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Building The Defence

On a day when two of the more persistent rumours about potential defensive reinforcements seemed to all but disappear and with several high-profile departures from the squad likely, just how is Liverpool Football Club's back-line set for the season to come?

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Daniel's catwalk strut was a hit with some...
Daniel's catwalk strut was a hit with some...
Chris Brunskill

In a season characterised by inconsistency and individual error, no element of Liverpool's first team has been as repeatedly culpable as the back-line. We have borne witness to a cornucopia of cock-ups and litter of lapses, which have undermined much of the good work done both by the defence itself and the team as a whole. Long spells of sterile domination have so often been followed by the sickening gut-punch of the soft goal conceded against the run of play.

Brendan Rodgers' observations about Jamie Carragher of late have been less than limpid. Despite a previous acceptance that he was taking his curtain call at Anfield, there is definitely the hint of a door being left open to the veteran should he wish to put in another run of performances. The manager seems to be willing him to postpone the evil day of retirement. One gets the impression that Rodgers genuinely admires and appreciates Carragher as an ally. The Bootle man's backing of the rookie boss was no doubt a massive help to him as he settled in to Anfield. This ambiguity certainly muddies the waters a touch, but the safe money seems to be on our number 23 sticking to his plans.

The incertitude about Martin Skrtel's future is well founded. Although there have been some positive noises from the bullet-headed Slovak about fighting for his place, these must be viewed through the murky prism of his previous public grumblings. The truth is, Skrtel was desperately unhappy about being unceremoniously dropped and has singularly failed to regain his spot from a man most had written-off as well past his sell-by date. Allied to the Zenit St Petersburg rumours that refuse to go away, there is a powerful case to suggest that Martin Skrtel, last season's player-of-the-year, may not be donning the Liverbird next season.

Were two such key figures to leave the club in the summer, the priority for Brendan Rodgers becomes crystalline in its clarity. At least two centre halves must come in to the squad. I say at least two because one must also be highly dubious about the future of Sebastian Coates. The Uruguayan arrived on Kenny Dalglish's watch and most were elated by his capture, but he has played less minutes than anyone could have imagined and seems to be terminally unfancied. It would not surprise this particular scribbler if he were to move away from Anfield too.

Were such carnage to occur in one fell swoop, the club would be forced to dig deep into its reserves of cash and would also be reliant on its talented up-and-comers. So, which of our crop of youngsters are ready to play first team football regularly?

Andre Wisdom built a powerful case for his inclusion after finding himself thrust into the senior side following injury to Martin Kelly. Wisdom has made 18 appearances this term and looked impressively athletic and confident, if understandably raw. Kelly had started the campaign at right back and had impressed during the previous one. He too, is physically impressive and has a confidence and maturity that belie his comparative inexperience. Kelly is close to a return from an ACL injury and has signed a new contract during his rehab. For most, he looks a nailed-on starter for years to come.

In some idyllic visions of the future, Kelly and Wisdom would form the academy-trained core of our rearguard as a central defensive partnership. For next season, most of us would settle for one man providing cover for Glen Johnson and the other playing some minutes alongside Daniel Agger. Which player goes where in this scenario, is a debate best left to the erudite commentary in the thread below, but both must surely feature regularly in the first XI, in order to hasten their development.

When Danny Wilson returns from his loan at Heart of Midlothian, he will be less than optimistic about featuring in Brendan Rodgers' plans but perhaps his successful spell alongside Michael Ngoo in the SPL, will finally change his fortunes at LFC. He was once so highly thought of, it would be nice if he could avoid being fully Pachecoed.

In the full back positions, few will be surprised to see Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique continue as the preferred starters for '13/'14. Along with the aforementioned Kelly and Wisdom, John Flanagan and Ryan McLaughlin will challenge for the right-sided berth. The left flank is poorly catered for, by comparison, with only current Wolves loanee, Jack Robinson, to put Enrique under pressure. Clearly Johnson can perform admirably at left-back too, but one would be relieved to see some reinforcement of that position when the money men are writing cheques.

And so we come to the potential talent those cheques might buy. As covered yesterday, any move for Ashley Williams is seeming less and less likely, whilst reputed Brazilian target, Dede, of Vasco Da Gama, has secured a move to Cruzeiro according to Sky Sports, with Alisson and Wellington Paulista moving to Vasco as part of the deal. Even a cursory trawl through today's rumours, sees Liverpool mentioned in connection with Modibo Diakite of Lazio and Angelo Ogbonna of Torino. Meanwhile, Stefan de Vrij of Feyenoord and Toby Alderweireld of Ajax continue to be linked with a move to the club.

Irrespective of who the players are, recruitment for next season must have a heavy focus on shoring up the defence and much emphasis will be placed on bringing on the academy graduates who have shown such promise. Were Brendan Rodgers to build a solid water-tight platform, supported by a fully-recovered Lucas, Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard, then the likes of Phillipe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez could make Liverpool Football Club an impressive outfit in the seasons to come.

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