Dave Tindall is satisfied with Liverpool’s transfer business so far and says the club don’t need to waste money on the likes of “chubby” Mario Gotze.
With the mercury rising as temperatures soar, it’s an appropriate time to take a thermometer check on this current Liverpool squad.
In what areas are we already hot? Where is there scope to warm things up? Are our summer transfer dealings leaving Reds fans cold as they cast envious glances elsewhere?
Let’s start by looking at last season’s Premier League table:
Position: 8th (60pts)
Goals Scored: 63 (Rank: 6th – eight behind top scorers Man City)
Goals Conceded: 50 (Rank: joint 8th fewest – but 15 more than Spurs)
Games Won: 16 (Rank: joint 7th most)
Games Drawn: 12 (Rank: joint 6th most)
Games Lost: 10 (Rank: joint 5th least – same as both Manchester clubs but seven more than Leicester)
Of course, Jurgen Klopp only arrived in October and needed time to bed in so it’s also worth looking at the stats for the second half (last 19 games) of the 38-game Premier League season:
Position: 7th (30pts)
Goals Scored: 41 (Rank: 1st)
Goals Conceded: 28 (Rank: 10th)
Games Won: 8 (Rank: joint 6th most)
Games Drawn: 6 (Rank: joint 5th most)
Games Lost: 5 (Rank: joint 8th least – Sunderland lost fewer games)
Surprisingly, the splits are exactly the same. In both halves of the season, Liverpool gathered exactly 30pts after winning eight, drawing six and losing five of their 19 games.
The big difference was in goals scored. After finding them hard to come by before Christmas, we really hit the goal trail in the second half of the campaign and our tally of 41 put us top of the scoring charts – four clear of anyone else. On those numbers, do we really need to be breaking the bank (and wage structure) for some mythical £70m striker?
However, we also let in 28 (17 more than Leicester) to suggest that this more attacking philosophy may have come at a cost. Then again, was it just poor goalkeeping/shabby defending?
The current squad
Let’s start with the boss. Klopp clearly had a massive impact when he came in and although it didn’t necessarily translate into a dramatic improvement in Premier League form, the feelgood factor shone through in the cups as we reached, but lost, two finals.
As with Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs, Klopp is now in position to thrive further in his second season. Having already laid the foundations, does he have an edge over the new managers coming in at rivals Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea? This summer also saw Klopp pen a new six-year deal. Let’s not gloss over that; it’s brilliant news.
Letting in so many goals, especially during the second half of the season, hurt us last year and many Reds fans will pine for the days of Rafa Benitez, who was a master at organising his back four. In Rafa’s middle three seasons (2006-2009) Liverpool conceded 27, 28 and 27 goals respectively.
First, the good news. Dejan Lovren grew in stature last year and cut out most of the expensive mistakes while, during the summer, Mamadou Sakho was cleared of a doping violation so is free to resume a Liverpool career that was starting to blossom (although he’ll miss the start of the season due to injury). Cameroon international Joel Matip (strong at set-pieces) has come in on a free to bolster the options in central defence while, with promising youngster Joe Gomez suffering another injury setback (Achilles), £4.2m purchase Ragnar Klavan (Estonia’s captain) provides further cover. Right-back Nathaniel Clyne was probably our most reliable defender last season so that brings us to the two areas of most concern – goalkeeper and left-back.
Simon Mignolet split opinion last season and the split was something like 80 bad, 20 good. Flaky from crosses, even his shot-stopping (supposedly his strength) fell way below the standards you’d expect from a top goalkeeper although he did pull off some brilliant saves at times. As understudy, Danny Ward was certainly an upgrade on the hapless Adam Bogdan but Klopp has moved here by bringing in Loris Karius from Mainz.
Whether giving him the No.1 jersey is symbolic remains to be seen and he hasn’t been tested so far in recent friendlies but German goalkeepers are generally good aren’t they?! Hopefully he can step up and be the man.
At left-back, Alberto Moreno had us tearing our hair out for most of the season as he made costly error after costly error. He looked great going forward but a defender’s first job is to defend and he was constantly at fault. Liverpool need to upgrade but Leicester’s Ben Chilwell and German international Jonas Hector are proving elusive targets. Cheers for the service, Martin Skrtel, and thanks for those goals in the near title-winning season but it was best to part company now. Kolo Toure? Come back! You could still do a job.
Is our midfield engine strong enough? First up for discussion is Joe Allen.
Surely there’s a place in the squad for the midfielder who made it into the Euro 2016 Team of the Tournament after his lively displays for Wales. Why get rid of him just as he’s starting to blossom? There’s a feeling that Klopp wants his central midfielders to have more pace and power than Allen so that’s why it all seemed to make sense when we saw Marko Grujic (£5m from Red Star Belgrade) pacing the pitch in the 5-0 friendly win against Fleetwood.
He’s massive! The young Serb, who we actually acquired in the January transfer window before loaning him back, got his name on the scoresheet and won a penalty too. He looks perfect for Klopp to mould into something special.
Emre Can is already progressing nicely down that route and should be a key player again this season. Adding goals to his game would help mind (just two in 49 games last season). Hopefully skipper Jordan Henderson can shake off his injury problems after looking a shadow of his former self for most of the last campaign. As you were with James Milner whose huge number of assists last season were a welcome surprise to many while Lucas Leiva can still do a job although is time may be coming to an end.
Okay, okay, it was a lot of money but it’s all relative these days and if we’re supposedly now a billion pound club for the first time, we can handle an outlay of £30m.
I’m talking about Sadio Mane and I actually think he could be a brilliant fit. Pace, power, goals (four against Liverpool last season) and he has Premier League experience too.
Klopp has got good money for Jordan Ibe (£15m from Bournemouth), whose development had stalled but thankfully the PSG rumours surrounding Philippe Coutinho were just that. He and fellow Brazilian Roberto Firmino are the two that could take Liverpool to great heights and I’ll be having a few quid on the latter at fancy prices to be the Premier League’s top scorer next season.
Adam Lallana remains a conundrum. Great energy, loves to gegenpress but Adam…. please, please improve your goals-to-Cruyff turns ratio! One potential new signing that could generate excitement is Newcastle’s Georginio Wijnaldum. The lad is a genuine goalscoring midfielder and they’re not as common as you think. I’d happily see us splash the cash even though it’s not completely obvious where he’d start.
Lazar Markovic? I just don’t rate the guy. I’ve seen nothing. Sheyi Ojo? I do the rate the guy and I’ve seen plenty.
Daniel Sturridge is a world-class finisher and difference maker (although Roy Hodgson thought it a good idea to stick him out on the right wing) and, fingers crossed, seems to be made of flesh and bones again rather than balsa wood. Divock Origi came on leaps and bounds last season and provided pace, athleticism and goals while we have another new signing to get excited about.
Okay, not actually a new signing but it feels that way with Danny Ings after his 2015/2016 season was wiped out as soon as Klopp arrived. Ings is another just perfect for the Klopp project. He wants to learn, is hungry for success and knows how to put the ball in the net (he’s already been banging them in during pre-season).
Mario Balotelli has no further part to play and hopefully we can recoup the money on Christian Benteke although it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if he stayed and nodded in a few when coming off the bench. I don’t think there’s any need to spend a fortune on someone getting on a bit like Gonzalo Higuain. There’s enough goals in this team and it’s all about the collective.
“Training not transfers” is the Jurgen Klopp way and I think we just have to trust him on this. Let’s polish those we have into diamonds and see where it gets us.
He has plenty to work with and the fact that we scored more goals in the second half of last season than anyone else suggests the raw materials are already in place.
As for the new recruits, Klopp says: “I think you can tell the whole Liverpool country – as Mama (Sakho) would say! – that it looks like we have a few good new transfers!”
I’m fine with that. No hyperpole, just acknowledgement of a few areas strengthened.
Beyond getting in N’Golo Kante, I can’t say I’ve been too jealous at anyone else’s signings either. Ibrahimovic? All short-term glitz. How many goals will he actually score?
As for the rumours that didn’t happen? Did Mario Gotze get anyone off their seats during Euro 2016? He looks a bit chubby and lacking in mobility to me.
Perhaps the biggest key is that we’ve had no marquee player leave.
After losing Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano and, yes, even Raheem Sterling depart in recent years, no-one of significance has left. Is that the power of Klopp’s charisma?
Our boss is only interested in players who want to buy in to his philosophy. It’s up to us as fans to do the same.
In Jurgen we trust… as long as he signs a new left-back!