Replacing a forward of the caliber of Luis Suarez was always going to be an arduous task. But so far it has proved to be even more difficult than even the most pessimistic Liverpool fan will have feared. While Brendan Rodgers’ team have struggled from back to front this season, and the defensive problems have continued to be calamitous, the most startling aspect of their slide has been how a club with one of the most devastating attacks in recent memory last season has become so feeble so quickly.
The statistics are alarming. In 2013-14 Liverpool averaged 2.7 goals per game in the Premier League, but this campaign that figure is down to a mediocre 1.4. Of course it is not just the departure of Suarez where the responsibility lies. The Uruguayan’s chief accomplice last season, Daniel Sturridge, has been out since August with a series of frustrating injuries.
In their absence, new signings Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert as well as Fabio Borni, back from his loan at Sunderland, have combined for just six goals in over 2000 minutes this season, with only one goal coming in the Premier League. Currently none of the trio look up to the job of leading the line for a club desperate to ensure they remain in the Champions League next season. And, with it surely unwise to count on Daniel Sturridge’s fitness until the end of the campaign, Liverpool’s so far underwhelming transfer committee are reportedly exploring options for the January transfer window. Here’s three players who are thought to feature high on their list:
Divock Origi (Lille)
The obvious solution would be to simply bring in a player Liverpool already own the rights to, having paid £10 million for the Belgium international in the summer. In retrospect, while the 19-year-old remains rough around the edges, Liverpool must surely wish that they had pushed to try and make his arrival from Lille an immediate one. Reports suggest the Reds will now try and curtail Origi’s season-long loan, even if that means paying a fee. However, with Rodgers denying that scenario is possible and Lille, which is facing up to a possible battle against relegation in Ligue 1, doing the same, Liverpool may have to wait frustratingly for the pacey forward to arrive and instead turn their attentions elsewhere if they want immediate help up top.
Saido Berahino (West Brom)
In similar mold to Origi, Berahino has bags of speed and ample potential, but is still some way short of the finished article. Seven goals in his first nine Premier League games this season earned the 21-year-old links with a transfer to Liverpool and a first call up to the senior England squad. Yet the five league games he has now gone without a goal suggests that he still has much to do in order to become a truly elite striker. It would surely also take an inflated sum in midseason to prize Berahino away from a relegation-threatened club for which he is the only consistent scoring option.
Mauro Icardi (Inter Milan)
Another young striker with sizable potential. The Argentine-born Icardi spent three years in the youth system at Barcelona before moving to Italy and causing a stir with 10 goals in his first season in Serie A with Sampdoria. A €12 million (£9.5 million) transfer to Inter Milan soon followed, but he attracted more attention for his activities off the pitch than on it in a disappointing first season. Although Inter have endured a woeful start to this campaign, Icardi has found his feet, netting seven goals in 11 starts. That form has reportedly attracted interest from Liverpool, as well as Chelsea and Tottenham. While Inter would surely be loathed to lose a finisher of Icardi’s caliber, they have recently conceded that they may not be able to stave off interest if Europe’s giants come calling. And newly appointed coach Roberto Mancini may not be too disappointed to be given the chance to reinvest the sizable fee Icardi would doubtless command.