Martin King outlines what Jürgen Klopp has to do in the summer transfer window or risk the club’s chances of winning silverware in the 2018/19 season.
Nabil Fekir, Jorginho, Ruben Neves and Ousmane Dembélé.
All names linked with a transfer to Liverpool over the past few weeks and months – all unique talents more than capable of adding to Liverpool’s attacking department.
However exciting these potential arrivals could be, though, there remains one area of Jürgen Klopp’s team that needs more attention than any other if Liverpool are to maintain a position at the top level.
There are no two ways about it, getting carried away by how great the team looks going forward at the expense of ignoring this department would be a costly mistake.
An improving defence
For several seasons running, Liverpool’s defence has, quite literally, been the only thing standing between them and domestic or continental success. Even more frustrating is the fact the Merseyside club have come so close, only to let themselves down on multiple occasions.
The problem is definitely being addressed by Klopp, though.
Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson are just two names that have emerged under the German as strong defensive players. The pair has helped to transform Liverpool’s defence from two positions that were the most concerning last season and the numbers are a testament to their impact.
In the Premier League this season, the Reds have conceded 38 goals. That is fewer than Liverpool have conceded in five consecutive seasons and a final match against Brighton & Hove Albion this Sunday isn’t likely to change that.
Moving forward, however, this is a number Klopp’s men will have to decrease, as in this campaign it still means they have let in the most goals in the league’s top five.
Hate them or love them, Manchester City and United’s tally of 27 and 28 goals conceded respectively are records that Klopp has to aspire to match or better if Liverpool are to top their fierce rivals.
Additions are essential
The only wise way to go about that this summer is by targeting defenders of a similar caliber to the Reds’ attackers in the transfer market.
The Merseyside club has already proved to the world they are well capable of doing that with the £75 million purchase of Van Dijk – a signing which, as mentioned, has already yielded better defensive performances. The buck cannot always stop with him, though. Further additions are needed, as the quality of the rest of Liverpool’s defence is still fairly questionable.
In the absence of Joël Matip, Dejan Lovren has stepped up with a number of assured displays alongside his Dutch teammate, but these performances haven’t come without the inconsistency that has fans still doubting his true ability: the mindless contact on Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin in the Merseyside Derby, failure to keep track of Edin Dzeko in the Champions League semi-final first leg against Roma, Tottenham Hotspur away…better left unsaid.
The same applies for young Trent Alexander-Arnold, who can be brilliant on the attack but lax at the other end. Joe Gomez either struggles with injury or can’t pin down a specific position in Klopp’s starting eleven, while Ragnar Klavan, for all his good character, just isn’t good enough for a side that seeks to challenge at England and Europe’s top level.
Ruthless as it sounds, these players and the flaws they bring to the team simply have to be replaced by better-equipped defenders this summer. Previously linked names like Lazio’s Stefan de Vrij, Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly, Ajax Amsterdam’s Matthijs de Ligt or Toby Alderwiereld, whose future at Tottenham Hotspur is up in the air, are great places to start.
Another problem position in the goalkeeper department shouldn’t be ignored as well and with Roma’s Alisson Becker reportedly still on Liverpool’s radar, it’s one that should be sorted out by the end of the summer transfer window.
Solidying the defence is, was and always will be one of the most crucial parts of managing any team back to its best shape. It’s as former Liverpool midfielder and Premier League pundit Don Hutchinson always says: “You can’t win the league with an ‘okay’ defence.
By the morning of Sunday, May 27, the Reds will either be the champions of Europe or continuing on their quest for major silverware. Either way, continuing their rebuilding process by recruiting ready-made quality will be pivotal to their chances of success in the coming season.
This summer presents Liverpool with a great opportunity to do just that and almost guarantee their position as serious domestic and continental challengers. Klopp would make a huge mistake to pass it up.