Better options out there: Five senior players Liverpool must offload this summer
COMMENT By Matt Farr
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp made the mistake of failing to add reinforcements to his squad last month, and their Premier League title bid has suffered as a result.
The Reds have fallen 11 points behind league leaders Chelsea, following a miserable run of form that has seen them lose to both Hull and Swansea, and held to a draw by Sunderland.
While Liverpool’s attack remains one of the most formidable in the league, their defensive is quite the opposite, and Klopp’s failure to strengthen that area in particular will mean his side will continue to fall short of their ultimate domestic goal.
However, the German boss has a prime opportunity to rectify that mistake in the summer – albeit too late to save their current season – and he must start by finding upgrades for these five senior players, who are well-below the required standard.
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The goalkeeping position has been the major cause for concern for Klopp and Liverpool this term, and is a problem that could be traced as far back as Pepe Reina’s departure in 2013.
Both Mignolet and Loris Karius have been responsible for countless errors in between the sticks this season, but Mignolet is perhaps the biggest culprit because he was making mistakes well before Karius’ arrival in the summer.
Karius was brought in as Liverpool’s new first-choice goalkeeper, but Klopp has been forced to bring Mignolet back into the fray – and he has not convinced.
Therefore, Klopp will be faced with little option but to add yet another goalkeeper to his ranks at the end of the season, and that would – and should – see him cash-in on Mignolet.
The Belgium international is not consistent or reliable enough for him to be considered a top Premier League goalkeeper, and for Liverpool to consider themselves a genuine title threat, they need to find someone with that kind of influence.
The fact that James Milner has been playing at left-back for much of the season ahead of a fully-fit Alberto Moreno says it all.
No matter how pleased people may be with the performances of Milner, or his ability to adapt to his new left-back role, he is not a long-term solution.
Liverpool need to be picking players in their strongest positions, and putting together a makeshift defence is not helping their cause one bit.
He is though, still a better bet than Moreno, and that should be an even bigger concern for Klopp.
If Moreno is not going to play, then he must be moved on – pure and simple. He is not good enough defensively to lead Liverpool to a domestic or European title, and he must be sacrificed in an attempt to land someone much more capable.
The 24-year-old cost the club £12million back in 2014, and it is clear that that money could perhaps have been – and could still be – better spent.
As good as Daniel Sturridge can be, he is not the prolific Premier League goalscorer that Liverpool require. His injury-proneness and inability to stay fit for prolonged periods is the main factor.
Take each of Liverpool’s rivals, for example. Chelsea have Diego Costa, Manchester City have Sergio Aguero (and now Gabriel Jesus), Tottenham have Harry Kane and Manchester United have Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Even Everton have one in Romelu Lukaku.
Liverpool do not have a 20-plus goals-per season striker. Divock Origi has potential so should be kept on board, but the club cannot continue to rely on the likes of Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino for their goals. That’s the job of the strikers, and Sturridge is not fulfilling his duties.
There is the second point that the striker doesn’t work hard enough for the team. Sturridge can do wonders with the ball at his feet, but he needs to get the ball first; and he does not always actively seek it out.
Liverpool are reported to be in the hunt for someone like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, one of Klopp’s former Dortmund stars, and he would be a major upgrade on Sturridge.
The England international could fetch a reasonable price, and should make way for someone like Aubameyang to take his place as Liverpool’s leading man.
In fairness to Klopp, he did make several changes to his defence in the summer, bringing in centre-back duo Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan.
Yet while Matip has proven to be a relative success, Klavan has proven quite the opposite. The 31-year-old should be considered little more than a backup option for the club, but Liverpool’s ongoing defensive woes means he is getting more first-team football than he perhaps his ability deserves.
Klopp has to be bringing in another centre-back regardless of Klavan’s form, but it may help to take out some of the trash before stocking up.
Klavan is contracted at Anfield until 2019, and unless they cut that short and find a better alternative, the future looks very grim indeed.
One or two aspects of the midfield are also an issue. The ageing Lucas Leiva is expected to depart the club at the end of his contract in June, while many fans are still to be convinced over summer signing Georginio Wijnaldum.
The Dutchman will improve in time, but one man who has had the time already to make a big impact and not done so, is Emre Can.
The 23-year-old is a likeable midfielder with a clear talent; and he still has the potential to be a future hit. But he has not had the desired effect at Anfield.
That may not be down to Can, and more a tactical fault. But it is clear that Can does not do his defensive duties effectively enough, and Klopp should consider someone who can perform to the level required.
Given his age, that is not necessarily a call to axe him from the squad. Competition in the middle of the park could certainly improve, because Jordan Henderson is no world-class player either.
However, if Liverpool want to be where they want to be, they need to think bigger.
In other Liverpool transfer news, Phil Thompson believes the club must sell these two senior players.
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