Liverpool Football Club have made their long awaited return to the Champions League under Jurgen Klopp, and the German manager now faces arguably his toughest challenge at the helm of the club – getting this transfer window right.
Every summer is an important one at Liverpool. In recent years, the vast majority of the club’s transfers have been in the hope of building a squad that can challenge for the top four, something Liverpool have finally achieved after another three long years since their last Champions League appearance.
The inconvenient truth is, that since the summer of 2009, Liverpool have predominantly done transfers wrong. More money has been wasted trying to add different options or improve squad depth than what has been manageable, and for one reason or another, the first team has gone vastly unchanged until players are sold.
Make no mistake about it, there are two instances in the last ten years that would’ve categorically changed the shape of where the club are today. Missing out on the Premier League title in 2008/09 and 2013/14 is essentially the biggest moments in the club’s recent history. Those narrow defeats to the single trophy that has evaded them cost some clout in the market, and in turn ruined their chances of adding to the squad.
Though he wasn’t heavily backed, Rafa Benitez had dreams of the likes of David Villa and Samuel Eto’o partnering Fernando Torres up front for the Reds. If the press are to be believed, he dreamed of David Silva in midfield. Instead, he was forced to ship out Xabi Alonso as a bargaining chip for Gareth Barry – whom he then failed to sign.
Brendan Rodgers was eyeing up defensive reinforcements, hoping to keep Suarez, add squad depth and attract big name players like Henrikh Mkhitaryan to his creative attacking ranks. Instead, he lost Suarez, signed Rickie Lambert, and watched his side crumble in front of him.
There’s no doubt the appeal of Champions League football is enough to attract top players, but Liverpool twice missing out on the league has cost them dearly in the past. Second place is first loser, and the added bonus of extra prize money and the simple adage of being labelled “Premier League champions” going astray meant Liverpool were unable to add to their squad, and instead saw true champions pick the body of their team apart.
Liverpool’s qualification for the Champions League this time has been done the right way round. Jurgen Klopp’s steady improvement of the squad has been noticed by much of the footballing world – there’s nice football, creative tactics, a clear vision – but it’s not complete. It’s not perfect.
Liverpool have struggled at times this season and it’s predominantly because of their lack of strength in depth. Finally they have – for the vast majority – a first team capable of defeating rival top four teams on a regular basis, but injuries to Mane and Coutinho vastly damages the squad’s attacking threat. With a reported £200million at his disposal this summer, Jurgen Klopp must be looking to make serious investments in another Mane-type player. With former Chelsea winger and current Roma star Mohamed Salah touted as an option, the former Dortmund boss clearly knows his side are in need of more pace.
Liverpool’s midfield is packed, and very well covered. With the addition of a top quality left-back (who actually plays there as the norm, I might add), James Milner becomes another option in the centre of the park and Liverpool have Lallana, Henderson, Can, Wijnaldum and more competing for three midfield spots. The replacement of Lucas Leiva with RB Leipzig’s Naby Keita would add a young, fresh, Kante-like figure to the team and provide a dynamic box-to-box option that would be a certified upgraded on the experienced Brazilian.
A defensive leader looks a necessity amidst the mishaps in Liverpool’s backline, and even more so knowing how many games Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip have missed between them for injury this season. Liverpool’s defence needs both ability and stability, and there’s no question Ragnar Klavan is not good enough to be stepping in on a consistent basis.
Finally, Liverpool must sign a striker. Whatever may come of the future of Daniel Sturridge, and despite the obvious fact that Firmino is a much better central player than his is out wide, Liverpool will not break the glass ceiling of the top four without a 20+ goals-a-season striker. The long famed Alexandre Lacazette is available and would be a virtually unquestioned move universally, and would almost guarantee goals upon goals in return.
The time has come for Klopp to prove his worth. One of the things Rafa Benitez was loved for was his ability to have players buy into his project, and virtually beat other clubs to signings on his pedigree alone. If Klopp can add a couple of top talents to the team, Liverpool can once again become a force to be reckoned with in Europe.
Featured image curtesy of Safraz Ali via Flicker