When Jürgen Klopp arrived on Merseyside back in October 2015, it’s fair to say that there were quite a few problems that the German tactician had to tend to.
Over the course of the last three-and-a-bit years, it’s fair to say that he’s done a very good job and has completely turned Liverpool around in terms of footballing style, fortunes on the pitch and the personnel that he has in his squad.
There is a plethora of talent in the current squad is something that we as Liverpool fans can rarely remember seeing in recent times, with many drawing comparisons to Rafa Benitez’s side of 2008/09 which so narrowly missed out on the Premier League title.
The likes of Mohamed Salah, Alisson Becker, Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Roberto Firmino… the list is endless and the future only looks to set to become even brighter.
Yet in spite of all of this, events in recent weeks have exposed a glaring hole in Klopp’s current squad – and that is in strength in depth at the back.
To say that the boss hasn’t improved the Reds defensively would be a huge oversight, especially as you consider their performances this season and the fact that they have the best defensive record in the top flight.
The big money spent on van Dijk and Alisson have undoubtedly had a major impact on Liverpool’s upturn in form at the back, as well as the emergence of Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold, in addition to the £8 million bargain that is cult hero and fan favourite, Andrew Robertson.
The aforementioned five are without question the first choice back five, but once you start delving a little deeper into the squad as Klopp has had to do due to injuries of late, things start to look a little less rosy.
Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren are, on their day, more than apt deputies at centre back, and of course we know that Joe Gomez can fill in at right back. But aside from this, we’re limited to teenage Rafa Camacho and a soon to be departed (and entirely unreliable) Alberto Moreno to call upon.
Other than that, we’re sticking plasters over the cracks by asking midfielders like Milner and Fabinho to play out of position – something which can sometimes backfire and leave individuals exposed as Milner was when faced with Wilfried Zaha against Crystal Palace in the thrilling 4-3 Anfield win.
Now, this is where it shows what is perhaps still Liverpool’s Achilles heel.
It is not surprising to see Klopp remain true to his word and does not look set to dip into the transfer market this January, and rightly so, as his injury list looks set to reduce drastically before the next league game against Leicester.
However, come the summer, it will be time for Liverpool to once again spend big to bring in a number of new recruits for their defence.
Dejan Lovren will be 30-years-old come the next summer window, Alberto Moreno will no longer be a Liverpool player and neither will Nathaniel Clyne. So that means that Klopp will likely be in the market for at least one new centre back, a right back and a left back at the very least.
This is all vital spending as well, as Liverpool were one more injury away from bringing in someone like 16-year-old Ki-Jana Hoever for a senior Premier League game – and goodness knows what would happen if Virgil van Dijk were to be ruled out for a few weeks now with the treatment table already overflowing with crocked defenders.
Along with striking reinforcements with the probable departures of Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi, the defence is still an area that needs improvement. Not on the face of it in terms of overall performances because they have been almost flawless all season, but if the Reds are to continue to mount serious offences on the summit of the Premier League.
Look at Liverpool’s direct rivals, Manchester City: John Stones, Benjamin Mendy, Danilo, Vincent Kompany, Aymeric Laporte, Kyle Walker, Eliaquim Mangala, Nicolas Otamendi and Philppe Sandler,
True, they’re a spending superpower (FFP take note!) but this is the sort of level of cover Liverpool should be looking to either replicate or come close to.
Then perhaps can we avoid sleepless nights when we have a reoccurring nightmare that sweet Virgil pulls his hamstring and is injured for six weeks. *shudders*