Rodgers on 'man' hunt in bid to strengthen Liverpool's character
BRENDAN RODGERS wants to "bring in some men" to his Liverpool squad this summer to eradicate the costly errors that have derailed the club's season.
Swansea defender Ashley Williams (pictured below), who faces Liverpool in tomorrow's Premier League game at Anfield, is likely to be at the top of Rodgers' list of transfer targets as he seeks a replacement for Jamie Carragher, who is retiring in May.
Rodgers has cited inexperience in his ranks as a reason for Liverpool's struggles, with Thursday night's 2-0 defeat at Zenit St Petersburg the latest occasion when Liverpool have failed to convert their dominance into victory.
The manager has made no secret of the profile of player he is looking for, following a period where all his major signings have been 23 or under.
"The biggest thing we need this summer is to bring in some men, some character that allows and supports the other men to see the games out," said Rodgers.
"That is the biggest thing for me. Look at Jamie Carragher. He is our best defender, but he is 35 and we are losing that character. That has to be replaced. I also think there are other areas of the team that need improving."
With the future of Martin Skrtel and Sebastian Coates also under discussion, it means Rodgers could need three new centre-backs.
One of those could well be Williams, who was made captain when Rodgers was manager at Swansea.
Williams (29) was recently handed the Wales armband. He is one of the best defenders in the Premier League but would cost at least £10m.
With Swansea looking more likely to qualify for Europe than Liverpool, there would be no guarantee he could be so easily lured. But changes must be made, insists Rodgers.
"This has been a difficult but real eye-opening period in terms of coming in to a club with such ambition. We just need that mentality to be clinical," he said.
"That's something we'll talk about at the end of the season when we identify where improvements have to be made.
"I just want the best team, whether that is senior players, youth or (a) mixture.
"I always like to give young players hope but in order to do that they need experience alongside.
"I don't think massive surgery is needed. Daniel Sturridge came in and you saw the difference it made to the team. Maybe if we had a few more of his capacity in the group that could set us up.
"It is not wholesale changes. But in order for us to be up there consistently, we need to improve our mentality.
"Technically we have shown we are very capable, tactically we have not been found wanting. The condition and intensity of their work is high, so that leaves you only one thing – mentality. That is the area which needs to improve and to do that we need character."
Rodgers is disappointed by the scheduling of Swansea's visit to Anfield, which came about as a result of the visitors' playing in the League Cup final next weekend.
"I was very disappointed with the Premier League, to be honest," he set.
"To put it in at the end of a week when we have played on a Monday and a Thursday in an away trip to Russia, and put it in between that and another important European game next Thursday... I think it is another example of the Premier League in this country not helping teams whatsoever.
"I think every other country in Europe will always try to help their teams – some of them will play on a Friday before a European game.
"So for us to have it thrown in there when there were other free weeks was bemusing to say the least."
Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho are both in line to start for Liverpool, having missed their defeat in Russia.
Coutinho, a January signing from Inter Milan, made his Reds debut as a substitute against West Brom and Rodgers confirmed: "He is certainly in my thinking.
"He has come in and needed that little bit of time to adapt to the new way of working and new life, but you can see the kid's qualities. He has got good experience for a young player."
Daniel Agger, after criticising his own performance in the West Brom defeat on Twitter, did not travel to Russia but Rodgers indicated that the Dane will be involved against Swansea and praised the contribution he has made since the start of the campaign.
"He has been outstanding this season – he has that real warrior spirit," Rodgers said.
"We have just had a little run of games where as a team – and for us, there is no blame on the individual – we haven't defended as well as what we had done.
But Daniel is one of the top European centre-halves and we are very happy to have him here." (© Daily Telegraph, London)