Liverpool look ready to make a return to the UEFA Champions League under Jurgen Klopp but will their tendency to invest in future stars limit their potential?
Liverpool look all set to make their return to the UEFA Champions League this season – a year in which they were once heralded as title favourites before losing steam and are currently in the race to secure a top-four finish.
Jurgen Klopp has undoubtedly done a fine job since taking over as manager back in October 2015. The German has transformed Liverpool into one of the most exciting sides around and has the basis of something truly special at Anfield.
However, this season proved that there is still a lot of work to be done despite Liverpool’s impressive start to the campaign. The Reds’ form at the start of the new year was nothing short of atrocious, with the Reds embarking on a two-month period of poor form in which their results read 1 victory, 3 draws and 3 losses in the league.
Their tendency to wilt against the smaller teams has also cost them this season and it is one of the main reasons their title challenge ran out of steam. Luckily for Jurgen Klopp, he has managed to turn things around and Liverpool have now won 5 and drawn 2 out of their last 7 games in the league, which has seen them cement their top four position.
Liverpool now need to make the step up next season in order to challenge for the English Premier League as well as the Champions League and it is clear that they require a number of signings in order to be able to achieve their aims.
Time for the Reds to change their policy and buy established stars?
At times, Klopp’s side have relied on the magic of Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho to bail them out of trouble and they could definitely have used more players of their ilk this season during that telling period from the start of January to the end of February.
Liverpool have been reluctant to buy big-name stars over the last few years and although they have spent huge amounts of money, they have often been forced to opt for lesser-known players thanks to the financial power of other teams in the league.
The fact that they were not in the Champions League for several seasons could not have helped matters and this is definitely one of the key reasons Alexis Sanchez chose to join Arsenal over the Reds 3 years ago – despite whatever Rodgers’ claims may be about the player preferring London.
This reluctance to spend big money on superstars combined with the fact that superstars themselves have preferred not to join the Reds – as in the case above – has only contributed to many viewing Liverpool as a somewhat fading power in the league.
Now that Jurgen Klopp is turning things around, it is time for the Reds to start signing more established players and plug gaping holes in their team – such as in central midfield as well as in defense.
Talent has been the key in the last few years
Liverpool have signed some very talented players in recent years and this has paid off handsomely. Luis Suarez – who was making a real name for himself with his goalscoring exploits in the Netherlands – was snapped up for what now looks like an absolute steal at just £22.8 million.
Before that, journeyman Daniel Sturridge was also a hot prospect but had failed to settle at both Manchester City and Chelsea. The Reds took a gamble on the Englishman at £12 million in the winter window of 2012-13 season and despite his injury issues over the last couple of years, he definitely proved to be worth that gamble.
Even Sadio Mane, signed this season for a fee of £34 million was deemed an expensive signing but under Klopp, the Senegalese international has turned into an absolute beast. It is no coincidence that Mane’s departure for the African Cup of Nations in January coincided with Liverpool’s alarming slump.
Roberto Firmino took some time to settle down in England following his £29 million move from Hoffenheim but the Brazilian has also become one of the Reds most important players and has begun to look like a player who is certainly worth that fee.
The Reds’ recruitment drive over the last few seasons have definitely thrown up some gems, with Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne, Emre Can and Jordan Henderson all proving to be key members of their squad.
This, combined with Klopp’s potency at getting the best out of his young players – as we have seen this season with Ben Woodburn and more notably, Divock Origi – has quickly seen them earmarked as one of the most exciting sides to look out for over the next few years.
The key is now to make the transition into becoming one of the most dominating ones.
Mixture of talent and superstars needed to become a dominating force
Despite their brilliant teamwork and overall work ethic that Klopp has drilled into the squad, that was not enough to stop Liverpool running out of steam at the turn of the year. The Reds were still trying as hard but thanks to a dip in form of Philippe Coutinho as well as injuries and the absence of Mane, Liverpool looked toothless at times.
Their defense has looked shaky throughout the season and with the controversy surrounding Joel Matip’s decision not to play for Cameroon at the African Cup of Nations, it only looked weaker when the towering defender was barred from playing for the Reds.
What Liverpool now need to do is add some proven, established players to their already impressive squad. The Reds already have the basis of a fantastic team. The ages of their key players reads – Adam Lallana, 28, Jordan Henderson, 26, Roberto Firmino, 25, Sadio Mane, 25, Philippe Coutinho, 24, Joel Matip, 25, Emre Can, 23.
The spine of the squad can still play together for years to come and if Klopp adds the right players who are proven stars – such as Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk – there is no reason why the Reds cannot turn into one of the dominating forces in the league, under one of the most talented young managers in the world.
The Reds will not be able to outmatch the likes of Manchester City and Manchester United when it comes to salaries and transfer fees, although that could change if FSG decide to dip deeper into their pockets and give Klopp the money he needs to compete with the financial heavyweights in the league.
A few of the right names combined with the mixture of youth and experience that the Reds already possess could truly be the start of something special for Liverpool and it is now time for the Reds to focus on buying proven quality as opposed to signing players who could potentially come good.