Connor's Corner: How Can Liverpool Improve This Summer?
By Connor Harmer
Next up is the improving Liverpool team who seem rejuvenated under boss Jurgen Klopp. After reaching the Europa League final last year before losing out to Sevilla, Klopp galvanised the team and led them to a 4th place finish, pipping Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal and Mourinho’s Manchester United.
Liverpool at times last year were really frightening and its clear to see with a few more additions and keeping hold of their main men in Coutinho and Lallana, they could really make a claim for a title push.
For me, the one key position they need to strengthen is the Goal keeper. Similar to City last year, there was never a clear number one until long after January. It’s easy to dismiss how much of an effect a goalkeeper has on a team, but for me it is one of the most vital positions. For instance, the 3 teams in the league that conceded the least goals last year were Tottenham, Manchester United and Chelsea… what do all 3 of these have in common? A top, top goalkeeper. A keeper not only can save you points and keep you in games, but they can ooze confidence on the back 3/4, which then sets a tone throughout the team. After watching Mignolet many times, he is someone who still doesn’t have that presence. There’s no doubting he is a good shot stopper, but keepers in this day and age need much more than that. He is probably one of the worst keepers with his feet and with over 70% of goalkeepers touches now being with their feet, this is an area I feel needs to be looked at.
Now the obvious choice for this is Joe Hart. English, Premier League winner, international goalkeeper, Champions League experience and on his day, is without doubt miles better than Mignolet and Karius. Hart is someone who should attract Liverpool and with his situation being the way it is at City; his price should also attract Liverpool. The problem that Joe Hart now has is, after a disastrous Euros and a year almost in the wilderness in Torino, has his stock gone down too much for a big club like Liverpool to go in for him? Can they trust that the Joe Hart of old to still be there? I mean it’s not as if he has done himself any favours in the recent England game v Scotland, again beaten by two long range free kicks, that haunted him in the Euros.
The question then is who do they look for? Another English man who could be an option is Jack Butland. The goalkeeper has been near forgotten since his leg break over in Germany last year, but the young keeper is valued very highly by all and after a goof first season at Stoke, his stock is only on the rise. If Butland was to come back to a similar condition to what he was before the injury, I would expect him to soon become England’s established number one and I feel a bigger move will be soon on the cards next summer if not this. This could be Liverpool’s chance to swoop in before his stock becomes even higher.
One final option, but a risky one, is sticking with young German Karius and trust that after a disastrous first season, the young man will learn and fill the potential that is there. Or, do they take a hit on the 4.7m transfer and the young man and look elsewhere? We shall see.
After signing Mo Salah, to add to the already impressive frontline of Lallana, Coutino, Firminho and Mane, I think they now have enough going forward bar the main striker. As much as it hurts me to say it, for me I was amazed and still slightly am as to how 1 – Sadio Mane was not in the player of the year shortlist and 2 – how he did not win it. He absolutely transformed the Liverpool team last year and was the scariest player in the league when he played. With 13 league goals and 5 assists from playing out wide all year, as well as being scintillating in almost every game he played, I’m not sure what more he could have done. The fact that Liverpool crumbled in January when he was at the African Cup of Nations and again when he was ruled out towards the end of the season show how much of an influence he was in getting them to that 4th spot. With Mo Salah now joining as well to add more pace to the attack, I feel it could be another shrewd signing by Klopp. I suspect we will see a completely different player to the one we saw at Chelsea previously and don’t be surprised to see these two frightening the life out of defences.
With the players they have behind, the striker it would be easy to think they should have a player scoring 20+ goals a season and really, they probably should. Sturridge and Origi have not really stepped up and along with the goalkeeping situation, this is the area that needs to be addressed the most IMO. Wild rumours of a bid made for Kylian Mbappe are something which I’m not sure I believe and are pretty outrageous. I think a player who I mentioned previously in my Cheslea article, would be the ideal man for Liverpool. Aubameyang, were Liverpool to splash the cash, would really set tongues wagging back at Anfield ahead of the new season and with Champions League football back, it’s hard to see why he wouldn’t be tempted to go there. Especially with the player himself previously working with Klopp at Dortmund, you must feel that is an advantage to Liverpool. The marksmen, for me, is exactly what they need; An out and out goal scorer, who also has the name and aura to frighten defences
Lacazette was another who I thought could do well, but with him sealing his transfer to Arsenal, that option is out of the question. Germany and Leipzig Striker Timo Werner, had an impressive year in the Bundesliga and the 21-year-old also led the line well in the recent Confederations Cup. With 21 goals in 31 games last year for Leipzig, it’s clear to see that the young forward knows where the goal is, but the only doubt is, is he too young to lead a club like Liverpool to glory?
One of the main transfer saga’s so far of the summer is Vigil Van Djik’s expected move to Liverpool. With the players willingness to move to Liverpool over Chelsea and Man City, it looked like the move was wrapped up for around a 50m fee. However due to tapping up scandal between the two clubs over the transfer it looked like that deal is over. I feel however, that Liverpool will go back in and get their man late on in the transfer window. Usually when a player is so keen to move, it tends to be the deal breaker in the transfer and I can see Liverpool getting their man. I think it’s a well needed signing and Van Djik has shown over the last two/three seasons how good he is. Centre back has been an ongoing issue for Liverpool over the last few years, similar to Man City. But I feel with Lovren coming on after a terrible first year, Matip after an impressive first year and Van Djik, that is a defence along with Clyne that is good enough to again get in that top 4 spot and also push on for a title challenge.
As you can see, I did leave out James Milner in that last line; Now I do feel very sorry for Milner, he’s come in from Man City, leaving them due to the fact he wanted to play central midfield. He’s come in and played a few games there before being made into a makeshift left back. He’s done fantastically well, but I do feel they would benefit more from having him in the central midfield position. Milner, Can, Wijnaldum and Henderson are a good bunch in there and maybe Naby Keita is another option who can offer something different and is someone continuously linked to Liverpool, but with the figures floating around for him, maybe they may be better off taking the risk on what they have.
With Alberto Moreno the only other recognised left back (maybe Flanagan and Gomez when fit) it’s fair to say they need to strengthen here. One player who I was quite surprised to see many Premier League teams pass up and who I think could be a good singing for Liverpool on a free is Gael Clichy. I know he hasn’t set the league alight over the last few years, but at 32 shortly and on a free transfer he is an experienced player who clearly has the ability to play at a top-level team still. With other top leftbacks like Benjamin Mendy, Raphael Guerreiro and Ricardo Rodriguez all having made moves or set to make moves, its looking slim and where else Liverpool can turn to here.
Similar to Tottenham, I feel that Liverpool have to win a trophy this year. They came close in the Europa League final in the 15/16 year, but it’s the same talk every year with them at the moment. The squad is at a stage where it needs to be winning a trophy and taking significant strides in order to keep players like Coutinho. With them now in the Champions League, this is a big benefit, but I feel they should look to win the FA cup or take a serious League gamble and go all out