With the curtains falling on the 2019/20 Premier League season, The Hard Tackle takes a look at how Liverpool can strengthen for the next campaign.
The wait is over. Liverpool, after a thirty-year period of arduous wait, are finally the Champions of England. Goes without saying that it has been a special season for Jurgen Klopp’s merry brigade, beating Manchester City to the title, after having come ever so close last time out.
But, the Reds cannot stop and rest on their laurels. Having crashed out of the Champions League, they will not be playing over the next month. But the focus will now shift to the transfer market, as the champions look to strengthen what is already a strong squad to mount a successful defence of their league title come next season.
Klopp has a well-rounded squad at his disposal, no doubt. However, there does seem to be a lack of quality depth in a few positions, which could make all the difference as far as them competing and challenging for trophies across multiple competitions is concerned.
With Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich City now relegated, there will be a number of Premier League quality players from the three clubs that could be up for grabs this summer, for a bargain price at that.
Liverpool should, thus, look to capitalise on it, much like they did with Gini Wijnaldum, Andrew Robertson and Xherdan Shaqiri a few years ago and boost the strength and depth of their squad. To that end, The Hard Tackle picks out three players from the relegated clubs that Liverpool should look to sign in the coming transfer window.
Nathan Ake (Bournemouth)
Liverpool ended the season with the best defensive record in the Premier League. However, apart from Virgil van Dijk and, to an extent, Joe Gomez, none of the centre-backs at Klopp’s disposal always inspire confidence. Joel Matip is highly prone to injuries, whereas Dejan Lovren is way too error-prone for a team battling for top honours.
Moreover, there is a good chance that Liverpool could decide to cash in on the Croatian, with his contract expiring in less than a year. So, investing in a new, quality centre-back would go a long way in bolstering the squad for a successful defence of the title, and push for a trophy at the continental level.
While Liverpool have been linked with Kalidou Koulibaly, the Reds can stand to benefit a great deal by investing that money in Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake. The 25-year-old, without an iota of doubt, was one of the Cherries’ top players in a season that ended in relegation and has been so ever since he made the switch from Chelsea back in 2017.
Nathan Ake (25) Bournemouth
29 Games Played
4 Clean Sheets
88% Pass Completion Rate
0 Error Leading to goal
56% Duels Won pic.twitter.com/wAxfpiDg39
— Football Network (@FTBLNetwork) July 24, 2020
Likely to come much cheaper than Koulibaly, the Dutchman also brings Premier League experience to the table, while also being a more long-term investment compared to the Napoli man, who turned 29 last month.
Pace, ball-playing abilities and physical presence, the Netherlands international has it all. In addition, Ake has shown signs of a formidable defensive pairing alongside Virgil van Dijk for Netherlands, during their World Cup qualifiers. Uniting the duo at the club level could make Liverpool’s defence impregnable next season.
Jamal Lewis (Norwich City)
Another key area that Liverpool absolutely need to address next season is a cover for Andrew Robertson at left-back. They have Neco Williams to deputise for Trent Alexander-Arnold on the right and while Yasser Larouci is an option from within the club as backup for Robertson, he could be on his way out this summer if reports are to be believed.
With James Milner not getting any younger, Klopp cannot continue to rely on him, in spite of his amazing fitness levels. So, investing in a young left-back with potential, who can cover for and push Robertson for a starting berth in the seasons to come would be a step in the right direction. Norwich City’s Jamal Lewis, to that end, could be worth taking a punt for the Reds.
The 22-year-old, a product of the Norwich academy, was a key player in their promotion season in the Championship and had even been named in the EFL Championship Team of the Year for 2018/19. While he hasn’t had the same level of success in his maiden Premier League season, his immense potential was on show on a number of occasions this term.
— Canary Cast (@CastCanary) July 26, 2020
Lewis featured 28 times in the league in 2019/20, contributing with a solitary goal – a sumptuous left-footed strike against Leicester City. An attack-minded full-back with great ability to hit crosses into the box, while possessing the energy to run up and down the flank, he would be a very much like-for-like cover for Robertson, although the youngster needs to work on the defensive side of his game.
The Northern Irishman also showed great mental strength and attitude to work his way back into the side after having lost his spot to Sam Byram during the season, indicating that he has the right character to fit in with the Liverpool’s “Mentality Monsters.” Reportedly valued at £20 million by the Canaries, Lewis could turn out to be a shrewd purchase for the Premier League champions.
Emiliano Buendia (Norwich City)
Honourable mention for Watford’s Ismaila Sarr, who sinked Liverpool’s dream of an unbeaten season, and has been linked with a summer switch to Anfield of late. However, it is Emiliano Buendia that we are going with as the third pick for this list, given that the Argentine has undoubtedly been one of the best players on display in the Premier League outside the top ten.
The 23-year-old finished the 2019/20 Premier League campaign with a solitary goal and seven assists. Buendia created 83 goalscoring chances over the course of the campaign, proving his quality at this level in a team that struggled for most of the season. Indeed, only Kevin De Bruyne, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jack Grealish created more.
Buendia also completed 102 take-ons this term, once again the fourth-highest tally in the league behind Adama Traore, Wilfried Zaha and Allan Saint-Maximin. At the same time, the Argentine winger racked up a total of 82 tackles, which is the tenth-best tally in the league, with only James Ward-Prowse being the attack-minded midfielder to have managed more than Buendia.
Start the sweepstakes for 🇦🇷 Emiliano Buendía (23) ⤵️
✅ 28 starts
⚽️ 1 goal
🅰️ 7 assists
🔑 2.3 key passes per game
⚔️ 2.3 tackles per game
🔀 2.8 dribbles won p/g
Also…15th in the league in blocks (69), 13th in successful pressures (207). Complete. 💪
— Football Wonderkids (@fbwonderkids) July 26, 2020
The Norwich City star has the unique recognition of being the only player with 50+ chances created, take-ons and tackles, indicating that he is effective on the ball and hard-working off it, something that Klopp values incredibly in his players.
Liverpool lack quality depth beyond Mo Salah and Sadio Mane on the flanks and given Buendia’s versatile nature, he can cover for the duo, while his ability to slot in as a No.10 could also allow the manager to tinker with different systems as well, in order to add more creativity from the centre.