IT has been 113 days since Steven Gerrard posted an image of the Liverpool starting line-up that scorched Real Madrid 4-0 at Anfield in March 2009 on Instagram, simply captioned “spine.”
It was clumsily cropped and of low quality, but the picture smacked you square in the face. It took you back, left you sifting through the crumbs of the present and had you wondering about the future.
That 11 needed no filters to look good; no Sepia tint for nostalgia, nor a Rise layer for brightness. It was good just as it was, it was great just as it was.
Over the past few months, talk has centered around what Liverpool will do in the summer.
There has been a steady flow of names linked in and out of Anfield, which will only multiply once the transfer window edges closer. But the club do not need yet another high turnover in the market, they require what Gerrard was rewinding to, and what has been lacking over the past seven years: a solid core.
Under Jürgen Klopp, a group of players that were previously questioned have bubbled to the fore and proved that they can implement the manager’s full-throttle football.
Divock Origi’s development has been fast-tracked, Adam Lallana has been head of the press, Roberto Firmino can lead the line or adroitly supply it, Emre Can has been sharper and slicker, and the half at St Mary’s aside, Dejan Lovren has markedly improved.
There’s plenty of talent and industry in the squad for Klopp to shape and summon, but what the German is lacking is a stellar spine.
Forget names for a second and just think positions. Liverpool need a better goalkeeper, a dynamo in midfield, and two fresh attacking threats — all of “the highest quality” as the manager himself referenced with regards to upcoming business.
In terms of stick men, a move for Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen wouldn’t be straightforward, but it’s the one the Reds should do everything in their power to pull off.
The acquisition of Klopp was pure heavyweight and Liverpool must follow that up with more knockout punches.
The defence has already been strengthened with the signing of Joel Matip (above), and Leicester’s Ben Chilwell looks exceedingly likely to join the club.
Klopp will be able to count on the versatility of Joe Gomez next season, too. It’s a department that needs more shredding than bulking as things stand.
Liverpool’s midfield is packed with industry, but it could do with more inspiration.
Marko Grujic will join from Red Star Belgrade in the off-season, but while the Serbian starlet is hugely promising, he is still, at 19 years old, currently potential rather than the final product.
Poland international Piotr Zielinski is a player the club have been greatly impressed by, but he is not yet the finished article either.
God, look at that 11 again. Javier Mascherano and Xabi Alonso in the middle. Screw Easter Egg hunts, send out a search party for such authority again.
Back to the future. The presence of Mario Gotze in a Liverpool shirt next season is a big possibility and he would add star quality to the club’s attack.
A rejuvenated Danny Ings will also be “back in the race” but it would be a risky not to look at another pacy, potent centre-forward to rival Daniel Sturridge.
It’s almost certainly bye-bye to Christian Benteke, whom the club should have never said hello to — especially not for £32.5 million.
Under a phenomenal manager, and with a good squad, Liverpool have the opportunity to be cute and clever this summer. To be surgical. To operate on the spine.
To be done having us rewind to March 2009.