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Squad assessment: 2008/9 by lfctalk
April 6, 2009, 15:33
Filed under: Opinion

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Diego Cavalieri

I think the Brazilian has done as well as expected. He came in with the remit to challenge Reina for the number one spot and show what he can do when called upon. Ok, so he hasn’t done the first part (how many would?), but he’s been sturdier than Charles Itandje when used.

Andrea Dossena

The Italian left-back has capped off an indifferent season with some nice goals against two of the biggest clubs in the world (Real Madrid and Manchester United). Looks likely to have failed in the battle for left-back with Fabio Aurelio and also appears to have fallen behind Emiliano Insua too. I think he may be making a quick return to Italy.

Sami Hyypia

The big defender has been as reliable as ever this season, despite constant concerns about his pace. His reading of the game is still excellent and he remains the best defender in the air, for me. I hope he gets a new one year deal.

Daniel Agger

Constantly linked with AC Milan and injured as often. He seems to be getting closer to the exit and I’m not worrying too much about that right now. Instead of fighting for his spot, he seems to be whining in the press
like he has a divine right to play when fit. He doesn’t and needs to learn that – if he is being quoted accurately. I expect that Benitez’s new deal has signalled his exit.

Steven Gerrard

Quite possibly the best player I have ever seen in a Red shirt. He’s a miserable sod, but he is truly a world-class talent in an age of hyperbole. Had he and Torres been available for more of the season, I think we’d be top and heading for number nineteen.

Fernando Torres

As with Gerrard, we have missed him a lot this season – which is an indication of a slight lack of depth in our squad. He is another world-class talent and one we need to keep fit and also some support for.

Albert Riera

I wasn’t expecting much of him, if I’m honest, but he’s turned out to be a genuine asset. I thought his formed dipped with the colder winter weather, but he’s chipping in with more goals than earlier this season and has given us genuine balance. I would swap him for David Silva though as I don’t think he has quite enough, but as a backup for his compatriot he would be be superb – and depth is what we need.

Fabio Aurelio

He must have thought his chances were getting slimmer with the signing of Dossena, but he’s really upped his game this season and also chipped in with some key strikes. I am happy with him as our number one left-back and am keen to see Insua push him harder next season.

Xabi Alonso

After a Summer of being linked with an exit, he’s returned to form to answer his critics. There’s no way I would swap him with Gareth Barry – he’s a league above the Englishman. His tempo control and passing game have been key this season and without him we look less shaped and short on ideas and space.

Yossi Benayoun

The Israeli overcame a desire to leave in January and has bounced back with some key performances in recent months. His goals against Real Madrid and Fulham are great examples of how important he has become in recent weeks.

Álvaro Arbeloa

Some lapses in concentration earlier this season have been eradicated and he looks a serious contender to be our right-back for years to come. No serious competition for his spot could’ve made him complacent, but he appears eager to improve. Rumoured homesickness appears to have subsided also.

Dirk Kuyt

A clear favourite of Benitez (as demonstrated by him waiting for Rafa to sign a new deal before he would) and rightly so. More adventurous managers may prefer a player like Benayoun, but Kuyt has weighed in with some key strikes and his constant positivity and workrate are blessings to our team spirit and prospects.

Ryan Babel

Tipped by Andy Gray to explode this season, but he’s been hit and miss (mostly miss). After failing to make the breakthrough in the first half of the season, he asked for a loan move back to Ajax – which doesn’t sound confident or determined. Has talent, but appears to lack awareness. Time is running out for him to make his mark.

Javier Mascherano

Missed out earlier on in the season after opting to feature in the Olympics and has failed to truly cement his place back in the side. As dogged and determined as ever, he has been boosted by becoming his nation’s captain. One of the top anchormen in the game.

Lucas

Has been unfairly targetted by the boo-boys – which is a species we have not had much of at Anfield. Appears a very limited player, despite a few encouraging moments against Newcastle. Proved himself a liability against Wigan by giving away a very costly penalty. Benitez seems to favour the Brazilian, so I doubt he’ll leave in the Summer.

Emiliano Insúa

He has made the breakthrough for real this season. After a few sporadic appearances in recent years, he has shown maturity sufficient to be considered a member of the first-team. He will look to push on and really challenge Aurelio next season and will probably be hoping that Dossena does leave.

Jamie Carragher

Still a vital cog in the defensive machine. He organises the backline very well and is one of the greatest defenders the club has had – probably the finest of the Premiership era.

David N’Gog

I was disappointed when we signed him and still can’t see the point after seeing him more. After seeing Nemeth in preseason, I thought the Hungarian would be getting more chances, but this signing stunted his shot at a place in the first-team, along with Keane coming in. A loan out of Anfield may do the French kid a lot of good.

Pepe Reina

Finest keeper in the league for me and he’s continuing to prove that despite van der Sar’s purple patch. Acts like a sweeper, which gives another dimension to our defence and he also has a couple of assists this season to boot.

Jay Spearing

Despite being much shorter than most players, especially in his position, his development at Anfield is continuing and a cameo against Real Madrid won’t have hurt that. One to keep an eye on.

Philipp Degen

I thought he was a pointless signing last Summer and I think so even more now. With Steve Finnan around, we didn’t need to go and waste time on this sicknote. We should see if someone else will make the same mistake come the Summer…somehow I doubt it.

Damien Plessis

Was progressing well in the 2007/8 season, but appears to have hit a wall. Was awful against Spurs in the Carling Cup, despite scoring, and hasn’t appeared since – which is little surprise. One that could be sent out on loan next season.

Krisztián Németh

A natural finisher and a player that looks like a cross between Fowler and Owen in style if not ability. I was hoping to see him make his first-team debut this season after a sound preseason, but injuries and David N’Gog have blocked that. A loan move to Blackpool was unfortunately cut short by injury. One to watch.

Charles Itandje

Wouldn’t leave for first-team football on less wages. Says it all about the guy. Waste of space in the squad.

Nabil El Zhar

At his age, I would’ve expected more from him considering usual development. I am unsure as to why he’s been given opportunities ahead of Babel, Keane and Pennant this season. He should never have been trusted against Villa (along with Babel) and doesn’t look capable of being anything more than he currently is in this squad.

Stephen Darby

Must’ve been disappointed to see Degen arrive. Looks more assured than the Swiss and also far more injury free. Has captained the reserves and youth sides and with the right development, he could be a squad member in the next couple of years.

Martin Škrtel

Appears to have moved quickly ahead of Agger in the pecking order of central defenders. A strong and determined character that has softened the blow of missing out on Nemanja Vidic. Has benefited from playing alongside Carragher.

Robbie Keane

Despite the rubbish the media levelled at Benitez, the guy just didn’t work out and it was the best move to sell him back to Spurs. His finishing was abysmal at times and he wasted some simple chances to win us games. It’s a shame for him on a personal level, but it’s a cut-throat business today.

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