Liverpool’s title defence was derailed by a crippling injury crisis at centre back – Jurgen Klopp has ticked one box on his list by signing Ibrahima Konate, but what else do the Reds need if they are to return to the summit next term?
- Liverpool finished this season trophyless for the first time since the 2017-18 term
- Jurgen Klopp’s side were decimated by injuries – especially at centre back
- Ibrahima Konate will join the club after they met his £40m release clause
- Georginio Wijnaldum seems to be Barcelona-bound with his contract expiring
What a difference a season makes. This time last year the Premier League campaign was curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic but Liverpool were firmly on course to win the title.
Fast-forward to the present and Covid-19 is still among but the aura of the all-conquering Reds side isn’t.
For the first time since the 2017-18 term, Jurgen Klopp’s side ended a season trophyless.
A season of great hope for Liverpool saw them end the 2020-21 campaign trophyless
Salvaging a top-four finish on the final day of the season, the Anfield outfit were dumped out of the Champions League quarter-finals and in the fourth rounds of both the FA Cup and Carabao Cup.
The overriding factor in this though has been their crippling injury crisis this campaign.
But with the season over, Klopp can plan his rebuild this summer as he looks to topple Manchester City and regain their crown as champions of England.
Sportsmail takes a look at the German’s options ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.
Boss Jurgen Klopp will hope to rebuild his squad this summer in order to challenge for titles
Liverpool’s centre-back options have been decimated this season. First it was the imperious Virgil van Dijk, then Joe Gomez and Joel Matip who suffered season-ending injuries. Like dominoes all three fell foul of lengthy spells on the sidelines depriving the Reds of their three premier centre backs.
Fabinho and captain Jordan Henderson were used as stop-gaps at centre back until Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp scoured the January transfer window.
The answer to his problems? Signing Ozan Kabak on loan from Schalke and Ben Davies permanently from Preston North End. The latter is yet to play for the club, while it’s safe to say that the former is unlikely to have his loan deal turned into a permanent one.
Joe Gomez (left) and Virgil van Dijk were two long-term injury absentees for the Reds this term
Loanee Ozan Kabak failed to fill the void in central defence for deposed champions Liverpool
His howler against Leicester – with Alisson Becker also to blame to giving Jamie Vardy a tap-in into an empty net – probably sums up his time perfectly for the Reds. With the 20-year-old Turkish centre back in their team, Liverpool won just six, drew three and lost four.
He didn’t play in their last five matches and it’s no surprise that the deposed champions won all five – with three of those coming with a clean sheet too.
Klopp subsequently turned to the the club’s academy graduates in Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams to steer them out of their mess – which the pair duly did. However, it is unlikely these two will be starting at the back on a regular occurrence next season.
Klopp has moved quickly to address his centre-back issues with the signing of RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate.
Nathaniel Phillips (left) and Rhys Williams have filled in admirably for the injured centre backs
The centre back, who turned 22 on Tuesday, is in France preparing for his country’s European U21 Championship quarter-final against Holland next week.
A great reader of the game, Konate thrives at intercepting the ball and starting attacks for his team too. He also possesses an aerial presence at 6ft 4in.
However, for all of his great qualities an alarming issue is his injury record over the last two seasons. Klopp will be desperate for Konate not to suffer the same fate as Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip this season.
Ibrahima Konate (right) will join Liverpool after they met his £40million buyout clause
Liverpool are not short of options in central midfield but they look set to lose one of their integral players in this position this summer.
Georginio Wijnaldum has enjoyed five successful seasons on Merseyside – winning the Premier League and Champions League alongside the FIFA Club World Cup and the UEFA Super Cup.
However, the Holland international’s time at the club looks to be over. The 30-year-old will be a free agent this summer after failing to agree a new contract and it appears he is set to leave for pastures new for Barcelona.
Georginio Wijnaldum looks set to leave Liverpool as a free agent this summer to join Barcelona
Klopp can still call upon Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago Alcantara, James Milner, Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Curtis Jones in these roles – an abundance of quality right there.
Henderson, Fabinho and Thiago will probably form the basis of Klopp’s midfield three for the key games next season but he may still be tempted to dip into the market to replace Wijnaldum’s qualities.
Brighton’s Yves Bissouma has caught the eye of the Reds and they face competition from Arsenal.
The 24-year-old, whose contract expires in 2023, has impressed in his three seasons at the Amex since signing in July 2018 with his energy, anticipation and tenacious style of play winning plenty of admirers across the Premier League.
Brighton’s Yves Bissouma (left) is reportedly on Liverpool’s radar as a Wijnaldum replacement
The club are not keen to sell him by any stretch but reportedly accept they may have to sell if a big offer comes in – with the Mali international valued at £40m.
Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Florian Neuhaus is another name on Liverpool’s supposed radar. The 24-year-old has won plenty of plaudits after an impressive breakthrough campaign under Marco Rose this season.
The Germany international, who has a release clause of £23m, has reportedly attracted interest from several other European clubs such as Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Juventus – highlighting his appeal.
Fans of Liverpool will always point to the body of work Roberto Firmino does for the team but it’s becoming increasingly apparent they need a goalscoring forward.
Firmino’s unselfish work in the ‘False 9’ position is heralded but his lack of goalscoring output is highlighted when either Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mane – or sometimes both at the same time – go through a dry-patch in front of goal.
The signing of Diogo Jota this season was a masterstroke by Klopp with the former Wolves man fitting in brilliantly with the Reds attack. In a campaign disrupted by injury he scored 13 goals in 30 appearances across all competitions. In contrast, Firmino scored just nine goals in 48 appearances.
Main centre-forward Roberto Firmino only scored nine goals in 48 games for the club this term
Andre Silva (Eintracht Frankfurt) and Patson Daka (Red Bull Salzburg) are two names who have linked with a move to Anfield to bolster their frontline options.
Cult hero Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino are not the answers to challenge Firmino.
Liverpool also have to contend with the consistent rumblings over star man Salah’s future at the club.
Paris Saint-Germain are the latest European giant to be linked with a move for the 28-year-old who finished as the club’s top goalscorer for a fourth-successive season.
Klopp will do everything in his power to keep his prolific forward but if the unthinkable did happen then with the huge fee the club would generate for Salah an audacious fee for PSG’s Kylian Mbappe could be made. Now that would be some replacement.
Eintracht Frankfurt striker Andre Silva has been linked with a move to Anfield this summer
Irrespective of Salah’s situation, Leeds United wide man Raphinha is another who has reportedly caught the eye of the club as well as Manchester United.
The Brazilian, who is great friends with Firmino and Alisson too, says he is flattered by the links.
‘It is difficult to define how I feel when I hear speculation about giant teams like Liverpool and Manchester United interested in signing me,’ he told UOL Sport.
‘Man, I grew up watching these teams on television. I saw Rooney, Van Nistelrooy, Cristiano Ronaldo, but I also saw Gerrard, as well as others like Henry, Deco, Lampard.
Leeds United wide man Raphinha (right) is flattered by the transfer links to Liverpool
‘And today I’m making people happy with my football. I am not only talking about the other clubs, but also Leeds, who was the one who bet on me.
‘They are all very happy, including the fans who seem to have a great affection for me.
‘I have a contract for another four years and I don’t even think about leaving here for exactly this reason: I am happy and making others happy.’
Share this article
Source: Read Full Article