Over the years Liverpool has made some great January signings, most notoriously the likes of current star Virgil Van Dijk and former striker Luis Suarez. In 2019/2020 Liverpool made club history by winning their first Premier League in a historic feat, but it took mere hours for fans to start speculating on which stars will now be added to this already amazing squad, will it be Mbappe or Haaland, Isco or Saul?
None of those came into fruition, however, and Liverpool managed to scrap to third position following an injury-plagued season. Once again fans speculated about transfers, clearly, the owners could see that this squad needed options on the bench. Could Liverpool compete with the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, and Manchester United now? All of Liverpool’s rivals added to their start-studded squads and Liverpool fans were in panic mode. Liverpool has no money to spend, the headlines read. “It’s outrageous and appalling” fans cried out as John Henry celebrated the arrival of his new boat, to the annoyance of the Liverpool faithful.
Then came the whole European Super League debacle with John Henry in the forefront of the controversial move and once again, promises were made. The arrival of Diogo Jota, however, calmed things down a little, there was a little more hope in fans as Jurgen Klopp ensured fans that there was no one they wanted in the squad as Thiago, Keita, Oxlade Chamberlain and importantly Virgil Van Dijk all made successful returns from injury. What now?
Liverpool got off to a good start, staying toe-to-toe with leaders Chelsea as their squad got into third gear following their Champions League victory, Man City kept the pace despite not having a striker and having bids for Harry Kane rejected. All was well until a multiple of draws and dropped points saw Liverpool fall 9 points behind leaders Man City who has picked up the pace and aim to create an unpassable distance between their rivals.
Do Liverpool need more options on the bench? What are the issues that they’re facing despite having the same squad that won the Premier League?
For starters, this is an aging squad, that is almost fatigued and run out after playing for almost 5 years together, in a high-tempo heavy metal form of football. It’s virtually impossible to expect the same output as 2017-2019 and Jurgen Klopp recognized this, the likes of Thiago and Jota were brought in, both different players in key positions, and gives Liverpool an extra element of control and creativity. Thiago brings pizazz and ingenuity to Liverpool’s midfield, something they didn’t have with Gini Wijnaldum, but he also lacks the ability to run and do the dirty work that Wijnaldum did, playing almost every game for Jurgen Klopp alongside Captain Jordan Henderson and Fabinho.
Diogo Jota has surpassed expectations and proven to be vital in front of goal. He brings movement, pace, and another dimension to that formidable forward line of attack, and allows the likes of Salah and Mane to interchange and create avenues for attack, especially against low defensive lines. Naby Keita returned from injury and had a run of impressive games, as Liverpool cruised in the so-called ‘group of death’ in the Champions League, and maintained good form in the Premier League.
The trouble is, they haven’t picked up maximum points against the current top-6 and this is a problem considering Man City’s inability to slow down and lose games. Despite all of that, are Liverpool in need of new personnel? Let’s dive into the squad.
Goalkeepers Allison and Kelleher have been stellar for Liverpool, a position they once had trouble in. Trent Alexander-Arnold is quickly becoming one of the best full-backs in the world and has picked up form once again, following a terrible season, his deputy Nico Williams is more than capable of stepping in and displays great ability for such a young age. The form of Greek Konstantinos Tsimikas is a huge bonus for Liverpool, who often played Milner as deputy to Andrew Robertson. Virgil’s return from injury alongside Joel Matip, who has also been injury-prone has settled things at the back, but it was the arrival of Ibrahima Konaté from Leipzig that was most satisfactory for fans.
Konate has huge expectations and is most favored to be Van Dijk’s partner in the future, which is unfair to Joe Gomez, who most likely will either go out on loan or be sold to raise funds. Young defender Nat Philips has a promising future ahead of him, and will most likely be let out on loan.
Midfield areas saw the return of Fabinho following his position change last season due to injuries, partnering with Jordan Henderson and Thiago. This trio has been impressive once they clicked and allowed for players like Naby Keita, Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliot, and Ox to come in and play their more attacking roles within the midfield 3. However, Keita has been injury prone and Liverpool fans are quickly losing patience with the Guinean, he does however have a chance to prove that he still belongs with his country playing in the African Cup of Nations this month.
Oxlade- Chamberlain has returned from injury as well, but his form hasn’t reached the heights that he once rose to. He has clearly lost the ability, pace, and finesse, perhaps confidence too and this is worrying for fans. Is it finally time to let him go? It’s clear to see why Jurgen Klopp trusts the likes of Harvey Elliot (Injured) and Curtis Jones (Returning from Injury) as they possess something the more senior players don’t, flair. Klopp’s trust in these young players is why he hasn’t pushed for major signings, and causing an upset in the hierarchy, Liverpool has never been a buying club, so why start now?
The front 3 has been buoyed by the arrival of Diogo Jota and Takumi Minamino finding his feet, after a difficult season in England. If Liverpool are to invest in players, who would they invest in? and will they be content to sit on the bench? The answer is no one, not at least right now. Liverpool has recently extended contracts of key players in multiple positions and they’ve moved to a new training ground, as well as extending the main stand. Money is being spent elsewhere in FSG’s goal of making Liverpool a global brand, not just a football club. Fans have been concerned about the delay of Mohamed Salah’s contract, as the star’s leverage only increases as he racks up the goals and puts his name in a shout for being the world’s best player. It would be a travesty if they lost him to Real Madrid or PSG because of contract issues and fans would riot.
Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp, in particular, is not focused on now, but rather maintaining the future of the club. This is the reason he doesn’t invest in high-profile players like the Manchester clubs, and Chelsea. His team and scouts carefully watch young players and look at their potential long-term rather than immediate impact. This has seen success with the likes of Jota, Van Dijk, and Konate to name a few, but also why he trusts more in his academy players and fans have witnessed more young stars from the academy debuting in the first team.
The future is bright for Liverpool, and even though some fans want immediate success, the club aims to create long-term success in competing for the league and Champions League multiple seasons over, instead of just winning one title and then having to re-invest continuously to aging stars. There is no crisis at Liverpool, and yes, they have dropped points, but it’s not due to not having the right players but more so for tactical errors and mistakes made during crucial moments in the game.
Man City is difficult to compete within the transfer market and even though they have two full star-studded squads, teams have shown that you can compete with them and that they are beatable, consistency is key. Liverpool has been rumored to be interested in Luis Diaz from Porto, and Ousmane Dembele has been favored by Jurgen Klopp, a player with extreme talent no doubt, but one that is also injury-prone.
The coming weeks will prove vital in the run-in for this year’s Premier League, Liverpool will look to catch up to Man City with a lot of points still up for grabs, however, once again it is the unpredictability of Covid that threatens to disrupt things, but for now, the season will move ahead as scheduled.
Do you think Liverpool needs to sign anyone? Who do you feel gives them an advantage for the league? Let us know in the comments below.
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