At one point in the season, Liverpool were joint favourites to win the Premier League. Jurgen Klopp’s men were in fine form and a 6-1 hammering of Watford confirmed their title credentials. However, after losing Sadio Mane to the African Cup of Nations, dreadful form in 2017 ended title hopes and plummeted the Reds into a battle to finish in the top four.
Liverpool made a profit in the two transfer windows this season and Klopp believes he will have a transfer war chest to bring in six or seven new faces in the summer. As well as being funded by player departures, Fenway Sports Group are set to invest heavily in the playing squad following developments to the club’s training facilities and an upgrade to Anfield’s main stand.
Below are five areas where Liverpool should look to improve in the summer transfer window…
Joe Hart (Manchester City)
Once again, Liverpool are without a clear number one. Loris Karius arrived in the summer from Mainz in a £4m move and Klopp decided the German would replace Simon Mignolet as his preferred keeper. However, hand surgery and a string of below par performances meant Mignolet returned to the starting eleven. More mistakes from the Belgian has meant Liverpool should be looking for a new keeper in the summer.
The perfect addition would be Joe Hart. England’s number one found himself shipped out on loan following Pep Guardiola’s arrival at Manchester City; the Spaniard making the wrong choice of Claudio Bravo between the sticks. Hart maintains he doesn’t see a future for himself at the Etihad after falling down the pecking order. The 29-year-old has Premier League experience and would certainly have a point to prove. A two-time Premier League winner, leadership skills and undeniable quality means Hart would be a shrewd piece of business by the Reds.
Virgil van Dijk (Southampton)
Another area of concern is centre-back. Joel Matip has proved a quality addition in the summer; especially considering he arrived on a free. However, the Cameroonian needs a quality partner next to him. Dejan Lovren’s inconsistent performances and constant injury problems has seen Liverpool use a variety of centre-back partnerships – none of which have worked. Ragnar Klavan lacks quality and is not good enough to start, it is too soon for Joe Gomez and there doesn’t seem to be any hope of a return for Mamadou Sakho.
A new first-choice centre-back won’t come cheap but Liverpool needs to spend big to find the right player. Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk has blossomed into a quality defender and is enjoying his finest season to date. Before his injury, it could be argued he has been the best defender in the league this season. The Reds would face competition for his signature and will have to pay a pretty penny but the Dutch international would be worth the money. Good on the ball, Van Dijk would add much-needed steel to the side and a partnership with Matip could secure Liverpool’s defensive future for years to come.
Alex Grimaldo (Benfica)
Liverpool’s left-back dilemma must finally end in the summer. Alberto Moreno became the latest player in a long list to try and fail to solve Liverpool’s problems on the left of defence. The Spaniard was dropped under Brendan Rodgers and Klopp decided to utilise James Milner at left-back instead. While the Milner experiment was successful at first, his form has dropped and it is clear that he is not a long-term solution for the position. An improvement is needed in the summer as Moreno is not good enough either.
Many left-backs have been named including Benjamin Mendy of Monaco, Ryan Sessegnon of Fulham as well as Aaron Cresswell of West Ham. The player who Liverpool should target is Alex Grimaldo from Benfica. The former Barcelona defender was expected to replace Jordi Alba in Barcelona’s first team but grew frustrated with the lack of football and opted to move to Benfica. Grimaldo is extremely quick, has quality crossing ability and is able to get up-and-down the left flank. Klopp’s system utilises crosses into the box – something which Nathaniel Clyne struggles with. The Spaniard would finally end Liverpool’s left-back dilemma and at 21 years of age, he still has his best years ahead of him.
Naby Keita (RB Leipzig)
As well as reinforcements in defence, Liverpool need a defensive midfielder. Not since Javier Mascherano have Liverpool had a player capable of playing the defensive midfield position. A tough tackler is vital to every top side – as shown by N’Golo Kante at Chelsea, Ander Herrera at Manchester United and Fernandinho at Manchester City. Jordan Henderson and Emre Can have been rotated in the DM role but both seem unsuitable for the role – and question marks surround Can’s future at the club.
In my opinion, the perfect signing should have been Idrissa Gueye, who left Aston Villa for Everton in the summer. No midfielder has made more tackles in Europe’s top five leagues than the Senegalese midfielder. In the summer, Liverpool should target Naby Keita of RB Leipzig. The 22-year-old has emerged as one of the Bundesliga’s brightest prospects. Deployed in a holding midfield role at Leipzig, Keita averages 2.71 interceptions, 1.48 tackles and has chipped in with four goals and seven assists this season. He would be able to play a variety of different roles in the midfield giving Klopp a valuable option when looking to set up his side to counter different style opposition.
Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon)
In my opinion, the most important position that must be strengthened in the summer is a striker. Liverpool lacks a truly world-class forward – something which is crucial to a successful Premier League title challenge. Roberto Firmino has been excellent this season but Liverpool need a natural forward to challenge for honours; a 20-goal a season striker. Daniel Sturridge is set to leave the club and Divock Origi has struggled to find consistent form. Using Firmino behind the striker with Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane out wide could be the solution to Liverpool’s inability to beat smaller teams.
Signing a forward should be a priority and that forward should be Alexandre Lacazette. Competition for his signature will be fierce but securing one of Europe’s top marksmen would be a real statement of intent. The French striker has 22 goals to his name in Ligue 1 with a further four goals in Europe. Lyon will be unable to keep hold of their star striker this summer but it would take a mammoth bid to bring him to Merseyside. An agile quick striker with deadly finishing who could propel Liverpool back into title contention for years to come.
POTENTIAL SQUAD DEPTH
Who do you think Liverpool should sign? Comment below
Follow me on Twitter – @MarcusBanks7 – Visit my blog The Beautiful Game for more