrian — free — Sepp Van Der Berg and Harvey Elliott — both small prices — were the only additions made to the squad.

Known for their long-term planning and almost religious adherence to a transfer structure — Liverpool plan two transfer windows in advance and will wait, as in the case of Virgil van Dijk’s transfer from Southampton, for the right signing to become available rather than deviate from their plan — the Reds have shown in the past that they can and will opportunistically pluck players from relegated sides in order to flesh out the squad or to take advantage of a decreased market value.

Georginio Wijnaldum, although for a pricey £35,000,000, arrived at Anfield from relegated Newcastle United in the summer of 2016 and the Dutchman set a precedent that was followed in the next two summers. In 2017, Andy Robertson joined the Reds from the demoted Hull City for a fee of £8,000,000 and, in the summer of 2018, Xherdan Shaqiri committed to Liverpool after his £13,500,000 relegation clause at Stoke City was triggered.

With their financial muscle lessened, this is a route Liverpool could take again this summer and, with five teams still in the relegation mire, have plenty of quality options to chose from. From each club, we will assess players if potential interest to the Reds and their potential suitability to the Anfield side.

Going in descending order, we will next look at West Ham, after we first looked at Watford, who — at the time of writing — find themselves in 17th place.

The Hammers, under the tutelage of David Moyes, find themselves level on points with relegation placed Aston Villa and Bournemouth. The London teams form has been miserable, losing four of their last five — including a 3-2 reversal at Anfield — games and, with 54 goals conceded this season, find themselves with the fourth-worst defence in the league. In terms of attacking, the London Stadium team have struggled, too, only notching 35 all season.

Despite their struggles — only winning seven out of 32 league games to date and posting a miserable goal differential of minus 19 — West Ham have players who could be of interest to Liverpool.

Issa Diop: Linked with some European and English heavy hitters, it came as a surprise when West Ham paid £22,000,000 to sign the towering French centre half from Toulouse in the summer of 2018. Diop marked his debut in ignominious fashion, becoming the only Hammers player to score an own goal on debut in a defeat away at Arsenal.

The French under 21 international’s season fared better from that opening low point — Diop was publicly praised by Jose Mourinho after his Manchester United side were defeated 3-1, with the 23-year-old starring — and eventually West Ham — with the young centre half prominent — finished tenth.

Physically, standing 6’3″ and with a turn of pace that belies his hulking frame, Diop is imposing, but his intelligent reading of the game means he doesn’t rely on his bulk to bail him out after making poor decisions. One area the Frenchman of Senegalese heritage could improve upon if his passing, but, at 23, he is young enough to improve upon that. Also, given the rudimentary nature of West Ham’s game being good on the ball isn’t a trait that is necessarily required or encouraged.

With Dejan Lovren continuously being linked with an exit from the club, Diop — who has two seasons of Premier League experience under his belt — could be a candidate for the backup centre half slot on Merseyside

Felipe Anderson: After being heavily linked to Manchester United for a couple of seasons, West Ham shattered their transfer record to prize winger Felipe Anderson from Lazio for £36,000,000 in the summer 0f 2018. As a Brazilian international — although with only two caps — it was considered a major coup for the Hammers to sign a player of Anderson’s qualities.

The 27 year old’s first season in England was bountiful, netting nine times and laying on four assists in the league, despite playing for a team with the tenth highest number of goals (52).

A pacy, proficient dribbler with an eye for a pass — registering 1 key pass per game, in a team bereft of attacking movement and quality —  Anderson is typically Brazilian in his on the ball capabilities but what could entice Liverpool to make a move for him is his defensive contribution. The former Lazio winger averages 1.9 tackles per game and .9 interceptions this season and is noted for his keenness to assist his full-backs and trackback.

When Liverpool are without Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mane, there is a notable lack of incision and pace among the supporting cast on the bench, with Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri — although the Swiss international can point to frequent injuries and not a lack of quality as the determining factor of his inability to push Mane or Salah for a starting berth — both failing to impress consistently enough when given opportunities.

Anderson, should the Hammers end up relegated, could give the Reds an attacking thrust and tactical suitability — the Brazilian’s hunger for defensive work and tactical comprehension would make him ideal for gegenpressing — off their bench that could equip them to retain their Premier League crown and go further in Europe.

Declan Rice: Long linked with Manchester United, the former Republic of Ireland — and now England — international has been one of the few bright sparks in a wretched season for the Hammers. Playing in all 31 of the Irons’ fixtures to date, Rice — who can play in all three of central midfield, centre half and in the defensive midfield role — averages 3 tackles and 2.1 interceptions per game, as well as completing 1.4 clearances.

Offering such versatility, the seven-times capped England international could be an enticing potential signing for Liverpool. With a midfield whose players — Jordan Henderson, 30, & Georginio Wijnaldum, 29, are ageing, Rice could provide the Reds with an option for both the current times and looking forward to the future.

An offensively unambitious team, West Ham utilise the long ball quite often and the academy graduate averages 3.1 long balls per game and completes 85% of his passes, which is impressive given the fact he has played mostly in midfield — with 15 appearances in both the central and defensive midfield slots.

With Trent Alexander Arnold and Andrew Robertson known for their attacking qualities and their propensity to bomb forward, the Reds’ midfielders — in particular the aforementioned Henderson and Wijnaldum — are expected to provide defensive coverage and spatial awareness to retain the team’s solidity. For this role, Rice — whose footballing education has come in defensive positions — could be an ideal candidate, one whose homegrown status and possible price reduction would only sweeten the deal.