Liverpool’s front three are infamous for their attacking prowess and goalscoring ability, but the fear that if just one of our attacking trio was to get injured that our attack would fall apart is prominent within the fanbase. Here’s The Anfield Talk’s Josh (@MakeUsDreamLFC5) with why we can’t just rely on the front three and why we risk losing them anyway.
Feeling amongst fans after the recent January transfer window is one of frustration. We’ve signed a great player in Virgil Van Dijk but we sold one of our best players in Coutinho. Van Dijk is a great signing because he strengthens one of our weakest areas and has leadership qualities. But he alone won’t solve all our defensive faults, something that has already been shown. But now we’ve lost our most creative player. It seems to be the same old story, one step forward; two steps back, so close; but yet so far. Frustration comes from the fact that we’re always nearly a brilliant team, nearly winning trophies and after a transfer window we always seem to say 1 or 2 extra players and things could be a lot different. Unfortunately that seems to be the case again.
I understand people’s frustrations because I am too. However, we know not to expect crazy big money signings. But we don’t necessarily have to spend big. What we have to do is ensure we get the players Klopp wants. James Pearce has confirmed we’ve cooled our interest in Thomas Lemar and I’m okay with that. With that news, you’d like to think that we’ve prioritised another player who would be deemed as better value for money and a better fit to Klopp’s philosophy. We have to remember we haven’t got the money that the likes of the Manchester clubs or PSG have. But we also can’t ignore the fact that we have one of the lowest net spends in the league. Unfortunately, it seems like we only make big signings when we sell a player for a big fee. But we need a compromise, to find a healthy middle ground, one where the finances are stable but also allows us to maximise our squad.
So how do we go about competing for the league and winning trophies?
We need to keep hold of and reward key players if we want to challenge and win trophies, but we also need to add quality to our squad for that to happen. With our current squad we clearly aren’t good enough to win trophies and the only way Mane, Firmino and Salah will stay long term is if we are winning and competing. We can’t just rely on our front 3 to reach our goals, we need more than an attack, and we need a team that match their quality.
I’ve seen people say “Aubameyang cost Arsenal £60m, why weren’t we in for him?”
Signing a striker, all be it a brilliant one is not where we need strengthening. Firmino and Salah have done brilliantly so far this season and bringing in someone like Aubameyang would force Firmino out wide and see Mane dropped. Would that and his high salary affect the dynamic of the team?
Anyway, although I agree with not signing a high profile striker, we do need a striker, but one that can be a plan b or at least someone who is good enough to step in for Firmino when he needs a rest. After loaning out Daniel Sturridge our only options are Solanke and Ings, let’s be honest they aren’t exactly the greatest back up options when you’re trying to progress in the champions league and secure top 4 again. Firmino will feel the effects of this as the season comes to a close, he’ll have the odd lethargic game purely because he’s expecting to do so much without any real rest. It’s a real shame we haven’t got the options currently but it’s definitely something that needs to be solved during the summer.
We have to be honest, our midfield is poor. It feels like they all do the same job, none of them are particularly brilliant creative players who get goals and assists. But they also don’t look confident in protecting our defence. Our midfield needs a complete overhaul. With Keita coming in, we need someone in the mould of Coutinho and we need someone who can play the number 6 role. Adding players who have these qualities will solve two of our biggest problems. Breaking down teams who sit back and holding on to leads.
Scoring goals isn’t a problem and when we’re struggling to score it’s because we’re not creating enough clear cut chances. Our problem is when we score, we need to be able to protect them goals by giving the opposition as minimal chances as possible and keeping clean sheets. We need leaders and winners which our team clearly lacks. When we go in self-destruct mode we can’t just blame the defence, our midfield plays a big role in our problems. We’ve just seen it against Tottenham, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wijnaldum came on and had zero impact on the game. They are out of position, off the pace and unwilling to take control. No one takes responsibility.
So how can we improve for next season?
Let’s say we had Alisson instead of Mignolet and Karius. The Brazilian who has been recently described as the “Messi of keepers” by the former Roma goalkeeping coach leads in all the following categories but one. The categories are: saves, saves per goal, punches, catches and distribution accuracy. Karius leads in punches, something that he has been criticised for, even though I feel his part in the Wanyama goal is being overly criticised.
What if we had a solid defensive midfielder in front of our back 4? We would look a lot more protected and comfortable. Chelsea have Kante, Man United have Matic, Man City have Fernandinho, Tottenham have Dembele and bring on Wanyama. I didn’t mention Arsenal because they share the same problems as us, good going forward but have a useless defence and no cover or protection from the midfield. It’s a key area that needs addressing for Liverpool if we want to see some stability.
In regards to January, I wasn’t against selling Coutinho but I was against not bringing in any more players after selling one of our best and most creative, influential players. It’s just a massive risk which could have huge repercussions. If we miss out on securing top 4 we will be saying, what if we brought in Keita? He’s got fantastic dribbling ability, he’s a goal threat and it would have given him time to adapt to the premier league and help fill part of the gap left by Coutinho. Not only that, he’s a complete midfielder who can win you the ball back and play a great pass.
We’ve been linked with the likes of Mahrez, Pulisic, Isco and Asensio. Isco would be a tremendous signing if we could pull it off, in terms of statistics, he’s the closest to Coutinho from the list of players above. This includes key passes, chances created and goals scored this season. However, the Spaniard does beat Coutinho is successful take ons % per 90 mins which is 75.47% compared to 65% (squawka). That is a brilliant number and is something that would help us in the sort of games where teams sit back and invite pressure. Because even with Coutinho we struggled at breaking teams down but let’s be honest, Isco is at a completely different level compared to those players we currently have.
It doesn’t have to be him in particular but signing someone like Isco would see us not only a sign a player who is yet to reach his prime but someone who has played on the biggest stage and won the biggest trophies. In the last couple of seasons Chelsea have signed Morata and Kante, Manchester United have signed the likes of Ibrahimovic, Pogba and Sanchez. Manchester City have signed basically signed a whole new team since Pep’s arrival. Arsenal just in the most recent window have signed Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan and tied Ozil down to a long term deal.
We’ve got great players in Van Dijk, Mane, Salah and Firmino but we need more than them. We’ve become dependent on our front 3 to save us, when they do their job and score we should know that we can hold on to that lead. However, they’re surrounded by players who are of poorer quality and are constantly undoing their great work by making mistakes or just by simply not being good enough. A lot of the players who played in the 2 finals we had during Klopp’s first season at Liverpool are still at the club. Although they were Brendan Rodgers signings, they’ve still been kept by Klopp since. They may be good enough to get to a final, or to finish 2nd in the league but they’ve shown they’re not able to close the deal, to cross the finish line. They instead stumble at the final hurdle, they seem to freeze on the big stage. It is imperative that we start winning trophies otherwise our key players will leave, just like the countless others that have left in past with nothing to show for their time at the club.
It’s not just ability, it’s the mental aspect of the game. When things are going well it’s great but under a bit of pressure or adversity, they crumble. That’s when you need players to take charge, dig their heels in and give everything to ensure that Liverpool are the ones lifting the trophies rather than picking up runner up medals. We can say we’ve done well to get close but there’s no trophy for 2nd place. Liverpool are one of the most successful clubs in the world, we need to get back to the glory days otherwise we’ll forever be a club that was great but are now just another team. To be quite frank, that’s just not good enough. Although we look towards the summer and building on our squad, we need to take the first step by ensuring we finish in the top 4.