THE season isn’t yet finished but I’ll be honest, I’m already eyeing up the summer and beyond.
It’s pretty difficult to downgrade myself to a challenge for a Champions League place because, ultimately, it just isn’t that exciting and the overall goal doesn’t make you go out for a week and hug everyone you know. But it’s something we need as a club and something that we clearly aren’t yet equipped for in terms of squad depth.
The first goal should be to get into it, and the second goal should be that we are able to actually compete in it. Liverpool as a club should not see qualifying for a competition as a success – they should be trying to go as far as possible and try their utmost to win it. The same as every single competition Liverpool find themselves in.
If the last couple of months have shown us anything it’s that while we have lots of good players, there are a number of players who aren’t totally suited to the system of this Liverpool side. I like Emre Can, he showed during last year’s Europa League run that he’s got obviously talent and there’s a player in there, and the same can be said of Divock Origi, but having watched the pair of them in the last couple of months, you wonder just where they fit into this Liverpool team in the long term.
I refuse to believe it’s a coincidence that Liverpool had their swagger back when they were able to have the front six of Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum, Adam Lallana, Phil Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané starting a game for the first time since October. The biggest question that should have arisen from Saturday is why Jürgen Klopp decided to go with Can ahead of Wijnaldum at Hull last week – you can clearly see the difference between their suitability for this system.
Liverpool’s system is based on moving the ball vertically as quickly as possible. Incisive passing that helps us put teams on the back foot, that puts them under pressure, that makes them panic. Go and watch the two goals from Saturday and you’ll see exactly what this team is about.
Can looks laboured when he’s on the ball, like he wants that extra second to think about it, and his mobility is not on the same level of Wijnaldum.
Remember the reaction when Wijnaldum signed? I remember getting the nod that the 10.30 ultras were going out with it shortly before it dropped and having a word with someone about the impending meltdown on Twitter. And at 10.31pm on a Sunday evening in July, Twitter went wild. I don’t think anyone would have signed Wijnaldum and there’s a lesson to be learned there.
I think the worst game in existence is when people say ‘We should sign him’. We’re all idiots, mate. I was made up when we signed Fabio Borini on one hand, and then on the other I wanted us to sign Cesar Azpilicueta when he was at Osasuna. We’ll get some right, we’ll get some wrong, so maybe the idea is to just jib that concept as a whole and live in blissful ignorance and let the manager crack on?
I’m sure it’ll probably happen again this summer. We’ll get linked with someone and the world will go into meltdown. But before you go into meltdown, have a think what you thought when we signed Wijnaldum, relax and then remember that everyone employed by Liverpool in a football capacity knows more about football than you.
The summer shouldn’t be about signing the best players available in terms of ability, the summer should be about signing the best players available in terms of how they fit into this system. We can sign the best striker in existence, but if he isn’t mobile enough to create space for Mane and Coutinho then he won’t fit. Diesel is really good at powering cars, but if you put it in a petrol engine it won’t work in the long term.
The issue we seem to have is that our system is very dependent on six players. You take one of them out and then it doesn’t look as good. We have lots of good footballers at the club at the minute, but how many fit?
I know that in a one-off game this Liverpool side can take anyone down, but our problem is that we haven’t got the depth to do it twice a week or do it when we have injuries. The current squad is capable of getting this club into the top four and then we need to take advantage and build a squad that’s capable of competing on four fronts.
We need to find a midfielder who reads the game like Henderson, another who can get around the pitch and move the ball quickly like Wijnaldum, someone who links play like Lallana, two pacey wide men who can stretch teams like Mane, and then a centre forward who can move around the pitch, create space and bag goals.
We cannot play the current front six for 90 minutes upwards of 55 times next season, but it’s pretty clear that we have very little in reserve that is able to deputise without there being a noticeable drop off in quality.
The aim for the summer should be to get the best part of 20 players that you are happy to see start an away game at Old Trafford. That means we need to do some serious summer business. Wouldn’t it be nice if the money we’ve saved up over the course of the last few transfer windows, combined with the presence of Champions League football enabled Klopp to go out and buy half a dozen players that he really wants that kick us on a level?
We can talk all we want about how defenders and a new goalkeeper could help, but until we get a way of consistently playing good attacking football with more than six different players I feel it’s a waste of time. After all, we just dismantled a very good Tottenham side with Lucas at centre-back and Simon Mignolet in goal. Obviously you need a secure defence, but a consistent attacking system with lots of good players will do a lot more in the long run.