Liverpool FC has become one of the best clubs in the world since Jurgen Klopp took over as manager in 2015, winning the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup, and Club World Cup during his tenure. However, this past season has not been a strong one from Liverpool. They currently sit eighth in the Premier League, and finishing eighth would mean Liverpool would not get to play in Europe next season.
However, there have been a couple recent bright spots for Liverpool. Although they will miss out on Jude Bellingham in the summer transfer window, they have plenty of options to revamp the squad and return to competing for the Premier League title. Here are the three things I would do to turn Liverpool around this summer.
Revamp the Midfield
Everyone expects Liverpool to have a big overhaul this summer, but exactly who Liverpool are looking to bring in is still somewhat unknown. It is known that a handful of players will be leaving the club this summer, with Roberto Firmino, Naby Keita, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all set to leave on free transfers after their contracts expire at the end of the season, and Arthur Melo will also depart when his loan from Juventus expires. It is also believed that another three or four players, if not more, could leave the club as well.
The tough thing to guess is who replaces the exiting players. A massive overhaul is expected at midfield, and a defender or two may be incoming as well. There are tons of options, many of which have already been linked to Liverpool. Two or three midfielders are expected this summer at a minimum, and the midfielders currently linked to Liverpool include Mason Mount, Ryan Gravenberch, Matheus Nunes, Conor Gallagher, Moises Caicedo, Alexis Mac Allister, Joao Palhinha, Nicolo Barella, Luca Susic, and Teun Koopmeiners. There are also some midfielders who could get a transfer as potential options, such as Khephren Thuram, Manu Kone, Manuel Ugarte, Ibrahim Sangare, and Youri Tielemans. However, none of these transfer candidates have been linked to Liverpool as of yet.
I think Liverpool needs two midfielders at an absolute minimum, and possibly three depending on who they target. If we are considering the price for these players, my ideal targets out of the linked players would be Nicolo Barella, Ryan Gravenberch, Mason Mount, Teun Koopmeiners, and Luka Susic. I also really like Manuel Ugarte and Khephren Thuram, so they would be my number one and two options from the non-linked players. I don’t necessarily feel confident about Liverpool getting Barella, considering the potential number of teams that want him, but I would really welcome a summer window where Liverpool brings in one of Mount and Gravenberch, one of Koopmeiners and Susic, and one of Ugarte and Thuram.
Liverpool needs to address their midfield, and with three midfielders already leaving in Keita, Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Arthur (although he has barely played this season), plus the potential retirement or free transfer of James Milner, Liverpool will need to bring in solid players. Just bringing in bodies isn’t enough. Liverpool needs to improve, and continuing to roll out a midfield featuring Jordan Henderson, Thiago, and Fabinho won’t be good enough.
Add a Center Back
I think Liverpool could also be in the market for a center back, and there are some options there as well. How many center backs arrive at Liverpool would depend on if any of their current center backs leave this summer. If either Joe Gomez or Joel Matip are set to leave Liverpool, then I believe Liverpool could target two center backs. If neither of them leave, I believe one is enough. The top options linked to Liverpool have been Josko Gvardiol, Evan Ndicka, Kim Min Jae, and Jurrien Timber. Gvardiol seems unlikely, since he would cost at least £100 million. Liverpool opted not to spend that kind of money on Jude Bellingham, so it seems unlikely that they’d spend it on Gvardiol.
Ndicka should be the top option for Liverpool, as he will be available on a free transfer this summer when his contract with Eintracht Frankfurt expires. The difficulty of getting Ndicka is the amount of teams that will try to sign him on a free transfer. Kim Min Jae or Jurrien Timber could fit, but I believe one of them only makes sense if one of Gomez or Matip gets sold. I think Liverpool could use a left footed center back that can be used as both a center back and left back, and Ndicka (and Gvardiol) fits that description. Another option that hasn’t been linked to Liverpool is Piero Hincapie. I don’t necessarily see him coming to Liverpool if Ndicka arrives, but he could be a solid second option if Liverpool fails to sign Ndicka.
To blend the midfield revamp into the addition of a center back, there are some cheaper and more expensive ways to revamp the squad this summer. The cheapest way would be to sign Ryan Gravenberch, Luka Susic, and either Manuel Ugarte or Khephren Thuram, plus getting Evan Ndicka on a free transfer, which would overall cost around £90 million in transfer fees. If Liverpool targeted three central midfielders instead of the two central midfielders and one defensive/holding midfielder I am suggesting, the cost could be lowered to £75 million by replacing Ugarte/Thuram with Teun Koopmeiners.
In my perfect world, Liverpool brings in Nicolo Barella, Teun Koopmeiners, and Joao Palhinha, plus Ndicka for about £150 million in transfer fees. However, I believe the most likely avenue will be Liverpool bringing in Ryan Gravenberch, one of Mason Mount or Alexis Mac Allister, Matheus Nunes, plus Jurrien Timber, which could cost around £200 million in transfer fees. The real question is just how much is FSG willing to spend in the transfer market, and how much money would be made on potential player sales. Plus, how do some of the younger players like Harvey Elliot, Curtis Jones, Fabio Carvalho, and Stefan Bajcetic affect the decisions being made. All four incumbents would appreciate the opportunity to play more, and would love to reward the faith shown in them with good performances.
Build Tactics Around Trent Alexander-Arnold
Trent Alexander-Arnold is one of Liverpool’s most important players, but his on-field issues this season have not helped Liverpool at all. Some of those issues were mental lapses, but other times he just flat out struggled, especially defensively. Yet it seems Liverpool has a fix to help Alexander-Arnold get back to performing at his best, while also helping the team get back to their best at the same time. Jurgen Klopp has accomplished this by stealing a specific idea from Arsenal and Manchester City and inserting it into his own tactics.
That tactic incorporated into the Liverpool structure is deciding to allow Alexander-Arnold to play as an inverted right back. Instead of pushing up the right hand side of the pitch with overlapping runs, he has tucked inside into the midfield to help in build-up play, as well as in the final third. Liverpool has been doing this for just two games so far. The first game was a 2-2 draw with Arsenal, where they fell behind 2-0 before taking control in the second half. The other was their recent 6-1 thrashing of Leeds United. It’s a small sample size, but the game against Leeds United was a masterclass from Alexander-Arnold, and he was the best player on the pitch.
When Alexander-Arnold plays well, so does Liverpool. Or at least that’s how it feels. The ideal way for Liverpool to have him at his best is to make him a bigger influence on the attack, but also to take pressure off of him defensively at right back. That’s far easier said than done, but Liverpool should be more successful if they can consistently do that. All of this goes back to which center back Liverpool brings in. It’s a big reason I believe Liverpool should bring in a left footed center back who can also play left back.
When Arsenal signed Oleksander Zinchenko last summer, he became a very important piece for them. Zinchenko inverted from his left back position into the midfield, which has helped turn Arsenal into the Premier League leading team they are now. Arsenal would invert Zinchenko and have their right back, Ben White, play like a third center back in build-up. Liverpool could simply flip the tactics the same way they are doing with Alexander-Arnold on the right, but left back Andy Robertson isn’t the most ideal person to act like the third center back. Obviously, Liverpool can tweak the idea to fit their team the way Manchester City has done, but having a player who can fill in at center back and left back in this tactic would be a luxury.
Liverpool would obviously tweak it to fit their squad, and Klopp is smart enough to make it work with Robertson. I always say the best coaches in any sport are the ones that can take things that players do well and implement those into their own way of coaching. The right way to evolve is to have Klopp integrate the idea of having a defender jump up into the midfield, while still employing the other tactics that have worked for Liverpool. The way Liverpool played, even as recently as last season, isn’t good enough now. However, improving via some slight changes can sometimes be better than totally changing tactics.
Liverpool will have a massive summer ahead, both for the short term and the long term as well. A lot of fans are upset that Liverpool will not be getting Jude Bellingham, but having a good summer transfer window and returning to form next season will cool off some of the anger fans have from missing out on Bellingham. And you never know, maybe Bellingham stays at Borussia Dortmund for one more year, allowing Liverpool to potentially re-enter the transfer picture for him.
Regardless, it is a big summer for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool. If they fail to succeed, questions will be asked about Klopp, FSG, and more. But if they do succeed, it will shut up a lot of fans, especially the ones who question FSG.