This week brought the bad news Liverpool fans feared: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be out until November at the earliest. It’s a cruel blow for a footballer who really has gone from strength to strength under Jurgen Klopp’s guidance. His quality in the second three behind the forward line was a real plus this season with his pace and eye for a pass, the key in us slicing open defences with prolific menace.
Without him not only do Liverpool lack his drive and energy, but really do look short on numbers. As the debates already begin about who can challenge Manchester City next season, many pundits are saying Liverpool only need one or two players to be contenders. A closer look, however, at the ranks suggests that they need two additional midfielders on top of other areas, even with Naby Kieta’s impending arrival.
The demands of the press
The pressing game Liverpool have played under Klopp has been fantastic to watch. They terrify teams by not giving them a moment on the ball, and break in numbers with ferocious speed and hunger. Some of the results have been epic. The home leg performances against Roma and City in the Champions League were among the best displays Anfield has ever been witness to in European competition.
It is exhausting, though. You can see this with the rate of injuries and leggy performances towards the end of the season in the Premier League. It’s an approach that demands the highest levels of fitness and commitment from all on the pitch. It would be a crime against football to burn out these talented footballers by overplaying them. Reinforcements are therefore needed urgently for the next campaign if they are to challenge on all fronts.
A closer look at the midfield tells you Klopp needs more bodies in that department. Lallana has only just played one hundred league games for Liverpool, such are his injury problems. Henderson has had his issues, Ox is out and Can is off. Milner is getting on and the gifted Gini is prone to disappearing acts away from home. Kieta to come in is a boost, every pundit and player has raved about his energy, box to box running and eye for goal. He is partial to a red card though, having had three dismissals in German Football this season. Even with Kieta’s addition, Can’s likely departure and Ox’s injury, plus the World Cup this summer mean Liverpool are likely to be leggy and short at the start of next season.
Klopp’s game is reliant on players who will run the lines and press. He needs at least two more players of strong first team quality to come to bolster those numbers and keep the squad ticking over when injuries strike. Lallana’s return in time for Kiev is a boost as he offers a wonderful and intelligent extra gear, but apart from him Liverpool are stretched horribly at the moment. It would be reassuring to have one or two extra options at our disposal for such a crucial match in the club’s history.
Recruitment from a position of strength
Liverpool have to approach this window with real ambition to strengthen. For the first time in almost a decade they can approach players from a position of being one of the best sides in Europe. Klopp and his band of quality players will be a real magnet. Some names have already been linked, however transfer speculation is not something for this article. Real quality and bold signings would be huge for Liverpool going into a season where expectations will be massive for the club.
In each of Klopp’s two full seasons in charge, he has had to call on youngsters in Premier League matches, at crucial times, when they simply haven’t been ready. Trent Alexander-Arnold has come in leaps and bounds this year having been thrown in last season, but it can destroy a player’s confidence if they play a couple of games and make mistakes with the stakes so high.
It would be nice to see players like Woodburn and Camacho given really good loans to decent Premier League clubs to aide their development. Loan spells are not necessarily the death sentences they once where for youngsters, and they can come back the better for it, albeit, having played at a suitable level.
Liverpool FC should be able to muster reinforcements that take the pressure off these youngsters and allow them to be gradually brought in, as Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger did in their pomp. A title challenge will expected, but simply not possible without more players in the engine room of Klopp’s high press.