Liverpool have been the headline creators in chief over the past few months.
Jurgen Klopp’s influence over Liverpool was much more pronounced last season. The Reds played some incredible football, particularly from September through December, and were considered title challengers for most of the season.
That the wheels fell off so dramatically shows that there is plenty of room for improvement in Klopp’s squad, with many areas of the pitch needing tinkering.
Liverpool need to sign players early in the window to allow them time to attain the fitness required to be part of Klopp’s famed ‘gengenpress’ strategy.
What do they need?
While Reds fans might be shouting the loudest for defensive players to improve what is undoubtedly their biggest weakness, Klopp appears to have taken a different strategy with his signings, targeting pacey, exciting wingers to ease Liverpool’s over-reliance on Sadio Mane.
Mohammed Salah was a target from Roma, with the Reds reportedly seeing a bid worth upwards of £28 million turned down. Expect Klopp to sign an energetic, pacey, presser who gives Liverpool quality and variety on the wings of their 4-3-2-1 formation.
Centre-back is the other area being targeted, with Liverpool having to end their interest in Virgil Van Dijk after Southampton reported them for having ‘tapped up’ the player. Expect Klopp to look to Europe for an agile centre-back capable of handling physical and pacey strikers, but most importantly is not mistake-prone, given the errors made with Dejan Lovren.
Left-back is a position that requires strengthening as well, with James Milner no more than a stop-gap option and Alberto Moreno unconvincing. Ryan Bertrand of Southampton has been floated as a target, as has Andrew Robertson of relegated Hull. Realistically, though, Liverpool need a player of Betrand’s quality or better to represent a true upgrade that signals a title challenge.
The final position that could be strengthened is defensive midfield. Liverpool lacked a destroyer to stop counter-attacks last season, with Jordan Henderson, Emre Can and Adam Lallana all pressers but none truly an out-and-out midfield stopper. This position is harder to get, but a player like Sporting Lisbon’s William Carvalho, Danilo of Porto, or Fabinho of Monaco represent a player of quality who would add to the Anfield side’s title push.
Who is leaving?
Alberto Moreno looks gone given Klopp’s persistence with a right-sided midfielder at left-back above him, and England striker Daniel Sturridge may also ask for a move elsewhere, frustrated at a lack of playing time largely due to his lack of defensive press and injury record. However, given he is contracted, Liverpool may opt to retain his services to provide a quality option from the bench.
In the midfield Lucas Levia may also opt for a move away from Anfield given the additional depth the club will sign in his position this summer.
Can they win the title?
It will be a difficult challenge for the Reds. With Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and Spurs all likely to strengthen significantly in the summer, Liverpool face a tough ask to merely hold onto their spot in the top four. That said, make the right signings – of proper first-team quality – in the right positions and anything is possible.
Overall, however, with the addition of Champions League football every other week, it may be difficult for Liverpool to sustain a title challenge. Consolidating their position in the top four would represent a par season for Jurgen Klopp’s men.