With the welcomed additions of both Fabinho and Naby Keita to Liverpool’s midfield, we almost have a starting eleven that is capable of challenging Manchester City for the title. To be a team with genuine title credentials next year though, we still need a new goalkeeper, centre-back and number 10. Having said this, equally as important as strengthening our starting line-up is how we bolster the quality and depth in our squad. After two full seasons in charge of Liverpool, it isn’t unrealistic to expect manager Jurgen Klopp to build a squad capable of challenging in all competitions next season – both domestically and on a European scale. To do this the Reds need to considerably improve the depth of their squad. We accepted last season that our squad wasn’t built to be able to deal with injuries – see the impact the loss of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mo Salah in the Champions League final had on the team. However, next season has to be different. Klopp must learn from last year and recruit a number of players he can trust to replicate the performances of his first eleven.
The key to improving squad depth and quality is ensuring you have balance in your recruitment, players such as Fabinho, Keita, (hopefully) a GK and CB need to be brought in to improve our starting line-up, whilst players in other positions such as our forward line can be signed to provide competition and alternatives to our scintillating front three. If we look at our recruitment since Klopp has taken charge – it’s mighty impressive I should add – the one factor that stands out for me is Liverpool’s ability to sign players who have the physical attributes required to play their position in Klopp’s system. Virgil van Dijk – aerially dominant, quick recovery speed and great in 1 v 1 situations – the perfect centre-back for Klopp. Andy Robertson – unbelievable engine, good in 1 v 1’s and has a wand of a left foot – what more could big Jurg want from his left-back? Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – strong and powerful runner, great ability to travel with the ball and a rocket of a shot – sounds like the kind of midfielder you’d want for heavy metal football, doesn’t it? And finally Mo Salah (our Egyptian King) – lightning speed, world-class movement and a dribbling ability that is out of this world – seems like the kind of player Bobby could strike up a bit of partnership with. Of course, there are plenty more signings we could talk about but I think you see where this is going.
Although the physical attributes of these players are just one of several reasons why they have thrived in the German’s system, because of the high energy style of the play the boss demands it has become increasingly apparent to me that a player’s physical attributes – relative to their position – are fundamental to their success at Klopp’s Liverpool. As a result, when we get linked with various players over the next couple of months one of the fundamental questions we should be asking ourselves is do they possess the physical attributes required to be successful in Jurgen’s system? Of course, we need a bit of variety but this is why I believe we are after a number 10, so let’s stick to what has worked for us since Klopp arrived.
Another interesting debate is this notion that a player ‘would be a good back up option’. Although I’ve mentioned the players we sign in the forward line are inevitably going to play second fiddle to Salah, Firmino and Mane it is worth remembering how instrumental these players are to Klopp’s system. Scoring a staggering 57 goals between them in the league last season. If one of these players is to suffer a bad injury then we need a player capable of replicating not only the attributes of the man they are replacing but also the productivity. So before we all accept he (whoever that player maybe) is ‘a good option off the bench’ let’s take a step back and ask ourselves the question, should one of our first team players suffer a long-term injury would we want this player replacing him for the majority of the season. Taking into account the impact he would have on the system and productivity of the side.
It’s all well and good thinking this player could ‘do a job’ but let’s have some perspective and recognise there’s every chance they may be needed as a vital member of the starting eleven. This is not to say we should expect every player we have as ‘back-up’ to be as good as the player they are replacing but surely they should be a lad who can replicate the attributes and hopefully to a large extent the output of the player they are replacing. If we want Klopp to build a team that is capable of challenging on all fronts then we need to demand our signings are not merely ‘an option off the bench’ but a player capable of complementing the German’s high energy system and being a crucial member of the first team. A huge summer lies ahead for the Reds and as supporters, we should be clear as to what we want our squad to look like next year. And before anyone asks … no, I don’t want to see Xherdan Shaqiri in it.