Jack Hallows believes that this summer the Reds shouldn’t be wasting their time trying to find a replacement for Philippe Coutinho.
I know what you’re thinking, you’ve read the title and tagline of this article and you’re already readying your “what the hell are you talking about???” comments. Just give me a chance, will you?
Let’s look at the facts here, there aren’t very many players in world football who can single-handedly fill the void Philippe Coutinho has left by leaving Liverpool for Barcelona.
The Brazilian is a superb dribbler, master creator, consistent scorer of world-class goals and is comfortable playing both on the left side of a front three or as a deep-lying playmaker. He’s also brilliant in dead ball situations, capable of decent set-piece deliveries and hammering home free kicks himself when he finds his range.
To put it short, he’s genuinely a unique package.
It’s for this reason that I believe Klopp should not be looking for a like-for-like replacement and instead, should be investing in moulding the final pieces of his squad.
The goalkeeper position has long been an Achilles heel for this Liverpool side.
A lack of confidence and an incredible knack for sloppy errors, poor judgement and woeful decision making has plagued each of Liverpool’s goalkeepers since Pepe Reina’s baffling decline.
Jürgen Klopp attempted to address this issue back in 2016 when signing Loris Karius and while his countryman arrived to plenty of praise from Bundesliga pundits and experts alike, he’s hardly set the world alight.
There has been a bombardment of links to Atletico Madrid’s Jan Oblak – which personally I see as just being media talk – and also Alisson Becker of AS Roma since the West Bromwich Albion defeat during which Simon Mignolet once again looked like a deer caught in headlights.
If Liverpool did sign Jan Oblak, I’d be over the moon. In my opinion, he’s the third best goalkeeper in the world behind only Manuel Neuer and David De Gea. However, I feel as if even if Champions League football is secured on the Reds’ side, Alisson would be the more realistic option.
Best save success rate in Europe’s top 5 leagues this season (10+ apps)
1) Jan Oblak — 91.5%
2) Marc-Andre ter Stegen — 84.9%
3) Alisson — 81.1%
4) David De Gea — 81.0% pic.twitter.com/Z8LYXvMCfK
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) February 7, 2018
While Oblak’s shot-stopping ability is genuinely unrivaled by anyone in Europe, Alisson is not far behind. The Roma man, dubbed the “Messi of goalkeepers,” is also said to be superb with his feet and incredible with his distribution – both skills that Klopp rates highly due to his preference for playing out from the back.
A goalkeeper at Liverpool Football Club who exudes confidence, makes ridiculous reflex saves, has solid distribution and brings an air of calm to our manic defence? If I was Klopp I’d be spending as much money as possible to make that a reality.
A defensive midfielder
Let’s face it, Emre Can is leaving, Jordan Henderson’s injury record isn’t good enough and the incoming Naby Keïta is not a holding midfielder.
This is a position that Liverpool have been crying out for since the beginning of Klopp’s reign with the German preferring to make use of stop-gap solutions – such as Henderson for example who previously, was seen as a box-to-box midfielder – to fill the void.
However, it’s not going to be easy to find someone who will fit the role.
The ideal player would have to be someone akin to Manchester City’s Fernandinho who has been a revelation for the Champions-to-be this season. He’s gone under the radar this season due to the form of Guardiola’s attacking players such as Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane but his importance to City’s success thus far this season cannot go unmentioned.
The Brazilian boasts the ability to read the game, break up play, win aerial duels and muscle into tackles while also contributing to the attacking part of Guardiola’s game with three goals and three assists in the Premier League this term.
His discipline also allows the likes of De Bruyne and Silva to push on and contribute to an overload of the opposition area without having to worry too much about the defensive side of the game.
Imagine the freedom that would be afforded to the likes of Naby Keïta, Gini Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain and potentially another new signing such as the recently linked Isco with a player like Fernandinho sitting behind them?
Let me start by saying that we aren’t going to be able to get much better than our current front three.
The chaotic trident that is Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané has been causing mayhem in the attacking third week in, week out this season. However, these three are not the issue. The issue lies on Klopp’s bench.
If an injury occurs, the Reds no longer boast significant depth to cope. There is set to be a major over-reliance on an out of form Adam Lallana, an injury prone Danny Ings and a raw, inexperienced Dominic Solanke for the rest of the season and that simply cannot continue next campaign.
Personally, I’d like to see the club get Sturridge, Origi and potentially Danny Ings all off the books this coming summer and reinvest the funds in both a wide forward and another player capable of filling the ‘false nine.’
Christian Pulisic of Dortmund would be the perfect foil for Salah and Mané and while he’s expressed no interest in a move to England, he’s not ruled it out either and could be tempted by a manager renowned for nurturing young talent like Klopp.
Moving away from the Bundesliga, Nabil Fekir is another player who could be a superb acquisition as competition for Roberto Firmino. The Frenchman has managed an incredible 20 goals and 6 assists for Lyon this season in 29 matches suggesting that while he could also play behind the Brazilian, his end product would be more than good enough to adopt the false nine role that Firmino occupies.
He also averages 1.6 tackles per 90 – the same as Firmino – suggesting that there is already an ability to defend from the front about the Frenchman’s game.
Philippe Coutinho was an absolutely superb player for us, especially in his final 18 months at the club there is no doubt but it would be absolutely fruitless to try and find an exact replacement.
If Jürgen Klopp manages not to shy away from spending big money this summer, there are far more pressing needs that should be addressed – especially if the final notch in the German’s belt at Liverpool is to be achieved: the elusive silverware.