While every football fan will be engrossed by the World Cup for the next few weeks, those who weren’t chosen for their respective countries to feature in Russia will already be putting in the groundwork ahead of a pivotal summer at Liverpool.
With two new signings already changing the look of Jürgen Klopp’s midfield, further summer recruits could put a number of players in a precarious position regarding their role at the club.
Heading into the pre-season campaign without the exhilarating front three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah alongside captain Jordan Henderson will provide fringe players with the chance to prove their worth to Klopp. Here are five individuals facing a crucial summer.
Clyne was sidelined for most of the 2017/18 campaign having suffered a back issue that saw him feature for just 183 minutes, with Trent Alexander-Arnold cementing the right-back role in his absence.
Picking up Young Player of the Season for the club after a brilliant campaign in which he showed maturity far beyond his years, Trent’s form has put huge pressure on Clyne’s shoulders ahead of 2018/19.
Proving to be a solid figure since joining the club back in 2015, the 27-year-old possesses good experience at both Premier League and international level, an invaluable trait as Liverpool look to book a place in next years Champions League final as well as close the gap on runaway league winners, Manchester City. Given the youthful age of Liverpool’s current squad, he could yet be a key player for Klopp to fall back on during the business end of the season.
Of course, there are limitations to his game; he doesn’t carry the same attacking threat as Trent nor the confidence to roam forward with the ball in the way that the modern game demands, but his strength within the defensive third could yet salvage his Anfield career. The former-Southampton man, while unspectacular in the extreme, is consistent in delivering 6/10 performances and with Alexander-Arnold on international duty, Clyne will likely get an opportunity to show he can be of use to Klopp, even if that’s as a defensive cover. It’s imperative he takes it with both hands.
Albeit a clear favourite of the manager, Lallana will know that his place at the club is under threat this summer with Keita and Fabinho set to feature in a new look midfield next season.
While the 2016/17 season saw Lallana’s stock rise rapidly, his influence has since regressed dramatically. The Englishman endured World Cup heartache having missed out on a call-up for Russia after suffering an injury-stricken campaign in which he made just 16 appearances in all competitions. Perhaps more importantly though, the few times we were able to see Lallana on the pitch he failed to deliver performances of any substance. The Champions League final was testament to that; albeit lacking in match fitness, his lack of pace was evident, inhibiting the usual swift movement of Liverpool’s front three and subsequently raising fears as to whether his career may have peaked.
Thus, this summer will be a huge one for the midfielder. Gareth Southgate’s decision could yet prove pivotal in allowing Lallana to retain his place at Liverpool; the 30-year-old now has the opportunity to get a good summer break under his belt before putting in the hard graft to get back to tip-top shape. His ability to carve open chances and move between the lines makes him a useful tool, but he’s very much on the periphery rather than at the heart of the starting XI as he once was.
Matip’s arguably got the biggest summer of all these players, having lost out to Dejan Lovren in 2017/18 due to injury. The Cameroonian came to Liverpool with a good reputation as a player that would help steady a rocky back-four but hasn’t really lived up to expectations, delivering unconvincing and inconsistent displays. Albeit with the towering presence and physicality to deal with the rigour of the Premier League, Matip’s failed to regularly show his class, misplacing passes to put his teammates under pressure – bad days at the office against Watford and Manchester City are testament to that.
Few would have anticipated Lovren being the more suitable partner to Virgil Van Dijk, but the Cameroonian’s sub-par performances have put him second fiddle to the Croatian, leaving him in a rather precarious position in terms of his future at the club.
Of course, Liverpool are unlikely to part ways with Matip given their stark lack of defensive cover particularly at centre-back, but he’s not a player that can be relied upon every week and is therefore likely to remain second fiddle to Dejan Lovren. Any summer reinforcements will only put further pressure on Matip’s Liverpool future.
Spending the season out on loan at Wolfsburg, Origi faces a huge battle to re-establish himself at Liverpool. The Belgian striker enjoyed a promising 2015/16 Premier League campaign; a big and powerful forward presence, he looked like he’d thrive in the English game, working tirelessly upfront while scoring pivotal goals in both legs of the Europa League quarter-final against Borussia Dortmund.
Yet, things have stalled in remarkable fashion since with Origi stuck on the periphery during the 2016/17 season before going out on loan to the Bundesliga. Scoring seven in 36 appearances, Origi’s fortunes weren’t much better in Germany, making the summer a key one for his career.
The 23-year-old has shown glimpses of what he’s capable of when on form, such as the stunning finish against Bournemouth, but too often they are met with (and often drowned out by) patches of indecision and inconsistency. He’ll be as aware as anyone that he’s got a point to prove this summer.
The saving grace as far as Origi is concerned has to be Klopp’s decision to not include an option for a permanent transfer to Wolfsburg in the loan deal. That’ll give him a glimmer of hope heading into pre-season as he looks to prove he’s a worthy backup option to the front three.
The obvious youngster within the pack, Harry Wilson is a really interesting commodity. He netted 28 goals for Liverpool’s Under-23s in 2016/17, putting together a string of scintillating performances in Premier League 2 before receiving his first senior appearance against Plymouth. Yet, further first-team opportunities have been few and far between for Wilson.
I’m a big admirer of the lad, with a brilliant goal-scoring record for the youth team proof of his abilities. Add to that a hugely successful loan spell with Hull City and there’s little reason as to why Wilson can’t be an option from the Liverpool bench next season.
7 goals and 4 assists in the 13 Championship games, the Welshman will be eyeing a first-team role next season and you have to wonder if it’s now or never for him. He’s proven he’s got plenty of different skills in his locker while scoring almost every type of goal for Hull this season – only time will tell if Klopp’s willing to give him a chance to prove himself.
There’ll be plenty of suitors vying for his signature should Klopp not opt to use him next season.
A crucial summer for the skipper, but not quite in the same sense as the others. Henderson’s place in the starting eleven is certainly under threat, with Fabinho likely to play a deep anchor role in midfield allowing Keita to float between the two boxes. Given Liverpool are also targeting a third midfielder in the ilk of Nabil Fekir it’s hard to see where Henderson fits into the side next season, raising further questions over his captaincy.
Klopp has always spoken very highly of the skipper both in terms of his on-field and off the field antics, but should Henderson fall to the bench next season, Van Dijk could well pick up the captains armband. Thus, Henderson too faces a crucial summer not only to retain his place in Liverpool’s midfield but also for his role as club captain.