I never know what I want for Christmas. Fortunately I have a girlfriend who more often than not knows what I could do with and usually comes up trumps when the wrapping paper is torn off (or prised off in this case due to an excessive amount of celotape and plasticy paper) on Christmas Day. Last month’s gifts were no different; I got things I was pleased with and what’s more I got things I could use.
There were two presents, however, that seemed to contradict each other. See, since my old one broke/was rubbish, I’d wanted a new electronic razor complete with a beard trimmer to maintain the stubbly look that I probably should have left behind years ago. Once I’d finally forced my way through the stubborn wrapping paper there was a brand new beard trimmer, just like the one I’d wanted, looking back at me. Perfect. It was what I wanted, it did the job and, I’d like to think, it makes everything look very pretty. I moved onto the next gift, a small box about the same height as a packet of cigarettes and twice as thick. It turned out to be a bottle of post-shave moisturiser. I had dropped some less-than-subtle hints during the shopping period about getting me something to brighten up my ever-haggard skin, but it just didn’t add up with the beard trimmer.
What good is a soothing moisturiser for us after shaving when I won’t be shaving? A good idea individually, but not so clever when put into the big picture, which brings me, at long last, to the point. If Liverpool signed Charlie Adam it would be a waste of money.
Adam has undoubtedly been the success story of the Premier League this season. The Scot’s ability to play expansive passes, the kind that Match of the Day and other highlights programmes repeat with relish, has got even the most casual observer sitting up and taking notice. His starring role in Blackpool’s impressive maiden top flight campaign has seen his star rise so high that he is now valued at at least £16m by his manager Ian Holloway.
On the face of it, the stats back up Holloway’s assessment. For the Tangerines, Adam has both created the most chances for his teammates and attempted by far the most passes in the opposition’s half. In total he completes three quarters of his passes, and what’s more he does it in style.
Maybe it is because of the silky nature of his midfield work that he has attracted so many suitors, most notably Liverpool. But what Adam benefits from the most are willing midfield runners, the likes of which are in short supply at Anfield. This season David Vaughan has provided a capable foil for the Scottish maestro by snapping around the midfield and getting into opponents’ faces, while Elliot Grandin, predominantly, has provided distracting, enterprising runs. As part of this midfield three, Adam has the time and space to thrive in. That should take nothing away from him as a player; broadly speaking, Xavi profits from a similar system at Barcelona where he is joined by Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta. It’s working very well for Blackpool, but a replication of that success is by no means guaranteed should he move down the coast to Merseyside.
After all, Kenny Dalglish, and Roy Hodgson before him, has enough problems trying to find spaces for the midfielders he’s already got. Raul Meireles has recently come to the fore playing in a similar, if more advanced, role to Adam, and it is more than likely that he will be relocated now that Steven Gerrard has completed his suspension. We’ve seen it before; whenever Meireles has shown flashes of his ability his progress has been stunted by being forced out wide to accommodate a returning Gerrard.
Playing the three of them together is not a viable solution. Despite Gerrard’s showcase performances in the heart of the Liverpool midfield over the years, he is not comfortable in the deep-lying, ball-winning role that he would be forced into here. Meireles’ superb display against Wolves last weekend was thanks in no small part to the presence of two ‘water carriers’ in Lucas and Christian Poulsen working hard behind him. Essentially, the three players would be vying for the same place at the head of the midfield triangle. And that’s not to mention Joe Cole. With no true ball-winning player it is destined for failure. Coupled with Liverpool’s lack of width, and indeed the lack of skill of the wide players available, it would be chronic.
To introduce a water carrier such as Lucas would force one of Meireles or Gerrard to drop to the bench, or to play behind Torres. That would in turn hamper the other’s attacking instincts, would eliminate any possibility of width in the team, and leave defensive cover very thin on the ground. With either Kuyt thrown in up front with Torres or Poulsen introduced to shore things up (as best he can, anyway) in front of the defence, it makes for at best a congested midfield with three creative players feeding off each others’ scraps or at worst a lop-sided, unbalanced mess.
Anybody suggesting that Adam could be seen as a successor to Xabi Alonso, who played the role that Adam could yet fill so magnificently under (or should that be despite) Rafael Benitez’s management, should bear in mind that the since departed Javier Mascherano was vital in creating space for the Spaniard. With no replacement yet found for the Argentina captain there would be precious little point in recruiting a knock-off Alonso.
For now, the rumoured £4m that Liverpool have offered Blackpool for Adam would be better spent on making up a bid of towards £20m for Ajax’s Luis Suarez. The addition of a wide attacking player would provide Liverpool with the choice to play a 4-3-3 of Lucas, Meireles and Gerrard behind Kuyt, Suarez and Torres. Immediately you have an element of width and the freeing up of Kuyt to do the job he has become accustomed to, thus providing extra hard-running in midfield to free-up the creative forces of Meireles and Gerrard. Whichever way you look at it, there is simply no room for Adam.
Much like my girlfriend buying me moisturiser, the signing of Adam is very good in theory. But when it’s intended to work with an even more useful, effective object it all seems a bit pointless. Charlie Adam may be a very good player who would slot perfectly into many of the Premier League’s best sides, but such is the imbalance of talent and numbers in their midfield at the moment, Liverpool would not be one of them.