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13 days remaining: Assessing Liverpool’s upcoming transfer activity…

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Compared to the early periods of the transfer window, the past month has been dominated by news and rumours about the confirmed and impending departures of certain Liverpool players. With the dust settling on the arrival of big money signing Christian Benteke, attentions turn to manager Brendan Rodgers’ efforts at balancing his squad by offloading some of the deadwood.

Out In The Cold

The equivalent of Anfield’s Siberia, the unwanted trio of left-back Jose Enrique, forwards Mario Balotelli and Fabio Borini will be offloaded as soon as possible. It says much of Enrique’s decline, from former manager Kenny Dalglish’s great hope at left-back to one that can’t even get ahead of his younger compatriot – who himself is kept out by an even younger and inexperienced English centre-back deployed at left-back.

Most Liverpool fans would think Enrique would at least be good enough to be Rodgers’ back-up left-back, but such is Rodgers’ lack of faith in Enrique, the former Newcastle United left-back would do well to move on in search of first-team football, especially at the prime of his career.

For the two unwanted Italian forwards, however, the situation is different and much clearer. With four strikers already ahead of them in the pecking order, there seems to be no place for Balotelli, much less Borini. The likelihood is that Borini will depart on load, perhaps to Sunderland again, but for Balotelli, it seems there isn’t many clubs willing to take a punt on a temperamental yet talented forward. Perhaps Italian clubs Lazio or Internazionale might consider.

Potential Departures

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Closer to the exit door than to Liverpool’s bench is Brazilian Lucas Leiva. Many have cited that Lucas is the most natural defensive midfielder in a squad lacking in this area, with the likes of Emre Can and Jordan Henderson likely to only be reluctant emergency midfield enforcers. Lucas is still a valuable part of the squad – yes, squad, not first-team – as he can provide defensive solidarity in midfield when called upon against the top four or at tough away grounds.

Lucas’s experience will also be vital in a young and slightly inexperienced team. Only long-serving centre-back Martin Skrtel, veteran defender Kolo Toure, and new signing and vice-captain James Milner are older than the Brazilian. His dressing room influence is not to be underestimated as well, and Rodgers would do well to placate and try to keep him at the club.

Another that might leave is Mamadou Sakho, with reports of Roma’s loan bid turned down likely to relieve most Reds fans. Sakho seems to be a superior fit to Dejan Lovren, just as how Lucas should be regarded higher than Joe Allen. However with Rodgers being manager, he will likely back his preferred players.

Most fans will hope Lovren and Allen will prove themselves, and at the moment, Sakho will only have to bide his time and wait for his opportunity – which should not be too far away, with Lovren only a mistake away from a massive plunge in confidence. The former Paris St. Germain skipper is certainly a solid option to have in the squad, and like Lucas, Rodgers will be foolish to let Sakho go.

Unlikely Exit

Finally, left-back Moreno’s exclusion from the first eleven, behind a youthful Joe Gomez, seems to mark the Spaniard for an early Anfield exit. However, Moreno will almost certainly get his chance sooner or later. Home games will be a good platform to play Moreno, as his attacking verve and natural width will be useful to break down teams which decide to sit back at Anfield.

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The young Spaniard has only just settled into life in England, and though he will be expected to show great improvement this term, Moreno should be seen as a long-term option at left-back. Rodgers will need to nurture him like how he did for the likes of Jordan Henderson and Skrtel, as Moreno will only be able to showcase his ability with the necessary confidence from his manager and in himself.

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Chelsea

Willian could hold key to Tottenham landing Anthony Martial

If Manchester United land the Brazilian it would undoubtedly improve Tottenham’s chances.

Jamie Watts

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Manchester United are reportedly preparing a £60 million bid to bring Chelsea winger Willian to Old Trafford this summer, according to reports from the Daily Mail, with manager Jose Mourinho having been linked with an approach for his former star for some time.

Chelsea were unwilling to sell at that time, but it is possible that Willian could be interested in a new challenge after apparently growing frustrated with life at Stamford Bridge, according to recent reports from Sky Sports. He managed a combined 25 goals and assists in 55 appearances in 2017/18, but only 20 of his 37 Premier League outings actually came as a starter.

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Tottenham meanwhile, have become frustrated at United’s assertion that Anthony Martial will not be sold this summer (Sky Sports), after Mauricio Pochettino made the Frenchman his priority target last month (the Sun), as he looks to bolster the supply line to Harry Kane next term.

However, Martial’s revelation that he wants to leave the club could be vital for Spurs, as Mourinho has previously stated that he would never stop a player from moving if they really want the move and the money is right. And he’s backed up his words, selling two-time Chelsea Player of the Year Juan Mata to his current club in 2014.

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The Red Devils are currently stacked in terms of depth for the left wing, with Marcus Rashford struggling to start games over January signing Alexis Sanchez, but wide-right is somewhat scarce and Willian would undoubtedly improve United’s balance for the better.

Although the manager would prefer the Frenchman went abroad, if he asked for the move to north London, Willian’s transfer to United would undoubtedly improve Pochettino’s chances of securing his key man. United will also be buoyed by their recent business with the west Londoners, having surprisingly secured the signing of Nemanja Matic from Stamford Bridge last summer.

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Everton

Gylfi Sigurdsson shows why Everton splashed £45m on his services

Everton fans will hope they see Sigurdsson in fine form next season.

Mathew Nash

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Iceland pulled off another shock at a major tournament, as they managed to hold out for a draw against Argentina. Alfred Finnbogason scored the equaliser after Sergio Aguero had given the Albiceleste the lead. Lionel Messi then saw a penalty saved as Iceland fully deserved a share of the spoils.

One man who was in sensational form throughout the game was Everton midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson. Only recently returned from a knee injury he was the beacon of quality that Iceland needed. When they needed a player to keep possession he was there and he was a constant thorn in the side of Argentina’s defensive generals.

It was a performance that will remind Everton fans just why they spent £45 million to bring him from Swansea City last summer. It also highlighted that, used correctly. The ‘Iceman’ could be Everton’s talisman.

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When Sigurdsson arrived last season he did so at the same time as two identical players. Davy Klaassen and Wayne Rooney also joined Everton last summer leaving them overbooked in that area of the field.

With Everton failing to bring in sufficient wide options, Sigurdsson also found himself playing wide left for much of his time at Goodison Park.

What is clear from the Iceland game is that Sigurdsson is best in the number 10 role, playing off of the front-man and hopefully next season that is where Everton will see him. With Cenk Tosun ahead of him, pace out wide and reliable generals behind him in midfield the Icelander will be free to roam and play his best football.

If Everton do that, then they will see more and more of the real Sigurdsson next season.

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Manchester United

Chicharito shows he’s capable of replacing Marko Arnautovic at West Ham in brilliant Mexico performance

The striker was unrecognisable from last season at West Ham.

Jamie Watts

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West Ham United striker Marko Arnautovic is still heavily linked with a move to Manchester United, although the club have attempted to deter interest by slapping a whopping £60 million price tag on the Austrian, according to the Daily Star.

Although the price is considerable, it’s conceivable United could match the fee, or something close and Manuel Pellegrini may have to begin lining up replacements, in case a switch to Old Trafford materialises. But the Chilean coach may very well have his man already on yesterday’s evidence, ironically, in the form of former United fan favourite, Chicharito.

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Chicharito made a name for himself throughout his career for his impressive ability to improvise a finish in the penalty area, and his movement, which has led to countless poacher goals. However, his performance for Mexico yesterday could indicate a change of responsibilities for the striker in the future. And West Ham will be thrilled.

Against Germany, he did everything but put the ball away. Non-initiated viewers may have been shocked to find out that the striker went into the match one goal off a career tally of 50 for his country, as he plied for the 90 minutes as a forward linch-pin, connecting play in the final third for almost every counter-attack. His general touch, awareness of approaching defenders, vision to see runners and execution of passes were all sensational on the night.

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It could be argued that his national pride conjured this new style. but now there can be no doubting he has the ability to play the Arnautovic-type role, and in emphatic fashion. And if Pellegrini can tap-into this style, he could already have the Austrian’s ready made replacement at the London Stadium.

Last term the 30-year-old struggled to break into the team on a regular basis under David Moyes, making 33 appearances in all competitions, bagging eight goals and an assist, but his contribution next year could be far more valuable.

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