Everything seemed to have fallen in place for Jürgen Klopp’s in the first half of the season. The fans thought they had finally found a manager who could win them that elusive first Premier league title. A 2-0 defeat away to Burnley seemed only a hiccup after the ‘heavy metal football’ that was showcased in the Emirates the week before. But this defeat was set to become a common theme.
Their record against the top six makes for good reading – five wins and five draws, 20 points from a possible 30. Some would say that kind of form deserves not only a top four finish but also a shot at the title.
It is appalling to see, then, that they are just inside the top four, relying on other results in order to make Europe’s biggest club competition next season. The fans have been through a roller coaster of a Premier League season, laden with epic wins against big teams, and at the same time, marred with ‘crazy’ defeats against the so-called smaller ones.
Why has that happened? Is the manager to be blamed? Can the players take up responsibility for the off-days?
The answer, as always, lies somewhere in between. While the players are most definitely at fault, it cannot be said that Klopp had not seen this coming. His squad is talented but lacks depth. The same can’t be said of Tottenham and Chelsea, who have players like Son Heung-Min and Cesc Fabregas who can’t make the eleven with regularity. A glaring flaw for a team which has big ambitions, wouldn’t you say?
One of the positions where Liverpool are threadbare is in the defensive midfield role. They lack a solid presence in the middle of the park, someone like N’Golo Kanté or Nemanja Matic.
Yes, Jordan Henderson is a talented individual, but he lacks the competition that other teams offer within the squad. Lucas Leiva won’t be at the club from next season and his departure will need filling in. Emre Can is too inconsistent and only works well when he is given the license to bomb forward, not the ideal defensive midfielder you’d want.
There is no doubt Can will develop into one of the best central midfielders in the Premier League, but it would be wise for the of Liverpool to go and buy a defensive midfielder.
It is not too much of a stretch to say that. If the newly crowned player of the year Kanté was marshalling the area in front of the back four, Liverpool would at least be fighting for, if not winning the title outright.
With this in mind, Klopp heads into the summer transfer window with a proverbial monkey on his back. The question looms, will he sign a formidable centre-back or a midfield destroyer who is capable of screening the defence and starting off attacks?
If Liverpool do manage to sign a CDM, they can be more flexible in the way they line-up. Jordan Henderson would be partnered by the new signing, which frees up the duties of Adam Lallana and Georginio Wijnaldum.
Wijnaldum was a powerhouse when deployed in that role for Newcastle United. Lallana linked up well with Ricky Lambert and then Graziano Pelle which caught the attention of Liverpool.
Sure, a centre-back is and has been a priority for Klopp from the past season with Lovren’s infuriating performances, but it would make much more sense to just set aside differences with Frenchman Mamadou Sakho and spend the money on a quality CDM.
There are a few good players available in the transfer market that Liverpool can consider. Those many options include the industrious Blaise Matuidi. The Frenchman is on his way out of Paris and Liverpool would be just the club for him right now.
William Carvalho is another who fits the bill, as does Yann M’Vila, who is currently plying his trade in Rubin Kazan.
Franck Kessie is an option, but they would do well to land him.
While the above-mentioned players might be tough to land, Southampton’s Oriol Romeu represents a cheaper option.