Make no mistake about it, Liverpool are a club in crisis. Gone are last season's attacking onslaught. Instead, this year Brendan Rodgers' side seem somewhat impotent in the final third. While their defensive frailties have regressed, if anything, most fans had banked on the return of Daniel Sturridge against Crystal Palace to reignite their season and provide the platform to spring an unlikely assault on the top four places. To say things didn't quite go to plan would be an understatement. Sturridge instead suffered a further injury setback in training and Liverpool ultimately capitulated to a 3-1 loss at Selhurst Park. These are dark days indeed.
Losing a talent like Luis Suarez was always going to be difficult, but the club's management invested a lot of time - and money - preparing for life after El Pistolero. With an outlay of over £100m in the summer transfer window, then, how could Liverpool find themselves in this position? Hindsight may well be 20/20, but the idea of the team's success this term hinging on an already injury-prone striker is naive at best and incompetent at worst.
The summer window, though, is long past, and the fact remains that in the here and now, Liverpool have to learn to cope without Daniel Sturridge. Goats have been scaped and excuses made, but Liverpool must accept this harsh new reality and find a solution before it's too late. In his absence, Mario Balotelli hasn't quite been hung out to dry, but the mercurial forward seems destined to fail as Brendan Rodgers obstinately refuses to play to the Italian's strengths. Rickie Lambert, despite netting his first goals for the club, has seemed overawed by the occasion, while Fabio Borini offers buoyant enthusiasm but not a distinct cutting edge.
I'm not normally an advocate of delving into the transfer market to seek a quick fix and, with the sheer volume of new players already struggling to find their feet at the club, navigating the January sales with a mad trolley dash seems counterintuitive. Let's assume for a minute, though, that Brendan Rodgers will be looking to find a new winning formula, and that Fenway Sports Group are prepared to finance further acquisitions. Where do they turn? Merits of an early loan recall for Divock Origi have been debated rigorously, but were quelled by the manager himself. If Liverpool indeed want to bolster their firepower in the new year, it seems as though they'll be forced to look elsewhere, and The Third Degree has identified three targets who could help reignite the spark on Merseyside.
The First Degree: French Connection
With 11 goals and 4 assists in thirteen league appearances this season, Lyon's Alexandre Lacazette has fired the Ligue 1 outfit to third in the table as he sits top of the scoring charts alongside Andre-Pierre Gignac. The versatile French international reportedly snubbed proposals from Liverpool, Arsenal and Newcastle in the summer before committing his future to Les Gones by penning a new deal in September, admitting that he is relishing his newfound responsibility at the Stade de Gerland. Though he may prove difficult to lure to Anfield, the 23-year-old would represent a significant coup for Brendan Rodgers' attempts to revitalise an unassured squad.
Don't be fooled into thinking that the Frenchman is just an accomplished finisher, though, as he possess all the traits required to suit Liverpool's philosophy seamlessly, and at such a tender age, still has room to grow. He's an intelligent presser in his own right and, like Luis Suarez before him, could hound opposition defenders into making critical errors. He'd make for the proficient lone striker Liverpool have been lacking this season, but also an excellent companion for Daniel Sturridge in the much-revered diamond; a formation Lyon themselves have deployed more often than not this campaign.
If you had to identify any weaknesses in his game it would be that, standing at 5'9", Lacazette is aerially unconvincing - a problem that is only magnified by Lyon's inexplicable insistence on delivering early crosses into the penalty area. However, the mobile forward, similar to Raheem Sterling, is blessed with unparalleled upper body strength relative to his smaller stature, which makes him more than willing and able to hold his own in the physical battles the Premier League is renowned for.
The Second Degree: KNOW YOUR ENEMY
They advise keeping your friends close but your enemies closer, and Liverpool may not know a closer enemy than former Manchester United marksman Carlos Tevez. In fact, the Argentine was reportedly close to a £25m move to Anfield just four months before Kenny Dalglish's reign came to a premature end. Since then, the tricky and tenacious forward has enjoyed a prolific run in Turin, but is no stranger to Premier League success, scoring 84 league goals throughout his seven years with United, West Ham and Manchester City and clinching three league titles in that time.
Tevez is the archetypical South American striker; hungry, determined and temperamental, but with a keen eye for goal. In short, he's a scorer, a creator and the big game player Liverpool need to take a match by the scruff of its neck. He is perhaps the closest thing you'll find to a like-for-like Luis Suarez replacement and, at thirty years of age, he's the finished article. The combination of his age and likely high wage demands seem to directly contradict Fenway Sports Group's transfer policy to date, but such talent being available for perhaps as little as £7m would indicate that Brendan Rodgers would be looking at an unprecedented bargain.
The Third Degree: WILDCARD
In terms of extremely unlikely transfer targets, very few are as salivating as former Barcelona youth prospect Mauro Icardi. The energetic forward began catching the eyes of Europe's elite with the strike that returned Sampdoria to the top flight of Italian football, and finally earned his first big money move to Serie A rivals Internazionale. His debut campaign for i Nerazzurris was disappointing, but his potential was clear to see.
At this point, his story takes a dramatic turn; a dense tale of tainted love that would make even John Terry blush. In November 2013, Icardi's former strike partner, mentor and best friend Maxi Lopez endured a rather public separation from his wife, Wanda Nara. Somewhere in between Icardi's attempts to console his wounded friend, the talented Argentine violated the Bro Code. In scenes more suited to Days of Our Lives than a professional footballer's Twitter timeline, Mauro Icardi wasted little time in shacking up with his buddy's former beau; professing their undying love, sharing wedding vows and even having the names of Lopez' children inked skin deep.
Despite his extracurricular activities, this season has saw Icardi settle into life at Inter Milan. Playing in something like the 9.5 role that Brendan Rodgers is so fond of, he's been the shining light of Roberto Mancini's otherwise lackluster team. A remorseless finisher; the 21-year-old narrowly boasts a better conversion rate than the renowned Gonzalo Higuain, reportedly earning the admiration of Chelsea, Real Madrid and Valencia.
It's highly unlikely that Mauro Icardi will be allowed to leave the San Siro any time soon and, if he did, it would be for the type of transfer fee Liverpool have so far been hesitant to meet. Brendan Rodgers already has one controversial striker in Mario Balotelli at his disposal, but if he's looking for somebody to create headlines for both the right and wrong reasons, he could certainly do much worse.
Despite the recent goalscoring form of Rickie Lambert, Liverpool continue to struggle in the absence of Daniel Sturridge. You'd be hard pressed to find many fans that aren't concerned about the forward options Brendan Rodgers currently has at his disposal. The Third Degree gracefully hands the floor over to you: are Liverpool in desperate need of further additions to the firing line and, if so, who would you like see lured to Anfield when the transfer window reopens in January?