With the air around Liverpool still thick from the shower of confetti in the wake of their 6th Champions League triumph, it is time to look ahead to next season. The Reds have no time to rest on their laurels if they wish for continued success. The summer transfer window is already in full swing, for evidence of which we need not look any further than Spain. Real Madrid’s €300million-plus spending spree has been headlined by the arrival of Eden Hazard, who Liverpool will be pleased to see the back of. Barcelona, for whom the Champions League crown is becoming ever more elusive, are on the verge of adding Antoine Griezmann to their ranks from rivals Atlético Madrid.
While no such flurry of activity has been seen amongst the Premier League’s top six, Liverpool need to make sure they are quick out of the blocks and conduct their business early, much as they did last summer. Jürgen Klopp may not have the same funds at his disposal as last time, however, with the focus on fine-tuning and tweaking the squad rather than making wholesale changes. Here’s a look at what needs to be done for the season ahead –
Clearing deadwood –
One of the hallmarks of sporting director Michael Edwards’s time at Melwood has been his ability to get top-dollar for departing players. The fact that he raised £45million from the sales of Dominic Solanke and Danny Ings is a testament to that.
Alberto Moreno and Daniel Sturridge’s departures have been confirmed, and there are others who could soon be joining them. Adam Lallana’s injury-plagued last couple of seasons have made him little more than a liability. Nathaniel Clyne has been a casualty of Trent Alexander-Arnold’s meteoric rise, becoming a spare part in Klopp’s squad before he was shipped out on loan. Dejan Lovren’s fall down the pecking order could see him leave with reported interest from Milan.
The club will also have to decide on whether to stick or twist with serial loanees such as Marko Grujić, Allan and Harry Wilson, with plenty of interest for their services from elsewhere.
A further clean-up of the squad is expected as the final relics of the pre-Klopp era are moved on to raise some more funds to reinvest in the market.
Increasing bench strength –
Liverpool’s calendar is looking busy ahead of next season, with increased commitments in the Community Shield, UEFA Super Cup and the Club World Cup. Klopp will also be hoping for a deeper cup run, having been knocked out in the opening rounds of both cup competitions last term.
The extra games warrant a deeper bench, something that has been touted as a weakness in this squad. While youngsters like Rhian Brewster and Wilson can be promoted from within, Edwards will also be on the lookout for shrewd signings in the ilk of Xherdan Shaqiri’s £13million snip last summer.
Adding goals –
This may seem excessive, considering that the Reds have one of Europe’s finest attacks, headlined by Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino, and Mohammed Salah. However, the instances when the front three weren’t firing on all cylinders, most notably in the run of four draws from six matches, ultimately cost them the title.
Keeping in mind that the trio can’t be expected to stay as injury-free as they have in the last two years, it is reasonable to expect reinforcements in the striking department. The aforementioned departures of Sturridge, Ings, and Solanke make that need all the more apparent. If there is to be a marquee signing for Liverpool this summer, it will likely be in this position.
Covering the bases –
For the rest of what will be a quiet summer, Liverpool might adopt a ‘one out, one in’ policy, bringing in players only in case of departures in that position. Simon Mignolet, who only made two appearances in 2018/19, has been a model professional but will undoubtedly look to move on for first-team opportunities. If that is the case, an understudy for Alisson will be added to the shopping list.
The same holds for Lovren. In the event that his £25million-rated move to Italy does materialise, a fourth centre-back will surely be added to the roster. Moreno and Clyne’s imminent departures signal the need for cover in the full-back areas. Klopp’s tendency to rotate heavily makes it important to maintain quality as well as quantity within the squad.
As it stands –
In stark contrast to last year’s aggressive, gung-ho approach, Liverpool seem content with simply dipping their toes and testing the waters in the market this time around. Names ranging from relative unknowns such as Dorukhan Toköz of Beşiktaş to Nicolas Pépé and Nabil Fekir (who?) have surfaced, but no concrete links have emerged just yet. Still, with three weeks till pre season begins, there is plenty of time to get deals done.
If last summer was about righting past wrongs, this one is about building towards the future. For now, Liverpool and Klopp are happy to play the waiting game. The money is there, and the allure of playing for the newly-crowned European champions is higher than ever. It remains to be seen if and when the club pulls the trigger, and on who.
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