Liverpool has a mixed history with German full-backs. On one hand, you have Markus Babbel who, despite suffering numerous injuries during his time at Anfield, was consistently excellent in the 2000-01 treble-winning season and scored in the UEFA Cup Final win over Alves. On the other, you have Christian Ziege, who arrived from Middlesbrough under a cloud of acrimony and, although unlucky to have knees made of glass, never came close to showing the form for which we the club bought him.
So it was with a mix of trepidation and delight that I read Liverpool are closing in on Marcell Jansen, the Germany and Hamburg left-back / left winger to fill the position that has become a bit of a curse since John Arne Riise was bombed out following high-profile mistakes under Rafael Benitez.
Capped 35 times by Die Mannschaft scoring three goals, the tall (6'3") Jansen is vastly experienced for his age, having been present at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups (playing understudy to the excellent Lahm), Euro 2008 and also spending a season in the Circus ring of Bayern Munich. Despite spending most of last season in an advanced position for Hamburg where he utilises his long stride and pin-point crossing to good effect, Jansen has scored all of his three goals for Germany from left-back and, on the 20 or so occasions I have seen him play, combines the best abilities of Liverpool's former German full-backs.
There has been a lot of talk about Dalglish focusing on functional players who can fit into a system and give the team balance rather than taking chances on tricky wingers with exotic surnames, and Jansen fits this bill perfectly. Adept anywhere on the left-side and also up front, he is typically German in that he is powerful, technically adroit and has an engine that could’ve rolled off the line at the Bavarian Motor Works.
He may not be Brazilian or send shivers down the spine of opposing fans, but the one time Barcelona target ticks several boxes for Liverpool and would prove good business at £8 million
The signings of Downing, Adam and, to a lesser extent Henderson, show that Kenny is prepared to take no huge gambles as he attempts to ensure Liverpool to hit the ground running on August 13 against Sunderland. He is well aware that eyebrows have been raised regarding the fees paid for British players, realises that the denizens of Fleet Street will be sharpening their pencils if the team fails to gel and that is why he has bought players to whom the Premier League holds no surprises. The Bundesliga might be a fraction slower that the Premier League, but Jansen has all of the attributes to make the position his own.
If Jansen does sign, and he seems a more likely signing that Aly Cissokho, Liverpool will have three front-line players who are left-footed. To fans increasingly frustrated over the last few years of play funneling inwards down that flank – six months of Riera apart – this will be welcome news. To successfully challenge United, Chelsea and City, especially away from home, the balance of the side is massively important. With Jansen, Downing and Adam in the side, what is guaranteed is that Liverpool will be able to stretch the play and use the full width of the pitch to provide openings for Carroll and Suarez up front. What Liverpool have lacked in recent years, even with the Dalglish revival is genuine width and an ability to really hurt teams on the flanks. The addition of Carroll only intensifies the need for players who can cross consistently from the left in a manner that Johnson, Kuyt, and now Henderson can from the right.
Fond of a header as shown with his equalising goal in the World Cup third place play off match last year, Jansen also takes an excellent free-kick and is incredibly dangerous arriving late in and around the box to hit the dropping ball first time. He may not be Brazilian or send shivers down the spine of opposing fans, but the one time Barcelona target ticks several boxes for Liverpool and would prove good business at £8 million.
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