With just two games left, Liverpool sit on 70 points; more than their entire total in six of the last seven seasons.
In October, Liverpool sat top of the Premier League after a blistering start to the season, but early woes in 2017 saw the Reds slip out of the race for the title and into a battle for top four.
Their fate was in their own hands, but after failing to beat Southampton and Crystal Palace, Liverpool will now rely on other sides dropping points while winning their remaining fixtures.
If Liverpool can secure Champions League qualification for next season, the summer will be much easier for Jurgen Klopp who is looking to attract the world’s best to Anfield.
Even if the Reds fail to land a spot in the top four, they have performed admirably considering their small squad has been plagued with injuries, and they finished two transfer windows in profit.
We take a look at five things Klopp should look to address in the summer…
SIGN A LEFT BACK
Klopp opted against signing a left back in both transfer windows this season and instead deployed vice-captain James Milner in an unfamiliar role, the German clearly not impressed by Alberto Moreno.
Initially, the Milner experiment worked a treat. The former Manchester City man’s energy and width down the left created a host of problems for the opposition, and he was better defensively than Moreno.
However, as the season has progressed, Milner’s impact on the left has waned and has started to become a real problem. Not being naturally left-footed means cutting back on to his right is becoming predictable and teams with pace out wide can cause real damage.
The 31-year-old should be commended for his efforts this season and his attitude to playing out of position, but he is not the long-term solution. He should remain a decent back up to the position next year but should move back into the centre of the pitch.
Many names have been touted as potential solutions to Liverpool’s left-back dilemma including Jose Gaya of Valencia and Ryan Bertrand of Southampton.
ADD SQUAD DEPTH
Another huge issue is a lack of squad depth. There have been injuries to crucial players this season and results have suffered as a result. The Reds have suffered more injuries in this season than the last eight – despite playing fewer games.
Philippe Coutinho missed a bulk of the season due to an ankle problem while Sadio Mane jetted off for the African Cup of Nations with no suitable replacement which coincided with Liverpool’s struggles on the pitch.
Klopp has been forced to use youngsters such as Ben Woodburn and Ovie Ejaria on the bench this season – with no real game changers available to him. The average age of the bench in the 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace was 19.9.
More squad depth is needed if Liverpool wants to challenge on multiple fronts next season. By adding quality first-team additions, the squad will grow and become more competitive with some players being forced to accept more of a bit-part role.
CREATE A CENTRE BACK PARTNERSHIP FOR YEARS TO COME
Signing a centre-back should be high on Klopp’s priority list to solve Liverpool’s defensive woes this season.
Klopp’s teams have scored:
62,60,54,67,80,81,80,47,56,60+ last 10 seasons
only 2 times his sides conceded <42 in a season, they won a league
— StatsAndSwearwords (@StatsSwearwords) March 24, 2017
Klopp’s teams are built on attacking play but the stat above highlights where Liverpool could be if they sorted themselves out at the back.
The free signing of Joel Matip has proved to be a shrewd piece of business, but the former Schalke defender needs a reliable centre-back partner.
Ragnar Klavan has shown he isn’t good enough to play in the Premier League and Mamadou Sakho seems to have no chance of returning to the club despite his good form while on-loan at Palace.
Dejan Lovren has been Klopp’s preferred option at the back but still isn’t good enough to play for a title challenging side. His constant injury problems have meant he has started just 14 games alongside Matip this season. Also, his defensive ability is still up for debate after some abysmal performances again this season.
Reports suggest that Liverpool are ready to break the bank to land a world-class centre-back and create a centre-back pairing that could put them back on top of the English game.
Virgil Van Dijk has been heavily linked with a £50m move to Merseyside, with the Reds facing competition from both Manchester clubs for his signature. Other names such as Kalidou Koulibaly have been linked, but the Reds can’t afford another expensive failure.
LEARN HOW TO BEAT A BLOCK
Liverpool are unbeaten against the top six this season, but results against teams lower down the table have cost them dearly.
Defeats to Burnley, Leicester, Crystal Palace, Hull, and Bournemouth as well as dropping points against Sunderland are unacceptable for a side with title ambitions.
It remains to be seen whether it is a mentality issue, with players failing to perform when not playing one of the Premier League’s elite or it is Klopp’s system that thrives on counter-attacking play that is the problem.
Nevertheless, Klopp needs to find a way to beat sides who are happy to put men behind the ball and take their chances on the counter-attack. It is a problem that has plagued Liverpool for years.
Perhaps Klopp’s naivety to stick to his 4-3-3 system has cost his side at times. The recent 0-0 draw with Southampton was a perfect example.
The Saints were content to ‘park the bus’ and allowed Liverpool to keep the ball with the Reds showing little signs of danger. Playing Lucas Leiva and Emre Can in the same midfield at home isn’t needed against a side unwilling to attack.
Whether a change of formation or strategy is required, Klopp must find the answers to beat the smaller teams to have any hopes of challenging at the top next season.
FIND A 20-GOAL A SEASON STRIKER
Liverpool’s attack is full of quality and can cause any team in the world problems on their day. But when Coutinho, Mane, and Firmino aren’t firing, Liverpool look void of options. Since Mane’s injury against Everton, Liverpool have looked flat.
Divock Origi has been thrown into the starting eleven but hasn’t had a sniff at goal for about five games and doesn’t look like scoring anytime soon. Daniel Sturridge’s injury woes have continued meaning he is more than likely packing his bags in the summer.
While Firmino has thrived in a central role, it is clear that Liverpool need a world-class number nine to lead the line next season.
Tottenham have Harry Kane; City have Sergio Aguero; United have Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Chelsea have Diego Costa. Every top side needs a top number nine.
When you’re in desperate need of a goal, it’s usually your striker who digs you out of trouble. Luis Suarez and Fernando Torres did this on multiple occasions, but Liverpool have failed to replace them.
Whatever it costs, Liverpool need to sign a world-class striker in the summer. Bringing the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Alexandre Lacazette to play in front of an attacking trio of Mane, Coutinho, Firmino with Georginio Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana behind them would give Liverpool one of the most feared attacking outfits in the division.
What do you think Jurgen Klopp needs to address in the summer? Let us know in the comments below!