Although Liverpool experienced an upturn in form right before the international break with convincing wins over Huddersfield, Maribor and West Ham, there are issues bubbling below the surface that still have supporters worried about the sustainability of the Reds’ improved play.
The first and most pressing issue is the fact that Liverpool continue to concede as many goals as your average relegation candidate.
With 17 goals conceded in 11 games in the Premier League this season, Jürgen Klopp’s team has conceded 2 goals more than Bournemouth and West Brom who are 17th and 16th in the table respectively.
For many supporters and a large number of pundits, the answer to the question that is Liverpool’s defence is signing Virgil Van Dijk at the earliest possible opportunity.
The Dutchman has been on the club’s radar for months and was the subject of an unsuccessful transfer attempt from the Reds in the summer after it emerged that the Southampton defender was illegally approached.
Of course, Liverpool didn’t submit an actual bid for Van Dijk so Southampton’s resolve was never tested but with it clear that something needs to change at the back, signing the Dutch international seems to be the logical way forward.
Former Saints man Dejan Lovren has received immense criticism over the past few weeks for his shambolic defensive showing at Wembley Stadium against an in-form Tottenham side. The Croatian, despite signing a contract extension last season, is destined to be eased out of the starting XI in the future for van Dijk or another top class centre back.
Joel Matip, as I discussed last week, is an adept defender despite not being overly vocal at the back and not possessing the leadership qualities of the likes of Jamie Carragher.
Therefore, by signing the likes of a van Dijk, the Cameroonian would be partnered with a skilful defensive partner as well as a leader among men which would be massive for the improvement of this Liverpool backline.
Still on the topic of the back four, a topic that hasn’t been broached extensively or at all, would be finding temporary cover for Nathaniel Clyne in the January transfer window by exploiting the possibilities of the loan system.
It’s not as much of a priority as signing a centre back but the thought of a player like Neymar coming up against either Joe Gomez or Trent Alexander-Arnold in the knockout stages next year is a genuine fear of mine.
— Anfield HQ (@AnfieldHQ) November 14, 2017
Moving onto more likely scenarios come January, Jurgen Klopp might be forced to look at signing a central midfielder with the ever-likelier departure of Emre Can in the summer. The German is unwilling to commit to a new contract until he has received guarantees over his role in the side and with that apparently not possible, the former Bayer Leverkusen man could leave at the end of the season on a free.
So, with one German midfield dynamo leaving, why not bring another in Schalke’s highly rated Leon Goretzka? Not only does he match Can in energy and beat him for pace, but he also adds more goals from midfield.
Not only are the two players similar in play style, both German and excel in high intensity football systems, but Goretzka is also out of contract next summer. Liverpool are free to negotiate a deal to sign him in January and pay Schalke a premium to land him ahead of the likes of Bayern Munich or the Reds can use the situation to negotiate a pre-contract to sign him next season as they have done with RB Leipzig’s Naby Keita.
Although it would be disappointing to see a talented player like Emre Can depart, it would for me signal progression on Liverpool’s part to replace him either immediately or beforehand with a player who is arguably better suited to the style of play Klopp employs.
Whether or not Liverpool will embark on a spending spree in January could be a case of recent history repeating itself with the club famously known for not doing very much business at the turn of the year.
Steven Caulker is the only player who Klopp has signed in the winter window who actually played for the club that season and before him, the last two decent signings in January were Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge.
While I don’t expect Liverpool to conduct spectacular business in January based on past events, I’m hoping that Klopp and co. feel the urge to dip into the market and aren’t put off by clubs being unwilling to sell midway through the season like they were at the beginning of this year.
The likes of Virgil van Dijk and Leon Goretzka would provide the extra quality that was really needed in August but if the business can be conducted efficiently and without any PR nightmares, then I would be very pleased and excited about things going forward.
As it is, Liverpool have turned things around somewhat with Chelsea only three points ahead of the Reds in fourth place. Add to that the fact that Champions League Group E is topped by Jurgen Klopp’s plucky Reds after an unconvincing start and things don’t look as bleak as they did three weeks ago.