It could be argued that Liverpool have the best front four in the league with Mane, Coutinho, Salah and Firmino. However, the thing missing for me is a 20+ goal a season striker. Every title winning team has at least one in their side. Leicester had Jamie Vardy, Chelsea had Diego Costa and Klopp’s Bundesliga winning team had Robert Lewandowski.
Whilst talk of the title may be premature when writing about Liverpool, the point still stands. To challenge, you need a prolific striker. The 4 players mentioned are top quality and will no doubt score goals for Liverpool next season. The issue is, I can’t see any of them reaching that magic number of 20 league goals.
For me, the answer is sitting on the bench in the form of Daniel Sturridge. When he plays, he scores. It’s as simple as that. The Achilles heel with Sturridge (pun intended) is that due to his disastrous injury record, he simply doesn’t get enough game time.
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In the last three seasons Sturridge has made just 25 appearances (scoring an impressive 15). The last time Sturridge had an extended run in the team was during the infamous 2013/2014 season when he scored 21 goals in 26 league games and before you say something like “that was only because of Suarez”. Let me remind you that Suarez was serving a 10 game ban for tucking into Branislav Ivanovic towards the end of the previous campaign and so, missed the first 5 games of the season.
5 games in which Liverpool won the first three 1-0 with Sturridge scoring the winner in each game (he also scored in 2-2 draw away at Swansea).
It remains to be seen whether he’ll be fit enough to feature predominantly next season and more worryingly for Sturridge, whether he’ll be as effective coming off the bench as its crystal clear Klopp prefers the extra off the ball, tracking back work that Firmino brings to the table. The front four and their interchangeability its key to the way Klopp wants to play and Firmino is seen as the first line of defence in pressing the opposition. Something Sturridge doesn’t do.
Spending lots of money doesn’t guarantee success. You can ask any Spurs or Liverpool fan about that, after their clubs famously squandered the large transfer sums they received for Bale and Suarez respectively.
However, it is hard not to be concerned when other clubs are improving their squads whilst your side just aren’t doing the same. Whilst I am delighted with the signing of Salah (I wanted him to join us whilst he was at Basel), the jury is still out on Andy Robertson and Solanke. I am the same as any other football fan. I’m greedy and I want the best to play for my club.
At the time this was written, Liverpool had made only 3 signings with 2 of those seemingly not bought to go straight into the starting 11. Worryingly, clubs that finished above and below Liverpool have all bought players that have improved their starting 11.
Lukaku will score the goals against the “smaller” teams, the goals that were missing for Manchester United so often last season and it doesn’t take a football expert to know that Matic is a vast improvement on Fellaini.
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Manchester City have improved both their full back and goalkeeper situations and Arsenal have bought one of the best goal scorers in Europe in Alexandre Lacazette. These are all positions that have been identified by the clubs as areas that needed improving, and they’ve done just that.
Liverpool’s weakness has been the same for a number of years now and that is their defence. They haven’t had a solid defence since the Rafa days.
Every manager that has preceded the Spaniard has tried to improve it. Hodgson bought Danny Wilson and Paul Konchesky. Kenny bought Jose Enrique and Rodgers acquired the likes of Moreno, Sakho, Mignolet, Toure, Cissokho, Ilori and Lovren to name a few.
So far, Jurgen Klopp has signed Karius, Manninger, Klavan, Matip and Robertson whilst being heavily linked with Van Djik from Southampton. It is clearly an area of concern that despite all these changes in personnel, has yet to have been addressed. In the last three seasons, Liverpool have conceded 140 goals in the league alone.
In terms of where Liverpool will finish this season I think their starting 11 has more than enough quality to finish in the top 4 maybe even top 3. My concern would be that they are 2/3 injuries away from having a very average side (Lallana is already out for a minimum of 2 months).
To challenge for the top positions and the cups you either need to be exceedingly lucky with injuries (see Leicester in 2015/16 and Chelsea last season) or have at least two quality players in each position.
Last season, up until January, Liverpool were the only ones really challenging Chelsea at the top. After 20 games Chelsea were top with 49 points and Liverpool were second on 44. They had just beaten Man City at Anfield and were flying.
Then came the AFCON, off went Saido Mane and with it, their whole season. Liverpool fell apart during January and February losing at home to Wolves in the FA Cup and falling further and further down the table as a result of poor league results.
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The frustrating thing as a Liverpool fan is that the manager knew that we would be losing Mane for two months due to the AFCON and we still didn’t bring any cover in during the summer or winter transfer windows.
It can be forgiven to an extent if they’d lost Mane to an unexpected injury but that wasn’t the case. They were fully aware of the situation during the summer, long before the season even started and they failed to address it.
If they can have another strong start and maintain it throughout the festive period with minimal injuries then I think Liverpool will finish in the top 4 again. However with the fast, pressing style Klopp demands from his players. Injuries are pretty much a certainty during the campaign and I think the lack of squad depth will really have an impact on their season.