Looking Forward: This Season & Next Season

Liverpool finally shrugged off the malaise that had threatened to seriously hinder their ambitions for the season with a deserved 2-0 win over Tottenham at the weekend.

The first half, Liverpool started like a house on fire – Sadio Mané & Georginio Wijnaldum shone respectively, whilst a back four of Nathaniel Clyne, Joël Matip, Lucas Leiva & James Milner comfortably held their own.

In the second half, we weren’t quite treated to the same level of attacking intensity, pressing & goals, but the number one priority was to win.

We really needed it, especially after a turbulent spell since the turn of the year, which had not seen us win since New Year’s Eve.

On Saturday, Liverpool were better in the first 5-10 minutes of the game than they were for the whole game against Swansea, Southampton, Wolves & Hull in recent weeks.

Pressing, legs, hunger, intensity, chances, goals, positivity, pace, movement, creativity – all of the aforementioned was devoid from Liverpool’s side in January. Boy was it on show on Saturday.

It really sounds a blasphemy to discuss the negatives, on a day which Liverpool won their first game of the year – consequently meaning Reds fans can finally bring themselves to watch Match Of The Day every Saturday evening/Sunday morning!

But on a serious note, there are still a few Achilles Heels’ of Liverpool’s which need fixing – some are long-term, but some will have to be makeshift changes until the season finishes.

A pretty explicit one is the defence. So much has been said about how solid the defence was yesterday – and they were. However, the midfield, without Emre Can, did a great job at breaking Tottenham’s play up.

That said, I felt the defence added just as much penetration going forward as at the back. Joël Matip, 6 foot 5, was always a problem from set-pieces – coupled with Nathaniel Clyne’s dangerous attacking play.

Whilst the likes of James Milner & the much-maligned Lucas Leiva didn’t offer too much offensively, they were just as solid at the back. I felt the latter responded to the narrative poking fun at his team selection (including myself), whilst the former comfortably pocketed Heung Min Son.

Anyway, here are some things which I think still need addressing until the rest of the season

Back Three

Many have been rightly highlighting how the outdated & sussed 4-3-3 has backfired against ‘lesser’ teams already this season, and the back four simply lacks any pace or balance. Additionally, there aren’t as much mitigating consequences.

I think the 3-4-3 would suit Liverpool perfectly until the rest of the season. I don’t think Klopp will give it a whirl, but the 3-4-3 would leave us with a lot more balance with the wing-backs, as well as more dynamism, giving the license for much-maligned players to shine under the radar.

At RB, I think Emre Can and Joe Gomez are possible contenders for this position. So much has been said about Can’s poor performances of late in the midfield three when stepping in for Gini Wijnaldum/filling in for Lallana’s midfield position, and rightly so.

However, performances in the past have shown that Can is clearly more suited to the centre-back position.

He played there for the second half of the 2014/15 season under Brendan Rodgers, where the Northern Irishman decided to tweak his personnel following our worst league start for 50 years.

This worked a treat, as Can’s composure & guile aided the Reds to embark on a impressive run which began in December and ended in late March.

On the other hand, many will say that Joe Gomez isn’t ready yet for regular first-team football – unfortunately I don’t see him starting often in Klopp’s plans for the remainder of the season.

I’d much prefer him to start over Dejan Lovren at CB, but it’s not going to happen. Let’s just face it. There’s more of a chance seeing Ragnar Klavan or Lucas week in week out.

At CB, I’m going to go for Dejan Lovren. This is only because I think Jürgen Klopp won’t start Gomez yet. We could see the latter loaned out to a ‘lesser’ side next season, to build his confidence and get more gametime there.

Heard earlier this season Huddersfield could approach the 19-year old.

Finally, completing the front three is Joël Matip. You’re a bit bonkers if you think Matip isn’t good enough to be in the starting XI every week.

He offers penetration as well as being rock solid in defence – him being six foot five definitely helps his case. He has all the assets Liverpool need in defence: athleticism, aggressiveness & solidity.

Wing Back

This’d mean we’d  Alberto Moreno as wing-back, which is perfect balance for me.

He offers a ridiculous amount of pace, and his chance creation was at 61 last season. Him being an attacking left-back gives him the opportunity to maraud forward more, and will eradicate him of being the scapegoat of defensive errors.

Next Season

Know it’s a bit early in the season, but I think most Liverpool supporters already know the stipulations at the club in the summer for a title push.

If we reinforce by signing a left-back, centre-back, centre midfielder and a right winger [who can also play as a centre forward, i.e Mané], there’s no reason why the 4-3-3, 3-4-2-1, 3-5-2 can be a success.

But at the moment, I don’t think we have the contingency players who can sure up the back four.

A back four would involve the likes of Klavan & Lucas in the side, which I really don’t want to see – I’ll be apoplectic if so!

I think signing players such as Virgil Van Dijk, Jonas Hector & Julian Brandt/Quincy Promes would constitute a great summer for Jurgen Klopp? Why?

Well, first of all, Van Dijk adds the craved composure, maturity, versatility & experience Liverpool need at CB – we’ve been desperately lacking a good long-term centre-back who can partner Joël Matip.

I know it’s ANOTHER player from Liverhamptonpool, but I’m sure most of our supporters would easily take him. If not, another possibility could be Jonathan Tah, who currently plays for Bayer Leverkusen.

He’s only 21 years of age, and I think Klopp can easily nurture him into an even more professional centre back.

I think Van Dijk & Matip will be the most compelling combination in the middle, as Mamadou Sakho is looking increasingly isolated.

Second of all, with Hector. He’ll fit in perfectly with the 3-4-2-1 or the 3-5-2 where wing backs are required.

The German’s pace isn’t that of Moreno’s, but he still has some. Also, his chance creation last season in the Bundesliga stood at 57, which is certainly not too bad.

In fact, he didn’t make a single defensive error last season either, making him effective in a back four as well.
Finally, that leaves us with winger/striker. Brandt and Promes lead the line for contenders to take this contingency role – but Brandt is looking increasingly likely, with reports implying that a deal will be completed this summer.

I feel that Promes is better suited, because of his pace & that he suits our style of play more. We definitely need a RW/also capable of playing as a centre-forward as a Plan B for Mane – wouldn’t mind either, but I feel a potential stumbling block with Brandt is his lack of goals – having only scored 17 in 84 appearances – Promes acheived that much in 30 games in a season before.

The other place that needs strengthening is centre midfield – there’s nothing wrong with our midfield three at the moment, but we need more depth to push on next season.

I’ve heard Leonardo Paredes being mentioned endless times, and there were reports last month we’d be paying Roma £26.5m for him. Personally, I haven’t watched Paredes play yet, so I can’t really judge on that front.

Finally, we also need a goalkeeper. Simon Mignolet has been vilified, and rightly so, by some Liverpool supporters. This follows him being at fault for Chelsea’s goal and Anfield and Hull’s opener at the KOC Stadium, as the Tigers went on to win 2-0.

Loris Karius was signed as the ace card that would finally inspire some confidence into Jurgen Klopp’s leaky defence.

He was a young & talented goalkeeper coming in from the Bundesliga with a strong reputation – he was voted the 2nd best goalkeeper in the Bundesliga, only Manuel Neuer was adjudged to be ahead of the 23 year old German.

That leaves us with Danny Ward. Personally, I see Ward being loaned out next season to bolster his experience and playing time – therefore, for the upcoming season, we need a goalkeeper who can give Karius some competition for a place between the sticks.

I’ve heard Antonio Adan being mentioned, as well as Samir Handanovic. Kasper Schmeichel is another that we’ve been reportedly linked with.

Personally, I hope we don’t approach Schmeichel – he’s been piss poor for me this season, and it may even be worth saying he’s a one season wonder.

So, to conclude, I do think we need contingency players in both centre back & left-wing back too preferably as well as left-back – i.e a player functional in both a back three and a back four. A goalkeeper is another I’d like to see in the summer.

Also think we need alternatives to Mané next season – last month highlighted how devoid we were of creativity & pace without him. We also need a lot more physicality in centre-midfield.

However, until the end of the season, a back three would allow the likes of Moreno and Can to atone for falling out of favour by supporters.

Written by @SteLindellLFC

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