Jurgen Klopp has made sweeping changes since arriving at Anfield and the talented boss is finally beginning to reap the rewards, with The Reds’ money men starting to see a return on their investment, and what a return it has been.
Having reached the Champions League final last year – beaten by record-breakers Real Madrid in the final – Liverpool were fancied by many in the know to finally end their painful wait for an English top-flight season. They went into the campaign as second favourites with bookmakers, traders preferring to throw the weight of their support behind two-in-a-row for Manchester City.
Odds-makers had The Cityzens at the head of the market to win every competition they were entered into following last year’s success – Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup. Pep’s boys have already been dumped out of Europe’s elite at the quarter-final stage by Tottenham, so the clean-sweep is off the table.
Stats support title win
As reported by football-betting-sites.co.uk back in August, the betting quotes from the top football bookies would have punters convinced they must prepare to sit through another one-horse show, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Liverpool have pushed their rivals hard from the start and spent much of the season top of the charts, looking down on the Mancs.
Can the Reds win it this year? It’s anyone’s guess at this stage but they were top coming out of a vital Easter weekend and the stats tell us leaders at that stage often go on to cross the line first.
Having fell at the final hurdle in last season’s Champions League and kept Man City company in this year’s Premier League chase, it’s fair to assume The Reds are entering back into a golden age, similar to the one enjoyed in the ’70s and ’80s when success was almost taken for granted by fans. What must Klopp, his backroom staff and the board do to bring back the good times?
Regardless of what happens between now and the end of the season, the upcoming summer break and transfer window will be instrumental in Liverpool’s short to medium term future. They must spend money, recruit well and strengthen the areas needed to take them to the next level.
Keep what’s there
New recruits will be important but keeping hold of the better players already in the squad will be just as crucial for Klopp, mainly Mo Salah who has enjoyed a stunning couple of seasons since arriving at Anfield and that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the big boys of European football.
Depending on what gossip column you read or tabloid websites you log onto, Salah has been linked to just about every big team, including Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus. No bids have been made thus far, but the whispers say at least one is in the pipeline and it’ll be huge, the kind of cash that’ll test his current employers to the max. Liverpool say their star is not for sale, but we know every man has a price and if Salah’s head is turned by the lure of more money, the game is up.
Improving the bench will also be a concern for Klopp as – at the time of writing – his fringe men don’t include the type of players that could come on and change a game, something similar to an Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Man Utd back in his prime. They don’t have a super sub, and that’s concerning. There is class in the squad, of that there can be no doubt. One man that could possibly be improved upon is Sadio Mane who is guilty of blowing hot and cold throughout a campaign.
Could Pepe be the answer?
As you would expect, Liverpool are currently linked with a host of big names in the transfer window, including Lille scoring sensation Nicolas Pepe. The 23-year-old is one of the hottest properties in the French game at the minute and would have a major impact on the quality of the Liverpool squad but to get his man Klopp will have to outbid the likes of Man Utd and Arsenal. No mean feat.
Lastly, finding the solution to a problem like Naby Keita would be ideal. Liverpool chased the 24-year-old African before finally landing him from RB Leipzig last season, but it wouldn’t be unfair to say he hasn’t hit the ground running in England.
Yes he’s talented and of course, he has it in his locker to make it at the club longterm, but does Klopp have the time and patience to stick with him, showing his player trust? Or does the gaffer get caught up in the more pressing race for titles and show Keita the door, replacing him with a European born player who would settle into the box-to-box role quicker?