What is needed at Liverpool?
Liverpool are Premier League Champions for the second time in three years, the first time that has been said since 1990. Having finished a lowly seventh place last season, Jurgen Klopp departed for Borussia Dortmund. The man to replace him was a young South African manager who had just three previous years experience as a first team head coach. Joining from CSKA Moscow, where he led his side to back to back Russian League titles, and a Champions League Knockout place, Luke Hendricks signed on the dotted line at Liverpool just seventeen days before his first competitive game against Arsenal in July.
Since then, he has transformed Liverpool from a disappointing seventh place, into a Premier League winning side, once again. But the question remains, what do Liverpool need to do to retain their title for the first time since 1984. Players will be leaving the club and almost certainly players will join, with Liverpool looking to not just retain their crown but also fight for the prestigious Champions League title once again.
Luke Hendricks made it clear that he would be selecting players he felt would be game winners in his Liverpool side this season. The price that was previously paid or the reputation that players had, meant nothing. That has seen the likes of Florian Thauvin (4 starts) José Giménez (9 starts) Roberto Firmino (12 starts) and Ben Chilwell (16 starts) make a combined forty-one starts in all competitions between them this season. That is a significant drop off from the ninety-four starts that they made in Jurgen Klopp's final season.
With the likes of Chilwell and Thauvin already seeing a large amount of interest in them, it is believed that only Roberto Firmino is likely to remain at the club this summer. Joining Chilwell and Thauvin on the outgoings, it is expected that Loris Karius will be moved on, with the German goalkeeper making just one start this season. Georgino Wijnaldum is also being linked with a big money move to Paris Saint-Germain, however, following his contract extension at Liverpool early this year, any move is unlikely.
Ben Chilwell made his move to Liverpool last season for a fee of £40,000,000 with Jurgen Klopp using the English left-back as backup to Andrew Robertson. Chilwell saw his game time drop this season under new manager Luke Hendricks, and with the European Championships upcoming next summer, it is expected that Chilwell will be looking to make a move away in order to start more first team games. The current favourites to sign the twenty-six year old are Tottenham Hotspur following Ryan Sessegnon struggling in that role last season, with Spurs finishing in eleventh place. It is believed a price of £60,000,000 will be seen as adequate for Liverpool to sell their current backup, with winter signing Gwaeron Kassels likely to move into what will be a vacant role.
Also seeing a growing interest is Florian Thauvin, with both Norwich and Zenit St. Petersburg taking an interest in the French winger. Thauvin, another £41,500,000 signing from last season wasn’t even on the twelve man bench for either the Europa League Final or FA Cup final in the last few weeks, and with Luke clearly not favouring the winger, it is almost certain he will be moved on this summer. With the ageing French capped player, now thirty-one, it is expected that Liverpool will be making a loss on him. However, that loss isn’t said to worry the people at Liverpool, with positives being seen that they won’t be playing a player £91,000 a week to train.
Loris Karius and Becir Omeragic are the only other two likely departures from Liverpool this summer. However, interest in Georginio Wijnaldum, from PSG and Benfica, and Roberto Firmino with Juventus linked, could see bids made for the two long time members of the Liverpool team. It’s expected that whilst these two aren’t currently on the transfer list at Liverpool, if a sufficient offer is made for either of them, Liverpool may be inclined to move the pair on with both ageing.
A number of signings have already been confirmed for Liverpool, with a total of six players joining. All six of those players are expected to join the under 18s side next season, with the oldest of the arrivals being Regan Pearce who turns seventeen in October. In terms of first team arrivals, it is expected that it will come down to who Liverpool sell and for what price.
In his four seasons as a manager so far, Luke has only looked to invest once he has sold, with a real emphasis being placed on bringing in a profit for transfers. With a number of players looking to be sold, and if reports are to be believed a total of £150,000,000 could be made from sales, Luke will have a fair amount to improve on his current crop of players.
The question is, what areas do Liverpool need to improve?
Mohamed Salah Backup
Many would have argued that Mohamed Salah should be named Liverpool's player of the season this year. Despite that award going to top scorer, Erling Haaland, they would have had a good case for the Egyptian. Scoring thirty-four goals along with fourteen assists, the thirty year old found similar form to his first year at the club. However, Salah also saw no clear backup to him, with Luke heavily reliant on the Egyptian to perform at the highest level week in week out, with that ultimately seeing Salah miss the final eleven games of the season due to injury. Expected to be back for the start of the season following hip surgery, a second option on the right flank is needed.
Harry Wilson would certainly argue a strong case that he should be that backup, but Luke seemed reluctant at times to use the Welsh midfielder. Wilson who has now turned twenty-six could well be cashed in on this summer with his contract set to end in two years time. That would leave a massive gap on the right, with Thauvin almost certainly on his way out.
Liverpool scouts have been seen following the progress of two right sided midfielders in particular in recent months, namely Sergio Pulido and Omar Lieshout.
Pulido, only moved from his native Mexico last season, joined Benfica in a deal worth £13,500,000. Since that move, he has shone, scoring nine goals and assisting six from the right hand side for the Portuguese side, in just twenty-five league games, with five of those coming from the bench. The nineteen year old made his Mexican debut last year as well, with his first international goal coming in November. There are high hopes for the Mexican, with him already being considered a leading player for the nation.
Pulido is a player who fits the Luke Hendricks mould too, a young player who is likely to work hard and perform at a high level. He is able to pick out a pass and is a talented dribbler with the ability to cut inside from the right hand side. However, he will be costly, with the expectation being Pulido could cost up to £50,000,000.
Omar Lieshout, the other name Liverpool have been linked with in recent weeks, is a player Luke Hendricks knows well having made the offer that was eventually accepted for the Russian winger when at CSKA Moscow. The eighteen year old has been a vital member of Zinedine Zidane’s title winning side, scoring seven and assisting three in his twenty-eight league games this season. Despite Luke’s tight connection with CSKA Moscow, it’s expected that Lieshout is being valued at around £70,000,000, a fee that may put off any singing.
The Russian is a year younger than Pulido, however, it is believed that people within the club much prefer the Mexican at present. The fee is a sticking point and the club feel as if Pulido will be a better fit currently.
A New Striker
Another man who played a high amount of football this season was Erling Haaland. The twenty-two year old started a remarkable forty-nine games, with a single substitute appearance. That total of fifty see’s him playing his most games in a single season so far in his career. With his incredible performances he became relied upon, with his backups seemingly fell short at times.
Roberto Firmino played the highest number of games as backup, starting twelve with twenty-eight games from the bench in all competitions. However, the Brazilian world cup winner, scored just five goals. Steve Bird and William Kayembe, two young players in the Liverpool ranks, also saw a few games between them but they are still a way off first team level in the eyes of many.
So who comes in as a good enough backup? Many signs once again point to Portugal, with Fábio Silva seeing many links to the club. Silva has been a highly exciting prospect since breaking through the Porto squad a couple of seasons ago. Making his first team debut in 2021/22, Silva has since played sixty-eight games, scoring fifty-two goals. Top scoring in back to back seasons for the Portuguese champions.
But if Liverpool do go after Silva, they will likely face a large level of competition for the strikers signature. Also linked with the twenty year old is Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. It’s likely to cost the side a fee of anywhere between £38,000,000 and £70,000,000.
Attacking Midfield Depth
Paulo Dybala last season played the second most amount of games for Liverpool last season, just six off goalkeeper Alisson’s total of sixty. The Argentine midfielder was at his subliminal best throughout the majority of the year, scoring fifteen and assisting on twenty-three occasions in his fifty-four games. Despite this great return, at times you could see fatigue was setting in and with Liverpool lacking a clear backup to Dybala, it’d be expected a second choice would be coming in this summer.
However, youngster Ryan Fraser saw a number of appearances towards the end of last season, with many believing the Scottish attacking midfielder could play a further role next season. At just seventeen years of age it would be a massive show of faith to the teenager from Hendricks. Another youngster that has been touted with joining Liverpool in that role is Cain Hicks, who has impressed since rising through the ranks at Charlton.
Hicks made his Charlton debut, having come through the academy, in the 2021/22 season. That year he made forty-two league appearances, starting forty-one. His twelve goals and ten assists helped see his side gain promotion from League One with Hicks once again starring this past season in the Championship, guiding his side to back to back promotions into the Premier League beating Millwall in the Playoff finals last weekend. Hicks scored thirteen goals this season and looks to be a star in the making, with Liverpool reportedly matching his £4,500,000 release clause.
Whether Hicks and Fraser are good enough backup for Dybala is yet to be proven, with many fans not certain on either player. If Dybala is injured for a lengthy period, not having a clear first team ready player could harm Liverpool, but developing the youngsters with some consistent gametime at the highest level, could truly benefit the side in the long run.
Nobody can say with any degree of certainty what Liverpool will do this transfer window, with a large amount of links between club and potential players likely to be thrown around, but the Premier League champions are going to go into the summer knowing they have a target on their backs.
Shocking I know
Agreed! Only thirty-four? Pathetic lets go thirty-eight, Blagoja style