Sunday, May 16, 2021

Where do Liverpool need to strengthen?

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It took them 30 years, but Liverpool finally managed to grab the crown of the English champions this year by winning the Premier League in a very convincing manner. Despite several underwhelming performances and results after the accomplishment of their long-term goal was mathematically confirmed, they managed to finish 18 points above second-place Manchester City.

Now, however, the season is over and they’ll be presented with the argaubly even bigger challenge of defending their title in 2020/21. City have already obtained the services of winger Ferran Torres from Valencia and defender Nathan Ake from Bournemouth this summer. Manchester United are locked in negotiations with Borussia Dortmund over winger Jadon Sancho. Chelsea acted decisively to sign striker Timo Werner from RB Leipzig under Liverpool’s very noses, and that having previously completed the signing of winger Hakim Ziyech from Ajax. What’s more, the London Blues are reportedly deep in talks over Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz.

So the main question is, what do Liverpool need to do to stay ahead of the competition which has been so active in the transfer market this summer?

Left-back sorted

The acquisition of Andy Robertson from Hull City for £8 million, though much questioned at the time, has proven to have been an extremely shrewd piece of business. The Scotland captain has developed into one of the finest players in his position on the planet, but since Alberto Moreno left the club as a free agent last year, they had no natural backup options for the spot without turning to the club’s youth setup. Midfielder James Milner was forced to deputize for Robertson whenever manager Jurgen Klopp needed the job done.

To solve that particular problem, Liverpool turned to the relegated Norwich City at the start of August and tried to sign Jamal Lewis. However, the two clubs failed to reach an agreement of the valuation of the player and the champions moved on quickly, obtaining the services of Kostas Tsimikas from Olympiacos instead.

Replacing Lovren

Dejan Lovren left Liverpool this summer after six years at the club, moving to Zenit St Petersburg for a reported fee of just under £11m, but the need to sign a replacement seems questionable.

The Croatian centre-back was never universally accepted as top quality, with occasional poor performances and howling mistakes causing the supporters to groan in frustration. On the other hand, he could be very good on his day, whenever he felt confident in his defensive actions, that is.

Be that as it may, Lovren had fallen down the pecking order behind Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez, and with three young players waiting to prove themselves in the first team, it’s indeed debatable if the club need to dip into the transfer market and spend money on a new signing to fill the position of a fourth-choice centre-back. Nathaniel Phillips (23), Ki-Jana Hoever and Sepp van den Berg (both 18) all seem eager and quite capable to stepping into the role.

The midfield question

If there is one area of the team Liverpool are well-stocked, it’s the middle one. Since Klopp’s arrival to the club, Liverpool signed Georginio Wijnaldum, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita and Fabinho for that department, with winger Xherdan Shaqiri also very capable of doing well there. These four players are of course, complemented by the presence of the club captain and his first deputy, Jordan Henderson and Milner.

Adam Lallana has left the club upon the expiration of his contract this summer and joined Brighton and Hove Albion as a free agent, but the former England international seems to have already been replaced as a squad player by Curtis Jones. The 19-year-old has made significant progress in the last several months, putting in some excellent performances and scoring three times for the first team.

Liverpool also have Harry Wilson and Marko Grujic returning from their loans with Bournemouth and Hertha Berlin, respectively, and the fact that the future of this talented pair at the club seems very doubtful speaks volumes on the state of the Reds’ midfield.

One of the stories currently revolving around Liverpool’s potential midfield additions involves Bayern Munich’s Thiago Alcantara, who has already informed the Bayern hierarchy of his desire to leave. The former Barcelona man apparently feels the time has come for a new challenge, having won everything in Spain and Germany. What’s more, Bayern boss Hans-Dieter Flick recently expressed his view that the Premier League would suit the 29-year-old perfectly. The Bundesliga champions reportedly want €30m for Thiago.

Meanwhile, respectable and usually very reliable journalists when it comes to Liverpool, such as Paul Joyce of The Times, James Pearce of The Athletic, Melissa Reddy of the Independent and David Maddock of the Mirror, haven’t said much on the subject. At the moment, it doesn’t seem Liverpool have moved to get the deal done yet.

That certainly doesn’t mean they won’t, though. Wijnaldum has entered the final 12 months of his contract and unless he signs a new one soon, Liverpool might move very quickly.

Going forward

Liverpool have a renowned attacking trio in Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah. So much so, that the drop in quality when any one of them is unavailable seems a glaring one. Divock Origi, Shaqiri and Oxlade-Chamberlain, though scorers of some important goals, simply don’t cause the same kind of effect on opposition defences, not on a regular basis anyway. Harvey Elliott, 17, is still far away from being able to produce regular first-team impact.

Liverpool were extremely interested in signing Timo Werner ahead of the crisis caused by the ongoing pandemic, but in the end they apparently felt that the amount required to be paid to get the deal done was too much for a non-starter, which eventually enabled Chelsea to swoop in and steal the show. They were also linked with the likes of Havertz and Sancho, but those speculations now appear to have been wide of the mark all along.

Nonetheless, an additional attacker, a young one, who wouldn’t mind starting his Anfield stint on the bench and would come for a fee according to that status, would probably be a wise investment. Adama Traore of Wolverhampton Wanderers was reportedly considered at one point, but Wolves have no intention of letting him go and they’ve slapped a huge price tag on him to repel all interest.

Watford’s Ismaila Sarr, who gave Liverpool a lot of problems in the Reds’ first league defeat of the season at the Vicarage, has been mentioned recently too. A player like that would tick all the right boxes, though the Hornets also don’t want to part with the 22-year-old winger for a small sum. A price of over £40m has been quoted, which does seem a lot. It remains to be seen whether it makes sense for Liverpool to try and negotiate a more favourable deal for Sarr, or, like in the Jamal Lewis case, they move onto an alternative target.


Veselin Trajkovic

Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.



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