After opening the season with a stunning 4-3 victory over Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, Liverpool suffered a big reality check on Saturday after falling to a disappointing 2-0 defeat to newly promoted Burnley at Turf Moor.
The attacking talent which had excelled in North London struggled to break down the organised defence of the Clarets, but the Reds also struggled defensively, giving the ball away at the back and, crucially, lacking a real link between the back four and the incredibly top-heavy midfield.
It is no surprise then that the Anfield club have been linked with defensive rather than offensive talent in the media following their defeat to Burnley, but one particular name being banded around in the Spanish media is a shock, and will have Arsenal fans concerned that they may miss out on yet another target.
Spanish news outlet Eldesmarque have claimed that Liverpool are in fairly advanced negotiations to beat Arsenal to the signing of £25 million rated defender Shkodran Mustafi. Talks reportedly began when Valencia began to enquire about the possibility of taking Liverpool’s Luis Alberto to the Mestalla, but the deals are said to be completely independent of one another.
Still, the talk of a move for the versatile German are very exciting for Liverpool fans. Arsenal had identified Mustafi as a man who could slot in alongside Laurent Koscielny and stop the side from getting bullied at the back, especially during their current injury crisis. Losing out to the Reds would be a crushing blow for Arsene Wenger.
Mustafi could bring a lot to Liverpool as well as Arsenal. He is a confident defender on the ball, something that was greatly lacking from Ragnar Klavan and Dejan Lovren’s disappointing performances at Turf Moor, as well as having the ability to slot in at full back, potentially helping to solve the problems with Alberto Moreno. However, the German would more likely slot in at right-back with Nathaniel Clyne moving across to the left if that were the case.
Talk of the move has yet to gather much momentum in the English press, but talk of a move for Mustafi shows very strong ambition from the Reds, and if it goes through, would represent another excellent signing by Jurgen Klopp.
Liverpool struggled on the ball at the back against Burnley, but another key factor in their loss was the lack of a good link between midfield and defence, both to provide a transition in possession from back to front and in stopping counter attacks. It is therefore no surprise that, in addition to Mustafi, the Reds have once again been linked to Roma’s defensive midfielder Leandro Paredes.
The combative Argentine, who spent last season on loan at Empoli, is valued at around £18 million by his club, but is still seen as a very promising talent at just 23 years old. With other big clubs interested, Liverpool face a real battle to get this transfer through.
However, it could be a battle worth fighting. Although not really established as a world class talent yet, Paredes is the kind of midfielder who doesn’t mind making a tackle, or even a foul, in order to arrest the momentum of counter attacks from opposition teams.
This is an area where Liverpool are desperately lacking in their squad. Jordan Henderson is too forward thinking and not cynical enough to perform this role. Emre Can still has work to do going backwards. Paredes will scrap for the side, adding crucial bite to their midfield. It could be a very wise move for the Reds.
But after an expensive summer, do Liverpool really have the money to splash up to £45 million on two more players? Well, they probably do, especially after the sale of Christian Benteke to Crystal Palace, but their coffers could be about to expand further with reports of a potential Chinese takeover.
Government-backed group Everbright are interested in acquiring a substantial share in the club, for the exchange of a cool £700 million. Fenway Sports Group have insisted they have no ambition to relinquish any control, but it is a story that is worth keeping an eye on in the future.
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