Football news - Opinion: Four things Liverpool must do to win the Premier League title next year
Liverpool have failed utterly in their attempt to keep hold of the Premier League title, and Manchester City are set to strengthen this summer in order to challenge on all four fronts again. We look at four moves available to Jurgen Klopp to get back to winning ways for the 2021/2022 Premier League season.
Jurgen Klopp has work to do to get the Reds back to their best
Liverpool have endured a hugely disappointing follow up season to their last two seasons, but there is a clear way back for Jurgen Klopp and some - not all - of his team.
There are key areas of the side that need to be changed, removed or improved, and that could lead to a difficult and busy summer for the German. He may be fortunate to see the European Super League collapse, as the Fenway Sports Group now have little choice but to sell up, or more likely, buy their way back into the hearts of their previously credulous fanbase.
Ozan Kabak has been gradually improving since his arrival on loan from Schalke, and if he is available at a reasonable price - around £30 million according to disparate reports - then it makes sense to bring him in given his age and potential. But that is unlikely to be enough. Virgil van Dijk is a technically adept player and does not rely on his physique alone, but it would give him a better chance of a full return to the imposing player he was before his injury, if Liverpool don’t need to rush him back.
Joel Matip is too unreliable, and Joe Gomez is too young to step in to lead the defence. It might feel like overkill to then go into the market for yet another centre-back after they also brought in Ben Davies from Preston North End who is clearly not trusted as a long-term option. Ahead of the trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United, he is yet to play a single minute, and so another experienced option would be a handy option for Klopp.
Virgil Van Dijk (L) and Joe Gomez (R)
Image credit: Getty Images
Give his wing-backs a rest
Trent Alexander-Arnold’s form might be a point of contention between Klopp and Gareth Southgate, but there is no getting away from the fact that both Andy Robertson and his teammate are asked to play incessantly. There is something inherently selfish about how clubs use their wide defenders, by asking them to do the running of two players, operate defensively and offensively, and do so for every game of the season. It can't be a sensible use of their mental and physical longevity.
For Klopp he has James Milner and Kostas Tsimikas as his back-ups, and the Greek has played just once. The famous Liverpool transfer strategy has done brilliantly well so far, but there are weaknesses appearing, as we can discuss further...
Alisson Becker and Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool embrace prior to the Premier League match between Liverpool and Newcastle United at Anfield
Image credit: Getty Images
Buy a central midfielder
It was perversely brilliant to win the Premier League with a midfield trio of Georginio Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson and James Milner. Three absolutely adequate players without an ounce of genius, moulded into precisely the right kind of midfield to batter teams into submission. But perhaps like wingbacks, and given they are all coming towards the end of their respective careers, that has proved to be unsustainable.
The addition of Thiago Alcantara was a sensible move to increase the experience, mobility and nous into the midfield and the experiment deserves more patience. Perhaps the problem is that of Fabinho and Naby Keita as alternatives, Thiago needs teammates who can match both his running and speed of thought. So far Liverpool’s work in the market has been underwhelming in the middle of the park.
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Sacrifice one of the front three
Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane are both 29, and Mo Salah is 28 until he is 29, meaning that all three of them will be angling for one more big contract and it remains to be seen which are the teams ready to take the risk of a three-year, big money deal.
Salah is the finest player of the three, and as such he could perhaps also raise the most in transfer fees. It would be a brave and probably reckless decision to move him on, so realistically Klopp must decide whether Mane or Firmino should be shunted out of the club. Not because they are bad players, but because even the best album loses its appeal when played on repeat.
By changing the defence, midfield and attack, it is essentially a form of pruning that needs to be carried out on the greatest teams. Alex Ferguson was never afraid to trim or hack as necessary, and Pep Guardiola is perfectly happy to rip up his flower beds for ever more expensive orchids. Klopp and his players have not necessarily become individually worse, only collectively, so it is time for action.