Jack Hallows explains why Liverpool’s transfer policy needs to change in the summer so that the club doesn’t risk being left behind by the powerhouses surrounding them in the table.
Jöel Matip, Nathaniel Clyne, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané. The only players in this current Liverpool squad that are genuinely worth building around at this moment in time. Sadly, while Klopp’s transfer policy has been fruitful in terms of Mané and Matip – and to a lesser extent Wijnaldum too – being successes thus far, something has to change in the summer if the Reds are going to become a true force to be reckoned with.
We’ve seen what happens when they hit top gear. They score goals, they move on instinct and they don’t give opposition defences a second’s respite both on or off the ball. That being said, however, the fact of the matter is that Liverpool simply don’t have enough players to implement this system effectively and in an enduring manner. Having a starting XI that impresses isn’t enough when your squad that provides depth isn’t anywhere near as deep or capable as it should be.
There’s more than one way to win the Premier League but generally winning games helps and to do that, you need to have players with an attitude and ability better than your opposition. You just have to look at our top four rivals benches this season to see the gulf in squad depth.
Manchester City have enough depth to be leaving out the likes of Vincent, Kompany and Sergio Aguero while Chelsea have a bench boasting the likes of Begovic, Fabregas, Willian and until he left last week, Ivanovic. Arsenal have potential game changers in Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud while one can argue that Gabriel is a far more solid defensive option than Ragnar Klavan is at Liverpool. Spurs are slightly more reliant on their starting XI than the others but Heung-Min Son, Lamela, Trippier and Vorm are all more than capable options when they need to be called upon.
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In theory, Liverpool’s bench (going on my preferred XI) isn’t terrible by reputation. Origi is a promising, pacy, young striker, Sturridge is ‘one of the best finishers in the league,’ Lucas has a reputation for his past achievements while Emre Can on his day is no slouch.
However, either by way of loss of form or lack of fit, all four have been dreadful so far this season. Origi had a short patch in December when he looked to be at the standard he should be but since then has dropped off remarkably. The Reds are never going to win a trophy – let alone the Premier League title – if Klopp doesn’t start looking to bring in at least one or two players of considerable quality to put pressure on his current starting XI.
Roberto Firmino is without question one of Klopp’s most important players when fully firing but his form since the start of December has been nothing short of poor. The issue for Klopp is that he’s had nobody to replace him with or challenge him for his place in the team. Nobody else presses quite how he does and nobody else provides his all round work rate.
How about Sadio Mané? By Klopp’s own admission, Mané is the only real winger at the club and it’s common knowledge that he’s the only one who really injects any proper pace into our side. We can’t just rely on him, however, as that would be both unwise and unfair to the player.
I applaud Klopp’s policy of buying slightly younger and slightly raw talent, looking to utilise training ground hours and tactical nuance to mould them into future stars but here’s the issue with that. It makes us continue on as a selling club. We mould players, develop them and then as soon as we’re on the cusp of something wonderful, they’re out the door to the biggest club who’ll have them.
Sign a sought after name who not only provides quality but fits the system – someone I’ve been hopeful over for a couple of years now is Alexandre Lacazette of Lyon – and all of a sudden that changes. The extra star power gives the club’s current stars further incentive to stay and shows them the ambition of the club’s owners and manager alongside also providing that extra necessary injection of quality.
Many of Liverpool’s current starters would genuinely make superb bench options. If Jürgen Klopp can build an XI that looks something likes this – New Goalkeeper, Clyne, Matip, new CB, new LB, Henderson, new Midfielder, Lallana, Coutinho, Firmino, Mané – or potentially with Firmino in the no.10 role behind a 20 goal a season striker, all of a sudden we look far more assured and deep.
Whatever happens the rest of this season, one thing is clear: Jürgen Klopp needs to bite the bullet and spend some more money. His ability to bring in players like Mané and Matip in the summer while keeping the net spend at a very low level was applaudable but it’s time to step it up and target some true quality names. The money is evidently there, both FSG and Klopp have confirmed this. So spend it, or we’re just going to risk being left behind.
If you enjoyed Jack’s article or would like to discuss it with him, be sure to find him on Twitter.