Regardless of the time of year, whether just before or during a transfer window or just after one with the next still several months away, transfers are still often the first thing on everyone’s minds.
Fans love to discuss what positions they believe are in need of strengthening, what sorts of players we ought to be targeting, both in terms of style and profile but also which specific names should be on our radar, and to hypothesise how our starting XI could shape up next season.
I’m no different. For the record I think a summer of heavy investment and real ambition shown in the transfer market is needed, and hopefully lies ahead.
But one thing which could significantly impact upon the quality of player that we can attract is whether or not we’re in the Champions League, though I think wages are even more crucial.
Qualification hangs in the balance, with our dreadful form since the turn of the year meaning we now find ourselves in 5th place, just 1 point ahead of 6th placed Manchester United.
Obviously the management and players currently at their disposal will be focusing solely on the challenges they face in the immediate future.
As fans we can afford to look further ahead, but here are 5 things I would like to see, and things which I think are doable, in the fixtures that remain this season.
1) Less crosses. A lot less.
Yes, I’m looking at you James Milner. When we’re struggling to break down low block defences, which has been a somewhat regular occurrence in recent weeks, we lack imagination and thus penetration.
We currently revert to playing the ball from side to side, seemingly hoping for space to create itself, without really forcing the issue.
Eventually, after 4 or 5 goes of the same passing sequence, the ball ends up at the feet of the aforementioned Milner, who loses patience and, 30 yards out from goal, swings an aimless cross into the box.
Such a basic tactic may bear fruit against our defence, or perhaps for a team that plays with a target man, but it does not and hasn’t for us.
We’re one of the smallest sides in the league, and whilst at the start of the season we were great at getting a multitude of attacking players into the box, of late 5 ”11 Roberto Firmino has been left to challenge alone against two or more centre-half brutes standing at 6’2 or taller, which is a battle he’s almost never going to win.
Neither Sturridge nor even Origi are particularly good in the air either.
I don’t know exactly how we get back to the performances we put in against Hull at home in September, or Watford in November.
I want to see the players taking more risks; trying give and goes on the edge of the box and taking players on, even if it it doesn’t come off, is at least playing to our strengths and is more commendable than going for the easy option and hoping for the best.
2) Moreno back in at LB.
Since our Europa League final defeat to Sevilla last May, the vast majority of Liverpool fans have taken a strong dislike to Moreno, to put it kindly, and never want to see him put on a Liverpool shirt again.
Whilst I understand people’s concerns over the Spaniard’s lack of defensive capabilities and reliability (though I don’t think Milner has been as defensively solid as has been made out by many.
I believe some of the criticism of Moreno’s positioning is harsh), I think he would help out in an attacking sense, potentially contributing to a return to the attacking prowess we displayed in the Autumn.
Moreno is hardly fantastic in possession, often being rash and making poor decisions, but he provides genuine width.
Opposition players know that Milner has neither the pace nor the energy (he’s clearly knackered) to overlap and sprint down the touchline.
He’s always going to cut inside, and having both him and Coutinho looking to use their right foot from the left hand side closes off the space for the 2 of them to operate in and makes us an extremely predictable outfit.
When our intricate passing and the movement of our frontline is not clicking, which it hasn’t done for a while now, Milner offers very little in the attacking third.
Moreno’s mere presence is likely to be more beneficial than anything Milner’s bringing to the table, especially against lesser sides.
Opposition players are pulled wide to mark Moreno, their defences are stretched and the one twos I previously called for in central areas become simpler.
Plus, the quality of Milner’s crossing is horrendous.
The fact we resort to crossing as a team is disappointing, but Milner’s poor delivery exaggerates the problem. Firmino’s headed goal against Swansea in January was the Englishman’s first headed goal assist from 143 crosses up until that point this season.
That is ridiculously poor, and for that alone he deserves relegation to the bench for the time being.
3) Sturridge/2 up front against the so called lesser sides.
It’s fairly clear that Sturridge will be moving on in the summer. I realise that he’s not an ideal fit for this team and what we’re supposed to be trying to do system and style wise, but as alluded to, said system/style isn’t currently being implemented to any great effect against teams that sit deep.
Whilst I don’t want Klopp to deviate from his plans on how he wants his Liverpool team to play long term, in the short term a compromise may be necessary.
Sure, Sturridge doesn’t press in the same manner as Firmino, though I think the way he blocks passing lanes is more effective than it appears.
He may not be able to link the play in the same way either, but he’s one of the most clinical players around.
When we’re not at our free-flowing best, which no team ever is, we need someone who can stick away one of the few chances we are able to create, which Firmino has failed to do on numerous occasions this campaign, costing us points against the likes of Southampton away and Chelsea at Anfield.
In our games against Arsenal and City that are still to come, Firmino as a false 9 is probably the way to go, as we’ll be given the freedom to play as we wish.
Against teams whose aim is to kill the game and nick something on the break, teams who we cannot open up consistently, the sort we play most weeks, someone of Sturridge’s finishing prowess will come in real handy.
I’d also not be against us playing 2 up front. Whether this meant playing Sturridge and Firmino up top together or brining Origi in to the fold, we need more players in the penalty area asking questions of opposition centre backs.
If my first and second wishes aren’t fulfilled and Milner continues to play and put in 40 crosses a game, then perhaps having more targets to aim at will help Milner in his efforts.
I wouldn’t even mind going completely gung-ho and playing Henderson and Lallana as a 2 man midfield, with Coutinho, Firmino, Mane and Sturridge ahead of them.
We get torn to pieces on the counter already and will concede stupid goals no matter what, so screw it.
4) Like for like/direct changes.
This in a way links back to our previous 2 transfer windows, as at times I can understand Klopp not trusting certain direct understudies currently in the squad.
Having said that, I don’t see how making 3 or 4 changes to our starting XI when there are a couple of absentees is beneficial in anyway.
As an example, when Coutinho was out over the festive period, we had Firmino playing on the left wing doing a poor man’s impression of his Brazilian counterpart, and thus we had Origi leading the line doing a poor man’s impression of Firmino.
Similarly, when Mané was at the AFCON, Lallana had to fill in on the right hand side, offering virtually none of the same attributes that make Mané such a useful and crucial asset, whilst Can was brought into the midfield 3 alongside Henderson and Gini, failing to replicate what Lallana offer in a central role.
It’s no coincidence that our fluency and performance levels dropped to the extent that they did (even though we were still picking up some good results without Coutinho), more than you’d normally expect as a result of one injury sustained.
I’d like to see someone like Ojo given a chance if, god forbid, Mané were to be sidelined for any matches that remain.
If he’s so poor that he can’t even be thrown in to benefit our other most important players, then serious questions need to be asked of the manager in failing to recruit someone he can trust.
5) Earlier substitutions.
This is probably the one major criticism that I’ve had of Klopp since the day he arrived.
The other points I’ve discussed relate to issues that have arisen recently or are to some extent not in his control with the players having to be braver.
Failing to change games in our favour from the touchline, being decisive and switching things up early when it’s clear the set-up we’ve started with isn’t working is something we’ve seen too often though during the German’s tenure.
Klopp is a loyal guy, and is obviously keen to show his players that he trusts them to eventually get the job done as he believes that’ll benefit them long term, but I think he may have slightly too much faith at times.
Referring back to the Southampton game in the PL at St Mary’s yet again, in a game which we drew 0-0 and mustered just 2 shots on target, Klopp waited until the 80th minute to bring on Sturridge, who in that time created a guild edge opportunity for Clyne, and essentially took the piss by brining on Origi with seconds remaining in stoppage time, the Belgian not getting a sniff.
He also places slightly too much emphasis on the importance of the crowd.
I get that he sees us as an incredibly valuable tool that can help the team push on in games, but going back to the Europa League final at St Jakob Park in Basel last season.
We were being overrun in midfield from the moment the second half kicked off, and instead of brining on our captain, albeit he was not in great form, after an hour to help us regain some composure and control, he waited until the 73rd minute to bring on Joe Allen, by which time Sevilla were 3-1 up and the game was dead and buried.
When we were under the cosh he spent much of his time trying to gee up the fans in the stand behind the dugout and inspire a Dortmund-style turnaround, but that’s simply not something he can rely on doing, and is even less likely to help when the problem is a lack of cutting edge in the final third.
Written by @MikeyO_BrienLFC