An energy-sapping and physically demanding season is set to carry on way into the summer for each and every Liverpool player courtesy of the fierce competition for places the arrival of new signings promises to spark.
Seeing any new faces secure a place in the Reds’ starting eleven will be testament to what an inspired signing they truly are given the talented group of players Jurgen Klopp already has at his disposal.
The club’s record transfer budget will be at hand to bolster the squad’s strength in depth and work towards ensuring Liverpool are capable of mounting a serious Premier League title challenge next season.
Klopp isn’t eyeing up replacements but instead alternative options of matching quality to his current players and with the traits capable of defying suggestions his side lacks a Plan B. A notable dip in form following the turn of the year proved to be an admittedly untimely yet very necessary exposure of the need for a busy transfer window. The club’s emphatic start to the campaign months earlier, however, had also been a teasing hint that a title challenge wasn’t too far out of the picture.
The acquisition of priority targets will take the Reds a step closer to fulfilling such a belief, but will first give Klopp plenty to think about as far as understanding his strongest team and system is concerned.
A new look back four?
Liverpool meeting Southampton’s reported £50million asking price for Virgil van Dijk would seemingly mark the club signing an immediate first choice centre-back, were a deal to take place, that is. The Dutchman is the main defensive target being lined up to help strengthen the spine of the team and a player the Reds are prepared to break their £35million transfer record for. A successful pursuit would thereby pose questions over who he would in fact step in for, with former Saints man Dejan Lovren emerging as the unfortunate candidate.
The Croatian endured a mixed campaign, showcasing signs of moulding into the stern and reliable centre-back many expected him to become but still struggling to convince on a regular basis. Joel Matip has justified retaining his starting spot upon the arrival of another centre-half perhaps more so than Lovren and would be difficult to drop having presented himself as such a valuable multi-dimensional option at the heart of Liverpool’s back four. A Van Dijk and Matip partnership with an undeniably capable back up in Lovren looks the ideal scenario, were a deal to take place. Greeting Van Dijk would also trigger doubts over the future of Ragnar Klavan, who could also be overtaken in the pecking order by highly-regarded youngster Joe Gomez.
Rotation could be the key to Liverpool’s left-back situation as opposed to a straight swap. Alberto Moreno’s imminent departure makes the arrival of a replacement all but certain with both Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon and Hull City’s Andrew Robertson having been subject to talk of a move to Merseyside.
The pair would mark two notably different situations, with Sessegnon being viewed primarily as an understudy to James Milner and Robertson representing a potential starter. In finding a left-back with minutes under his belt and already equipped to play in England’s top flight would grant Klopp the freedom to deploy Milner in a number of midfield positions. That said, the Englishmen’s impressive season in an unfamiliar role could too be a dilemma with his manager likely to find it difficult to move him. A new left-back will arrive, but don’t be surprised to see Milner start the season in defence.
The latest £50million man…
The regularity at which Liverpool’s pursuit of Naby Keita has been reported recently threatens huge disappointment if a deal doesn’t eventually materialise. Reports suggesting the Reds would be prepared to pay £50million for the Guinean have fuelled greater belief amongst supporters that he will join this summer. Similarly to the Van Dijk situation, surpassing the club’s record transfer fee to gain his services goes someway towards recognising him as a starter.
If that is the case, who misses out? Philippe Coutinho could well move into a deeper role and occupy one of the three central midfield positions, as discussed prior to the 4-0 win over West Ham. He won’t be dropped. Adam Lallana has emerged as an influential figure in implementing the pressing and high intensity attacking football his manager desires. Klopp won’t want to drop him. Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum finished the season in fine form and proved their worth with their all-action displays. Many would deem it harsh to drop either one of the pair. Then there is Jordan Henderson. The club captain and a man who, when fit, was outstanding on the ball last season and as a leader to the rest of his team.
Klopp will want Keita’s athleticism and his energy in midfield but faces a seriously tough task on deciding who to leave out- providing a deal takes place, of course.
Movement up top?
Liverpool’s starting front three could depend on not only new signings but also Klopp’s plans for Coutinho. The Brazilian, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino keeping their places in the first eleven appears a certainty. What is less obvious is where each of them will play. Their versatility and interchanging is what sets them in good stead to adapt comfortably, whether it be playing around a new and orthodox centre-forward, or welcoming another conventional winger into the setup.
A Mohamed Salah or a Luan would be considered backups for squad depth purposes and in aid of an inevitably busy 2017/2018 schedule. Add a prolific and proven goal scorer, however, and things start to get more complicated. Klopp’s attacking recruitment will be a useful insight into what he has planned for next season.