Social media erupted in sheer disdain mixed with a slightly kinder shrug of the shoulders, that Liverpool were going to make their second signing of the January window after Steven Caulker joined last week. Apparently, they’re now in for Shane Long from Southampton for £8 million.
Caulker is a means to covering a massive hole in the middle of the Reds’ defence after a disastrous time under Jürgen Klopp. But Long would progress the squad from Klopp’s honeymoon period to the “We actually have to start winning games” period,.
Long may be unfashionable, but the energetic Irishman would bring huge passion to a Liverpool side that have struggled to maintain the physical demands put upon them by their new boss.
In many ways the transfer makes sense. Liverpool shouldn’t need a lot of goals, as they already have Christian Benteke, Roberto Firmino and Daniel Sturridge. But Sturridge is rarely fit and Benteke and Firmino have struggled for form.
What Liverpool don’t have enough of is legs and aerial domination in attack, or the ability to win the ball back up front. Long’s biggest strength is tracking the ball down – a characteristic shown in Ireland’s campaign to qualify for the Euros in 2016. Don’t forget his spectacular goal to beat the Germany in Dublin.
Liverpool currently rely on Benteke for aerial duels. He’s won 5.6 headed battles per game, compared to Long on 2.4. But next down in the Liverpool attack is Adam Lallana at 0.8, so Klopp plainly needs aerial re-enforcements.
As former Liverpool legend Didi Hamann put it, Long has the bite that they have lacked since Luis Suarez left. “I like him,” says Hamman. “I think he would be a good signing, as the team lacks bite up front since Suarez left.
“Even if he doesn’t score, Long always contributes, which can’t be said for too many at Liverpool. They’ve got enough so-called class players who flatter to deceive, and have got to learn to grind out results. So Long’s a perfect fit.”
However, Hamman’s former Liverpool teammate Danny Murphy doesn’t feel the same at all.
“There’s no point bringing in players who aren’t better than what you’ve already got,” Murphy told Talksport. “Would you suggest Long is a better player than Benteke? I don’t think so. Liverpool have to play Benteke and use him better. You have to play to Benteke’s strengths. The way Liverpool are playing at the moment isn’t really suited to what Benteke is good at, yet he’s still their top goalscorer.”
Murphy’s assessment is a little harsh but if Liverpool are going to go for Long, they’ll need to make it worth their while. £8 million could look like a waste of money if Charlie Austin for half of that is a success for Southampton.
Chances of Long joining: 8/10
Worth the cash? 6/10
Loaded sports writer Pearse Corcoran has covered news, sport and entertainment for several national newspapers and radio stations in Ireland. Follow him on Twitter at @PearseCorcoran