Relying on injury comebacks and a frontline that struggled last season, AFCON on the horizon and Andy Robertson injured… are Liverpool in danger of getting left behind with just ONE summer signing and Man City, United and Chelsea all strengthening?
- Liverpool have hardly been active in the summer transfer window so far
- Jurgen Klopp appears content to have a fully fit squad for the first time in months
- Rivals Manchester United, City and Chelsea have each been splashing the cash
- Sportsmail takes a look at whether Liverpool risk seeing themselves left behind
The transfer window is a game of opinions as much as it is a process of teams strengthening their ranks.
No two views from football fans will be the same.
Ask any individual and they will tell you a variety of contrasting answers: their team has either signed too few players, or too many average arrivals when quality over quantity is needed, or perhaps the wrong players entirely.
Yet when it comes to Liverpool this summer, it appears to be universally agreed that more could be done on the red half of Merseyside.
Jurgen Klopp has maintained he is happy with his current squad ahead of the new campaign
Last season, ravaged by injuries and playing in front of an empty Anfield, the Reds still showed how much quality they possessed in the ranks by still managing to secure a third place finish.
Now, however, many supporters expected the club to dip generously into the transfer market in order to shake things up ahead of what is set to be a hectic campaign.
Though the world is trying to return to normality, the football schedule is still poised to be as jammed as ever before, meaning sides with silverware ambitions can ill-afford to be left short mid-way through the season.
And so, with just weeks remaining in the transfer window, are Liverpool really adequately equipped? Sportsmail took a deeper look…
Bolstered back line
It did not take a genius to work out that Liverpool very much needed to bring in a high calibre defender this summer.
Following the stop-gap acquisitions of Ben Davies and Ozan Kabak in January – the latter of which has since departed the club after the Reds decided against taking up a purchase option – it was clear that personnel was needed.
In this regard the Liverpool recruitment department, headed by the much revered Michael Edwards, have delivered once more.
Liverpool had their eye on Ibrahima Konate for some time and pulled off the £35m signing
In Ibrahima Konate Liverpool have brought in one of the most exciting young defenders in European football, and paid a respectable £35m in the process.
The powerful Frenchman was the Reds top target and had been followed by the club for several years, and was primarily the reason why Liverpool did not buy big in the January window to plug the expanding gap in their defence.
Konate was the priority and now his arrival signals a potential big shake-up ahead of the coming campaign.
The Frenchman will provide stern competition for Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, as each battle to partner the returning Virgil van Dijk at the heart of defence.
Konate has settled in to life nicely with Liverpool and has looked in strong shape in pre-season, yet the reliance on returning stars could prove to be an issue.
The comeback trail
It’s no secret that Liverpool’s season exploded last year because of an outrageous number of injuries to key stars.
In the space of just a few months around the festive period, the Reds back line was decimated, while two key summer signings Diogo Jota and Thiago Alcantara were each dealt long spells in the treatment room.
Now, however, there is reason to be optimistic. All the big guns are back and Liverpool are ready to fire in unison once more. Yet, with this still comes an element of fear and anxiety.
Virgil van Dijk’s return will be a huge boost for Liverpool as they aim for silverware again
Injuries, as football fans well know, have the cruel tendencies to repeat themselves. Liverpool are pinning a large portion of hope and trust in the respective rehab programmes which a number of their stars have been undertaking.
While the likes of Van Dijk and Gomez have had almost a full year of re-cooperation, and missed Euro 2020 as a result, rival sides will be targeting them from the get-go in the big fixtures this season.
A slow easing back into Premier League life will certainly not be the case, and this also goes for the likes of captain Jordan Henderson and midfield partner Thiago.
Both central stars played little minutes at the European Championship with England and Spain, and will enter the campaign without the ever reliable foil of Georginio Wijnaldum.
The ever-present and seemingly injury-averse Dutchman still has not been replaced at Anfield, and this poses the growing concern over strength in numbers…
The one word which constantly haunts all major football teams. Depth; is there enough? Should more be added? Is the squad in fact too bloated?
Depth is important, but also it has to be the right kind of depth.
For the past few seasons Klopp has been blessed with the sort of players who can arrive from the bench and make a difference.
In years gone by this has been seen with the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Adam Lallana and Divock Origi each feature prominently.
Liverpool will rely on Sadio Mane (centre) and Mo Salah (right) for firepower again this season
It is easy to forget, but not that long ago Liverpool were blessed with so much forward-thinking threat that Danny Ings was allowed to leave the club for Southampton – before going on to re-establish himself as one of the top flight’s most clinical marksmen.
Now, however, Liverpool are in the process of moving on people like Shaqiri and Origi in order to re-generate the squad.
Youth talent such as Harry Wilson have been allowed to permanently leave the squad, just as Rhian Brewster did 12-months ago.
Now, Liverpool run the risk of becoming threadbare again, particularly when considered that the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations will rule out both Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, along with Naby Keita in midfield.
AFCON is scheduled for January 9 to February 6, 2022, following the tournament’s switch from last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because of the way the football calendar falls, the likelihood is that Liverpool will not be without their top players for very long at all.
Liverpool are still waiting to learn the extent of the injury sustained by Andy Robertson
However, the risk of injury on international duty of course becomes present, along with the knock-on effects of additional football and added air miles mid-way through a campaign.
The Reds also have the concern of Andy Robertson’s recent injury sustained against Athletic Club in Saturday’s pre-season friendly, meaning the unproven Kostas Tsimikas is now highly likely to begin the campaign.
Klopp will be acutely aware that his side are once again only a few injuries away from playing veteran vice-captain James Milner in a variety of positions.
The small matter of Liverpool’s rivals waving the chequebook should not go ignored.
Manchester City wrestled the title back last season as Klopp and Co. slowly started to drown in injuries, but already his nemesis Pep Guardiola is splurging the cash once more.
City have sealed the £100m British transfer record of Jack Grealish from Aston Villa, while Harry Kane could yet arrive late in the window in an astronomical deal worth in the region of £150m.
Over at Old Trafford Jadon Sancho has finally been acquired by United after a two-year long pursuit, while Raphael Varane from Real Madrid is signed and sealed.
Manchester United have finally got their hands on Jadon Sancho after a two-year pursuit
Jack Grealish became the most expensive British signing of all time when City paid £100m
In the coming days Romelu Lukaku will be unveiled as a Chelsea player – once again – for a fee just shy of £100m.
All this begs the question, are Liverpool right to be allowing their closest competitors to steal such a march?
All signs coming from Anfield suggest the answer is yes, at least as far as the Liverpool hierarchy are concerned. Yet it would be blinkered to suggested that the Reds have not fallen behind in terms of incoming personnel this summer.
Confidence in the squad is certainly no bad thing, though it will only go so far if the Reds once again fall victim to an injury crisis.
After his side’s pre-season 1-1 draw on Saturday, Klopp admitted that some late deals could yet still be concluded in the window.
The German boss said: ‘I am very happy with the squad, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t look at the market.
‘But as long as nothing happens, I am more than happy with the squad I have. I am more than happy with the players I have.
Klopp has suggested Liverpool could still be busy before the transfer window closes
‘We have so many things that you cannot sign. You cannot sign our counter-pressing, you cannot sign our atmosphere that we create in the stadium, you cannot sign Anfield, you cannot sign our anthem.
‘You cannot sign a lot of things and that’s what we have to use. There are other approaches out there, obviously, and we have influence on that. Our situation is like it is.
‘We have a big squad and there might be something happening until the end of the transfer window, but I cannot say anything about that at the moment.’
A large portion of the Liverpool fan base will now continue to hold their breath, hoping this tease of late signings does indeed materialise.
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