With a sensational season coming second in the Premier League and winning the Champions League last time out, Liverpool surely have one of their best ever teams as they prepare to launch their new campaign. However, with poor performances in the the two domestic cups and the lack of a depth in squad compared to Manchester City, there could be improvements made to the squad. According to compareyourodds, Liverpool are 5/2 to win their first Premier League title this season. To improve these odds and to compete fully, we look at the three key areas where manager Jurgen Klopp could look to strengthen this summer.
Liverpool’s lack of depth in central defence was exposed over the festive period last season with the almost simultaneous injuries to regular centre-back Joel Matip and England international Joe Gomez that ruled the defensive duo out for five and eight weeks respectively.
There were concerns that Matip’s absence from the side would cause a downturn in form for the Reds in December with some crucial fixtures in store. However, Dejan Lovren came into the side to partner Virgil van Dijk and helped steer Liverpool to vital wins at home to Manchester United and Arsenal, before losing at title rivals Manchester City and then away to Wolves in the FA Cup Third Round.
Despite Liverpool boasting the Premier League’s best defence last term with the fewest goals conceded (20) and most clean sheets (18) and appearing considerably more improved at the back with Allison between the sticks, Klopp knows that there are still improvements that can be made to his side to make them even more competitive in the domestic cups.
If Liverpool don’t want to break the bank before the transfer window slams shut on Thursday, then one alternative for strengthening their back four could lie at Klopp’s former club, Borussia Dortmund. 23-year-old Manuel Akanji has impressed across all competitions last season after joining BVB last summer from FC Basel off the back of appearing in all four games for Switzerland at the 2018 World Cup. Akanji could complement Van Dijk well in central defence for Liverpool with his natural passing ability. The Switzerland international has the highest passing accuracy in the Bundesliga last season of all players to attempt 1000 passes or more (92.8%). When the rumours of Akanji surfaced, many fans on Twitter were very eager to see the Swiss international make the move to Anfield. The versatility of BVB’s No.16 may appeal to Reds fans. Akanji has had experience playing at right-back early on in his career at Swiss second-tier outfit Winterthur and could deputise for Trent Alexander-Arnold if Klopp wants to add depth to their squad next season.
However, that same signal of intent could be taken by making a late move for a Premier League central defender in the form of Nathan Ake. The Netherlands international has been heavily linked with Manchester City and more recently, Everton. The Bournemouth defender could be a smart bit of business by Klopp, and he could easily slot into the left-back position should Andy Robertson pick up an injury in the 2019-20 season. It would likely take a fee of around £75 million to prize the Dutchman away from the Cherries, but it would be a shrewd signing by the club especially considering that he is only 24-years-old and still has the best years of his career ahead of him. With Liverpool appearing reluctant to splash the cash this summer, few fans would expect an offer to go in before deadline day though.
The midfield could still do with some creative edge. The jury remains out on Naby Keita, as the former Leipzig man struggled for momentum last season. Creative midfielders have been looked at this summer and there were three players that the Reds were linked with to fill this void. The first option being a return to Anfield for Philippe Coutinho. Ever since the Brazilian moved to Barcelona in January 2018, his career has stalled. Coutinho is now looking to move back to the Premier League and a return to Liverpool would be the obvious destination. A transfer fee of around £100 million would be required for an outright purchase, but Barcelona are prepared to allow Coutinho to leave on a season long loan. Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester United and Liverpool are all said to have submitted loan offers.
Liverpool opted not to reignite their interest in Nabil Fekir. Klopp tried to sign the Lyon man last summer but unfortunately the deal collapsed at the 11th hour. The midfielder enjoyed another fruitful season in France last season, scoring nine goals and contributing seven assists in his 29 appearances in Ligue 1. Unlike Coutinho, he would have proved a risky option. Fekir instead made the switch to Real Betis after Liverpool decided against making a fresh approach for him despite the heavily reduced asking price.
The final option that the Reds could choose to pursue is Leicester City’s James Maddison. The Englishman could present the best value out of the options discussed and aged just 22; he would present a great value for the potential he has. He enjoyed a fine debut season in the Premier League last season, scoring seven goals and contributing seven assists in 36 appearances for the Foxes. If Liverpool are serious about acquiring Maddison it would test the resolve that Leicester currently have. He would certainly answer any questions that surround the club about creative players in the midfield area.
Forwards and Wingers
Matthijs De Ligt wasn’t the only Dutch player linked with the Reds this summer. PSV playmaker Steven Bergwijn has been heavily linked with top European clubs since the end of last season, with Liverpool and Spurs topping the list of top-flight destinations that the 21-year-old is said to have been up for joining.
Bergwijn, who was handed his international debut by Ronald Koeman last October, lit up the Eredivisie last season with PSV, who are in fierce contention for the Eredivisie title alongside Ajax. His statistics speak for themselves. He provided more assists than any other player in Holland’s top flight last term (12) and created the most chances among all PSV players (60). Only AZ’s Oussama Idrissi (92) completed more take-ons than Bergwijn (86) in the Eredivisie last term.
The Dutchman has all the characteristics of a well-moulded playmaker and has proven himself in both the Eredivisie and the Champions League. He now needs a platform to take him to the next level and Liverpool under Klopp could be the perfect place to do just that.
With many Dutch connections at Liverpool, we wouldn’t have been surprised had the Reds stepped up with an offer. The bookmakers have Bergwijn as high as 7/1 to join the Reds this summer, slightly more favourable odds than Spurs at 6/1.
Xherdan Shaqiri, and to a lesser extent Adam Lallana (if he can stay fit), will provide alternative sources of creativity for Liverpool this season, but Bergwijn truly has the capability to fight his way into Liverpool’s starting XI.