Before I get into this in any depth I'd like to preface it by saying that Steve Finnan has, over the last four years and 130 appearances has been a fantastic servant for the club. A stalwart in one of the league's tightest defences he consistently gives his all for the team and week after week puts in quality performances.
Riise, on the other side of defence, has had six great years at Anfield and racked up 215 appearances with 21 goals, most of them showing off the cannon he keeps inside his left boot. Between the two of them, they've kept god-knows how many clean sheets and helped bring the club into a position where we can legitimately be annoyed by not winning the Champions League (last season) and with a faltering start to a campaign.
But I can't help but get the feeling that it may be time to say our goodbye's.
John-Arne "Who are ya?!" Riise
Riise's season has been spotty to say the least so far. He's shown the same willingness to get forward and we've seen the same sort of marauding runs from our Viking warrior but his final ball has been distinctly lacking. His inability to beat his man and put in a quality cross has been a major source of frustration for me as I watch from my comfy sofa. Against Fulham he broke into the box onto a cross field ball from, I think, Benayoun. The old Riise would've hammered it, left footed, across the goal and forced the 'keeper to at least make a save. The 2007 Riise took a (poor) first touch and the chance was gone. As a fan, I can see he's still trying hard but his confidence is shot. The "leaked payslip" has caused more problems for him and, after the scandal of him allegedly selling his Champions League medal a few years ago, it may be a case of John-Arne simply needing a change of scenery - possibly Germany, perhaps Spain.
If he does go, we'll never forget his bullet free-kick against ManUtd or his FA Cup winning penalty - all fantastic highlights from a great career for the mighty Reds.
The last position we've had to worry about over the last few years has been right-back. Since his transfer from Fulham, Steve Finnan has oozed class. Never the tallest of players, he's been intelligent and ferocious in the tackle, depending on when the time was right. He's been threatening going forward and has shown his ability on the ball with some great crosses and a couple of memorable goals. His never say die attitude has won him many, many fans and his consistency has been a superb building block for both Rafa and, before him, Gerard Houllier.
But at 31 he's coming to the end of his career and hasn't shown the same spark going forward and even some lapses of concentration at the back. Who wouldn't get a bit lost playing against Arsenal's free flowing, fast passing team? But it seemed that Steve got caught out a couple of times too many and was guilty of not following his man. Going forward, it looks as if he's lost a bit of confidence in his pace. Coming on the overlap, a right-back needs to get in behind the opposing team's defence and whip in a quick cross for the strikers to run onto, using their momentum to direct the ball on goal. However, our little fighting Irishman has been unwilling to test his opposite number's pace against his and instead prefers to cut back onto his left foot to cross the ball.
This is frustating for both the fans, who, if the defender can read it right, see the move stall, and for the strikers who have to check their run. A deeper cross, coming from in front of the defence is also a lot easier to deal with than a cross from the byline that turns the central defenders and has everyone running toward the goal at pace.
But, if Riise and Finnan were to go on to new challenges, their replacements would be more than up for the task. Since Arbeloa joined the club he's been a revelation. I had no expectations of him but after seeing the way he filled in at left-back and kept Messi quiet, that all changed. Since then he's scored a great goal against Reading and has played across the back four at left-back, centre-back and his preferred position, right-back. He brings all of the consistency that Finnan has been famous for, as well as an additional attacking threat. Against both Besiktas and Fulham, we've seen his attacking spark ignite the team and, hopefully, can continue in this vein should Finnan leave.
On the left, Fabio Aurelio has been finding his feet after a nasty Achilles tendon tear. He, like Arbeloa, embodies many of the qualities his predecessor has been known for, while adding to the equation. More defensively gifted that Riise, he's less likely to dive into tackles, preferring to keep his feet and shepherd players away from dangerous areas. Going forward he has, probably less pace than his Norwegian counterpart, but more guile and, importantly, more ability on the ball. From freekicks he offers a different threat that Riise; instead of power, Aurelio goes for bend, curve and placement. While he hasn't scored for the club yet, I'm sure it will only be a matter of time before he's celebrating his first.
If Finnan and Riise were to be sold, in either the January window or at the end of the season, I know I'd be happy with their replacements and with the talent coming through the youth system.
How would you feel?