In the wake of a big Liverpool win on Sunday, Reds supremo Brendan Rodgers further quickened the pulse of fans today by hinting that "three or four quality" players could be plying their trade on the banks of the Mersey by the start of the next premiership season.
That sentiment is sure to bring smiles to the faces of Reds supporters across the globe who have had to weather a dismal run of league finishes over the last few seasons, as the majority of signings since the departure of Rafa Benitez have failed to impress.
Most Liverpool fans have long bemoaned the focus on quantity over quality. With three or four established players potentially on the way to Anfield, there is no doubt that the rest of the soccer world will soon be shaking their collective heads as Reds supporters begin their annual "next year is our year" obsessing. With that in mind we examine four players who might bridge the gap in quality between Liverpool and the top four.
Asmir Begovic, Stoke City GK -- Rumors continue to link Pepe Reina to Barcelona despite the Spanish keeper's insistence that he will see out his contract. The most likely scenario would see the club hierarchy deciding to cash in and bring in a younger man to mind the sticks.
As much as Reina is loved by fans, his form has been spotty over the past two years. His value in the transfer market will only decline as he nears the end of his prime.
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Conversely, at 25 years old, Begovic is just entering his prime and will be looking to raise his profile as well as his wages on the back of a breakout season. Standing 6'5", the Bosnian dominates in the air and has the confidence that has eluded Reina in recent memory. Lacking the dynamic distribution of his Spanish counterpart, he makes up for any deficiency with surprising quickness for a man of his size. Although he has only recently been linked with a big move, he has provided a steady presence in net for Stoke City for three seasons now.
Stefan de Vrij, Feynoord CB -- With Jamie Carragher retiring at the end of the season and Martin Skrtel and Sebastian Coates seemingly out of favor with Rodgers, there is likely to be at least one new face in the Liverpool backline next season. At the tender age of 21, de Vrij is a good blend of youth and experience having featured heavily in the Feynoord starting lineup over the past four seasons.
With 95 appearances for his club and three for The Netherlands, he has plenty of experience in high-pressure situations. He uses his 6'2 frame well and would be a good foil for Daniel Agger in the Rodgers system. The young defender is comfortable with the ball at his feet and would likely adapt well to bringing the ball out from the back.
Keisuke Honda, CSKA Moscow (AM) -- Available as a free transfer this offseason, Honda is a player who would give Liverpool options with their formations as well as a foothold in the lucrative Asian market. Considering FSG's strategy of widening the fan base to increase revenue, it makes sense that Liverpool would pursue the Japan star.
While Luis Suarez has been scoring regularly from free kicks, his threat is mainly from dead ball situations on the left side of the pitch. Signing Honda would open up the other side. In addition, Honda would fit Brendan Rodgers' style of play like a glove, providing the ability to both retain the ball with his excellent short passing skills, as well as a keen eye for long, scything balls to release forwards on the break.
Hatem Ben Arfa, Newcastle RW -- Unless Liverpool pulls off a miracle and leapfrog Chelsea for the fourth and final Champions League place, Ben Arfa probably represents the ceiling in terms of attacking quality for the Reds. Although the Frenchman has had issues with attitude in the past, he has acknowledged his immaturity and made appreciable improvements.
Regarding his checkered disciplinary history the Frenchman had this to say: "I regret not being mature earlier, because I think that today I would be playing at a higher level."
That's a scary thought for premiership defenders. Ben Arfa has all the qualities a modern winger needs to prosper, possessing a rare combination of pace, power, a wicked shot and the ability to beat even the best defender with his close control.
The only major red flag for any potential suitors is his inability to stay healthy consistently. That quality is a double-edged sword for Liverpool.
He would likely be starring for his "childhood dream" club, PSG, if not for those injuries. Whether Liverpool takes a risk on the skillful winger will be one of the big transfer stories of the summer.