Four Positions Liverpool Need To Strengthen To Turn Themselves Into Title Contenders

Four Positions Liverpool Need To Strengthen To Turn Themselves Into Title Contenders
Jun 7, 2017

Featured Liverpool

The final day of the season was a typical representation of what Liverpool have become under Jürgen Klopp. Varied emotions were felt throughout the match as agony, suspense and relief were all felt by fans of the club over the course of the 90-minute match. It was a clear representation as to how far the club have fallen that securing a top four finish on the last day of the season was met with so much elation at the full-time whistle. But for fans of the Anfield outfit, who have had to go through the trials and tribulations of the ‘Hodgson era’, the win marked a monumental step in the right direction for the club. ü

The difference between winning and failing to overcome a stubborn Middlesbrough side were extreme. Win and fans can dream about top class players being attracted to Merseyside once more; fail to win and risk being left behind in the transfer market by their top four competitors once more. Thankfully for Liverpool fans, it was the former. With Champions League nights returning to Anfield – for one qualifying match at least – let’s take a look at who the Merseyside club could be signing in what will be a defining summer for the whole club.

Central Defender 

Let’s be honest, it doesn’t take me to tell you what a shambles the Liverpool defence is in comparison to other top clubs. Klopp has improved it to an extent, shown by the fact they’ve conceded eight fewer goals from 2015/16, and sometimes the criticism aimed at the defence by experienced pundits is unjustified. Joel Matip signing on a free added some well-needed resilience, but Dejan Lovren still often leaves Liverpool fans with hearts in their mouths thanks to his costly errors. Both, however, have been fairly injury prone this season, making a new CB high on Klopp’s agenda for this summer.

On the subject of injuries, it’s no secret that Liverpool’s number one target this summer is Virgil Van Dijk. The Dutchman has been out since February and Southampton insist the player is still worth upwards of £50m. Nevertheless, that didn’t deter the Anfield hierarchy and the Reds were embroiled in a tight battle for his signature along with Manchester City and Chelsea. Van Dijk has reportedly chosen Klopp over Pep Guardiola and Antonio Conte with just the fee, which is expected to hit £60m, to be agreed.

However, recent allegations from the Saints could put any deal in jeopardy as they claim that the Merseyside club have been ‘tapping up’ the player with reports that Klopp met with Van Dijk without Southampton’s permission and would only let their star man leave if he handed in a transfer request.

He would certainly be a welcome addition, the Dutchman has won more tackles & aerial duels combined (327) since joining the Premier League than any other centre-back. Klopp will be hoping that the south-coast club’s resistance can be broken and that Van Dijk will be an LFC player by the time the season kicks off in August.

If the club fails in their pursuit of Van Dijk, then they may look abroad in the shape of Kalidou Koulibaly. The Senegalese-born centre-back is two years younger than Lovren and has had a considerable better season than the Croation. Courtesy of WhoScored, Koulibaly managed per game: 2 tackles, 2.3 interceptions, 4.1 clearances and 1 block.

In comparison, Lovren completed: 1.4 tackles, 1.6 interceptions, 6.3 clearances and 0.6 blocks. The only stat that Lovren trumps the Napoli man in is clearances suggesting that Lovren is a lot more rational on the ball; further backed up by the fact that Lovren has chosen to play the ball long 1.3 more times than Koulibaly per game.

Koulibaly stands at 195cm tall compared to Lovren’s 188cm and with Liverpool’s struggles to defend set pieces the former Genk man could be the answer to Klopp’s problems. He is valued at £25.5m on TransferMarkt, but Napoli are only likely to entertain offers of above £40 million.

Left-Back

It says a huge amount about Alberto Moreno when you are the only recognised left-back in the squad and are ousted in place of a centre-midfielder. That is exactly what happened, however, as James Milner started 36 of Liverpool’s 38 Premier League matches. Whilst the former England international started off well initially, his constant slowing down of play started to frustrate fans and calls for a signing in that area soared. Despite the lack of options, Alberto Moreno looks set to be axed from Jürgen Klopp’s squad; with a return to Spain looking likely for the former Sevilla man.

One name that was linked early on was Ryan Sessegnon. The 17-year-old rose to prominence this season as he played a pivotal part in helping the Cottagers reach the Championship play-off semi-finals. The English wonderkid, who averaged a rating of 6.78 over 26 league appearances, can also operate on the left-hand side of midfield, making him a good utility option as well. Thanks to this he has been linked with the majority of England’s top clubs with the Reds and Tottenham being the early favourites.

His blistering speed would have been a welcome addition to Liverpool’s flanks, but it has recently been reported that Klopp has pulled out of the running and Pochettino’s side are now favourites to complete the signature of one of English football’s most exciting talents.

Other options that the Reds have been linked with come from abroad in the shape of Benjamin Mendy and Faouzi Ghoulam. Mendy arrived at Monaco from Marseille last summer for a small sum of £11 million and turned out be a key figure in helping Monaco to their first French league title since 2000. Therefore, it’s no surprise that he is being courted by some of Europe’s top clubs. The longevity of his contract means that it would take a sizable £40 million to his services; something which has seemingly discouraged Pep Guardiola from pursuing the Frenchman. This could open a door of opportunity for Liverpool, but with the expensive additions of Virgil Van Dijk, Mohamed Salah and possibly Naby Keita it remains to be seen whether Klopp will see £40 million as a viable fee for a left-back.

Elsewhere, Di Marzio recently reported that the German coach has Ghoulam in his sights. Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has also been linked with the Napoli player and it now appears that he will have to fight a fellow Premier League rival for the 26-year-old’s signature.

Central Midfielder

The Anfield outfit have an abundance of options in the middle of the park with the likes of Adam Lallana, Emre Can, Gini Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson being the players usually guarded with responsibility by Klopp. Despite this variety of options at the boss’ disposal, these players often come unstuck against the lower sides in the table that look to sit back and frustrate the opposition. One man who could be the answer to this problem is Naby Keita.

Whether you are a fan of the way RB Leipzig’s methods of operating or not, you can’t deny how impressive their rise to the top of German football is. One of the main reasons for their incredible second place Bundesliga finish in only their first ever season in the top flight is the revelation of Keita. The Guinean, formerly of the other Red Bull team Salzburg, registered 8 goals and 7 assists in 29 league starts, particularly impressive considering he plays in a deeper role most of the time.

His ability to drive forward from deep is a valuable asset, as only Ousmane Dembele trumped him for most dribbles completed per match on average during the course of the season. The 22-year-old is also has a strong defensive side to his game making four defensive actions on average per game, whilst making only one mistake that led to a goal all season.

Keita is a player that Klopp hugely admires and one that would significantly improve the whole Liverpool side. Signing him, however, is likely to remain a tough proposition as, due to their huge riches, Leipzig are in no position where they need to sell one of their star assets. The decision lies with the player himself as the sporting director at the Red Bull Leipzig Arena, Ralf Ragnick, has the intention of offering the player a new contract soon. If Keita does seek a move to England then it is likely he will cost in the region of £50 million.

Winger

January proved to every single Liverpool fan and Jürgen Klopp what a mistake it was to not buy another winger during the winter transfer window. When Sadio Mané jetted off to the African Cup of Nations Liverpool were within 5 points off leaders Chelsea. By the time Mané returned, however, Liverpool were seven points behind and Chelsea had a game in hand. The lack of pace in the side in Mané’s absence meant the club racked up only one point from six, suffered an embarrassing FA Cup exit at home to Wolves and missed out on a place at Wembley with a semi-final EFL Cup double-legged defeat to Southampton. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Klopp has already reportedly agreed terms with a winger similar to Mané. That man is Mohamed Salah.

Frequent viewers of the Premier League will remember Salah for his disastrous spell at Chelsea, where he registered just thirteen appearances in two seasons. The Egyptian has since had subsequent loan spells at Fiorentina and, the club he eventually signed for, Roma. During this return to Italy, he has established himself as one of the best wingers in the Serie A and becoming one of only 8 players to register doubles figures for goals (15) and assists (11) in Europe’s top 5 leagues last season. At just the age of 24, he could form a devastating partnership with Sadio Mané for years to come at Anfield and his tremendous work rate fits in well with Klopp’s gegenpress style.

Roma need to sell players before the end of this month to meet financial fair play rules and the sale of Salah for a fee of between £35m-£40m, which would be a club record fee for the Reds, could happen in the very near future. With reports that the former Basel man has already spoken with Klopp and agreed a £90,000 a week deal the transfer could be announced within a couple of weeks.

If Liverpool fail to agree a fee with the Italian side, then they may look towards another option in the Serie A. Keita Baldé Diao has been a long-term target for Liverpool and ESPN have reported that scouts have been sent on a regular basis to watch him since 2014. With the player’s contract expiring at the end of 2018, Lazio will look to offload the winger as soon as possible with domestic rivals AC Milan and Juventus also interested.

Reports this morning have also linked Liverpool with Sporting Lisbon’s Gelson Martins. At just 21 years of age, he is certainly someone who could have a long-lasting career at Anfield and he fulfils plenty of characteristics expected in a winger.

He has a plethora of lightning pace and isn’t afraid to run at his man – something he did to devastating effect against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. However, he does lack the physique required to compete in the much stronger Premier League and Sporting would be unlikely to sell their prized asset for a small sum; despite the need to sell to fulfil financial restrictions.

If Jürgen Klopp completes signings for his three main targets it will see Liverpool smash their transfer record a potential staggering three times in one window. With the return of Champions League football and star names being attracted to the club once more, the 2017/18 season could be a truly thrilling ride for everyone involved with Liverpool Football Club.

 

 

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