Analysing Liverpool’s full-backs and the long-term future of the positions

With six games remaining in the Premier League for most sides, Liverpool are in an excellent position to potentially win their first top-flight title in 24 years.

The Anfield outfit have played a spectacular brand of football this season under Brendan Rodgers, and especially at home have been next to unbeatable.

Strike pairing Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge will gain most of the plaudits due to their goalscoring exploits, while moving captain and talisman Steven Gerrard into a deeper role has benefited the player and the team.

Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling have been revelations, Philippe Coutinho has shown glimpses of exceptional vision while Simon Mignolet has proved a safe pair of hands in his debut campaign at the club.

At the back Rodgers has four central defenders to select from and seems to still be deciding on his first-choice pairing. That said, the uncompromising nature of Martin Škrtel, technique of Daniel Agger and monstrous presence of Mamadou Sakho means that the club have players more than capable of shutting out opponents.

With a team playing to its potential, the one area of the side that still has some question marks lingering over it is at full-back.

Left-back specifically seems to be an area that investment in the summer is needed, with the current options not really fitting the bill.

José Enrique has proven in the past that he has all the attacking inclinations to be a threat in the opposition half but his positional sense and the defensive side to his game can leave something to be desired. The Spaniard has been on the treatment table for the bulk of this campaign, with the games he has played not really inspiring the Kop that he is the long-term incumbent in the role.

Glen JohnsonAly Cissokho has been brought in on loan from Valencia with a solid reputation and has done relatively well when given a chance. However, the French defender has looked like he lacks confidence when he has been given his chance, while he seems one-dimensional on the ball. As a result, the Reds are unlikely to exercise the option to bring him to England permanently.

As such, right-backs Glen Johnson and Jon Flanagan have had to fill in out of position on the opposite flank. There doesn’t seem like there is much longevity in this ploy, with a new face likely to be added in the summer.

At right-back, Johnson has been one of the standout attacking full-backs in the British game in recent years but has not had his best season this term.

The former Chelsea and Portsmouth defender still looks to be getting back to full fitness after debilitating injuries and has lacked his usual sharpness. His attacking play has always been a strength for Johnson, but defensively he has looked susceptible.

The emergence of Flanagan is a real plus point for the club and testimony to the Liverpool youth program. The 21-year-old has looked fearless in the Reds’ first-team and will only improve with the increase in action he gets.

His tough tackling, determination and work-rate have instantly endeared him to the club’s fans, while his ability on the ball and reading of the game are areas that Rodgers will work on with him.

With Jamie Carragher retiring last summer and Gerrard ageing, having a home-grown star ready to play a part in the first team going forward is an important thing for Liverpool. In a club that has boasted wonderful youth products for as long as can be remembered, Flanagan seems set to follow in the footsteps of plenty of former greats.

Whether Liverpool win the league or not, there are not many areas in the starting XI that need improvement due to a wonderful team dynamic this season. However, sorting out established and consistent options at both full-back positions looks like it will be a priority for Rodgers this summer.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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