How do you top that? Jurgen Klopp’s boys have broken the 30-year drought, bringing the club their nineteenth league title and they did it in style, despite the considerable disruption of the pandemic shutdown. The records registered along the way include an astonishing 25-point lead and a run of 24 consecutive home victories, not to mention landing the title with a record number of games to spare.
For some clubs, such a stunning season, coming straight after the glories of the 2018-19 campaign, might lead to a period of complacency or stagnation. But not this club.
Any football punter thinking of betting against Liverpool this summer after claiming an offer for the upcoming season should think carefully. Building dynasties has been at the core of Liverpool’s identity, ever since the era of Bill Shankly, and they absolutely will not be resting on any laurels, as the purchase of Takumi Minamino in January demonstrated.
Minamino’s purchase also underlines that the Reds won’t be falling into a different trap, of attempting to scoop up all the top players around at high prices. They have the financial muscle and the draw to do that, if required, as they showed with the signing of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson, but all the signs are that the club intends to stick to their tried and tested policy of bringing in slightly lower-profile talent who they can develop.
So what will be this summer’s priority? The absence of European football this month will have given Klopp and the club more time to reflect on their shopping list, and top of the list will be some back up defenders. Nathaniel Clyne has gone, which leaves the squad light in the right back department. Dejan Lovren’s move to Russia means that Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip are the only senior centre halves at the club, and there are suggestions that Matip could be one of the players heading out this summer. Ozan Kabak from Schalke and Diego Carlos of Sevilla are possible options at centre-half, while newcomer Kostas Tsimikas can provide some playing minutes on the left.
Another area in need of strengthening is in central midfield. Milner is firmly in the veteran category, while Naby Keita has yet to establish himself and it seems that Xherdan Shaqiri could be on his way out, so reinforcements in this area are a must. Spanish international Thiago Alcantara has been mentioned as a possible addition. Although he doesn’t fit the usual profile for a Liverpool signing, Klopp is a big admirer and the player is apparently keen to leave Bayern Munich. Alcantara is one of the bigger names linked to the club this summer, but his play-making abilities from deep would add another dimension to the Liverpool midfield and take some of the pressure off Jordan Henderson.
Liverpool might also need to strengthen up front, as strange as that sounds, given that their front three is the envy of European football. Roberto Firmino is the workhouse of that attacking line up and his role is essential. He may not get the attention that is given to Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, but his link-up play, pressing and energy have been key factors in the team’s success.
Nevertheless, the primary duty of a forward is to score goals and there are signs that Firmino has been falling short in recent months. Less than 10% of his shots on goal were successful during the last campaign, and that compares poorly with many Premier League strikers, such as Danny Ings, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Jamie Vardy. Divock Origi has been an invaluable fourth striker, chipping in with vital goals, but he is not in the same class as Firmino and after five years at Anfield as a back-up player, he may well want to move on.
A move for an established Premier League striker such as Vardy or Ings doesn’t seem to fit the usual Liverpool profile, but it is not hard to imagine the club going for a young forward with potential, such as Marcus Thuram of Borussia Monchengladbach, who could be lined up as Firmino’s replacement when age starts to catch up with the Brazilian star in a season or two.