Reds want depth, flexibility up front
Liverpool need another striker. Everyone knows it, and Brendan Rodgers certainly hasn't been shy about admitting it.
They probably wouldn't need one if Daniel Sturridge came with an injury-free guarantee, but given the prolific front man's tendency to miss games with various ailments, Rodgers knows it is imperative that another top-quality goal scorer is recruited before the close of the transfer window.
It can't just be any old striker, though. Liverpool aren't desperately lacking bodies up front, but they are now down to one top-class goal scorer, having lost Luis Suarez to Barcelona. Bringing in a striker is easy; bringing in one who is better than those they have is not.
As well as Sturridge, Rodgers still has Rickie Lambert (who is more of a Plan B) and Fabio Borini (still desperately hanging on to his Anfield career by his fingernails) to call upon. Both are full internationals, so bringing in someone who does not offer an upgrade on those two would be pointless.
They clearly do need an upgrade, though, as the drop-off between Sturridge and those behind him is significant. In an ideal world, whoever was brought in would be flexible and also be able to play wide, as that would make it easier to integrate him into the team along with Sturridge.
Alexis Sanchez would have been the ideal acquisition, but he opted for Arsenal instead, so Liverpool switched their focus to Loic Remy. He could not offer what Suarez did, but that should not figure into Liverpool's thinking, as there are simply no players out there who can. Remy is not Suarez, but he is a fine player in his own right and would have been top-quality cover for Sturridge, and he could also have lined up on the right of a front three.
The collapse of that deal was a serious blow to Liverpool, as finding a player with similar attributes, pedigree and value for money is nigh on impossible. At 8.5 million pounds, Remy was an absolute steal. What does that kind of money get you these days? To add some perspective, Liverpool paid that amount for Stan Collymore almost 20 years ago.
After pulling the plug on the Remy transfer, it has now become clear that there was no contingency plan. Rodgers spoke last week of how things often develop in the final week of the window and that they'll see who becomes available. That's a little disturbing for Kopites, and the spectre of Ian Ayre jetting off to some far-flung destination on deadline day and returning empty-handed again looms large.
Should that happen, it would be wrong to dismiss this transfer window as an unsuccessful one. Liverpool have significantly strengthened every area of the squad and are better equipped to deal with the rigours of what promises to be a long and arduous campaign. What they won't have done, however, is taken the pressure off Sturridge and given themselves an insurance policy should he succumb to injury.
Free to play: ESPN FC Premier League fantasy
- Q&A: Why you need to reselect your fantasy squad
- Sign up for our new game and challenge your friends
- How to play the game -- fantasy rules in full
- Transfers: Check out the latest Premier League moves
- Fantasy Forum: Discuss your team and tactics
Numerous players have been linked in recent weeks, and it's clear that the Reds are exploring various avenues -- some more exciting than others. Samuel Eto'o has been mentioned, but he is regarded as a fallback option should more desirable targets prove to be unattainable.
The appeal of Eto'o is that he would not be expected to come in and be the focal point of the attack. He'd be there to provide experienced cover for Sturridge but also has the versatility to play with the Englishman, either in a front two or as part of a 4-3-3. His Champions League experience would be invaluable, too.
At 33 years old, his best days are unquestionably long behind him, but Eto'o proved last season at Chelsea there is still something left in the tank. With no transfer fee involved, however, he would represent a low risk, potentially high-reward signing on a short-term deal.
The Cameroonian is not exactly a popular figure on the Kop due to his conduct during Liverpool's controversial 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge last season, and it's fair to say his arrival would not be greeted with universal approval. Rodgers won't be influenced by that, though; his only concern will be if he thinks the player can bring something to the team this season.
With the talented young Belgian Divock Origi set to check in next summer following a year on loan with Lille, Liverpool may actually only be looking for a stopgap anyway. If a top striker is secured on a long-term deal, where would that leave Origi next season? The Reds have high hopes for the teenager who shone at the World Cup this summer, so perhaps Rodgers is looking for someone to merely keep Origi's shirt warm until he arrives at Anfield a year from now.
That would also explain the growing rumours of a loan move for Monaco's Colombian superstar Radamel Falcao. Talk of a 12-million-pound loan fee and a salary of 200,000 pounds a week seems somewhat fanciful and would appear to go against everything that Liverpool owners FSG stand for, but the attraction of that deal would be that acquiring Falcao would immediately transform LFC into strong title contenders. It does seem like something of a long shot to say the least, but the Reds have not given up hope of landing Falcao just yet.
Even without adding another front man, Liverpool still have more than enough to remain in the top four, but to match or even eclipse what they did last season they'll surely need to bring in another match winner. Unless of course Sturridge suddenly turns into the indestructible iron man that Suarez was in his time at the club, but that seems even less likely than signing Falcao.
It's going to be Samuel Eto'o, isn't it?
Dave Usher is one of ESPN's Liverpool bloggers and is the founder/editor of the popular LFC fanzine and website The Liverpool Way. He has written three books on the Reds. You can follow him on Twitter @theliverpoolway.