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Football News: Liverpool FC: Where does Klopp need to Strengthen?

So how long is it until the transfer window opens? Two more premier league fixtures and something about Santa apparently. For Liverpool FC fans (like myself) who live and breath football our entire Christmas period is engulfed by the sport and in recent years, praying that the club somehow find a saviour to our season in the January transfer window!

With the new manager, Jurgen Klopp coming in though Liverpool find themselves in a situation that they haven’t been in for quite a while. Not since Rafa Benitez have Liverpool had a manager with such high standards that we could literally see any player in the team replaced. You could argue that the only players who are safe are Coutinho and Henderson; the best player and the captain. As we all know though, January is a really difficult time to buy because the only players teams are looking to offload mid-season are underperformers or people who aren’t getting into the team and want to leave. Of course there are exceptions but in general January transfers are massive gambles. In this article we will look at some potential options for Liverpool in each position that have stood out to me for various reasons (there is nothing “in the know” about this piece, it is purely for speculation and discussion).

Obviously Liverpool need a goalkeeper. Mignolet has consistently proven that he isn’t good enough and Bogdan hasn’t exactly pulled up any trees either! Danny Ward is having a great time on loan at Aberdeen though so we may not see any movement here until next summer after Klopp has had a chance to work with Ward.
1. Steve Mandanda - Mandanda is a very highly respected goalkeeper throughout the game. He is kept out of the France national team only by the brilliance of Hugo Lloris. At 30 years old he is a keeper in his prime. Relatively short for a keeper at 1.85m, Mandanda is surprisingly efficient when it comes to commanding his area. He has been a mainstay in the Marseille team for years and has recently stated that he would like a new challenge. It is unlikely Marseille would let such a key player leave in January though so this would have to wait until next summer.
2. Salvatore Sirigu - Sirigu is one of the top keepers in world football. The Italian was cruelly replaced by Kevin Trapp and now finds himself ‘trapped’ on the bench. It is no secret that Paris Saint Germain are willing to let the player leave but there is absolutely no hint of interest from Liverpool thus far. Strange in my opinion as this is a transfer that probably could happen in January. One of Sirigu’s most impressive aspects is his ability to organise the defence in front of him particularly at set pieces. He didn’t really have much choice with David Luiz in front of him!
3. Asmir Begovic (wild card) - The giant Bosnian has been one of the top keepers in the Premier League for a long time now. He impressed so much at Stoke that Chelsea decided they wanted him to warm their bench! It is unlikely he would leave the club next month but as his frustrations increase it is likely he may push for a move next summer. Begovic is well known for his excellent kicking traits. He can pick out a player anywhere on the pitch due to his ability to hit a ball powerfully yet accurately. It wasn’t long ago one of his deep kicks got caught by the wind and actually went into the opposition goal!

Right back:
Whilst some fans may not see this as a weak area, there is no telling what Klopp thinks. I personally am not impressed by Clyne. Randall, Wisdom and Flanagan are all yet to stamp the position down as their own and young Joe Gomez is actually more suited to centre back, added to the fact he is out with a long term injury.
1. Mario Gaspar Perez - Gaspar is a very highly rated right back currently plying his trade for Villarreal. At 25 years old he is just coming into his prime and has been one of La Ligas best full backs this term. His form has helped Villarreal climb to an impressive 5th place in the league at the time this article was written. He is blessed with pace and has also made a habit of scoring pretty spectacular goals (including one against England for the Spanish national team). Most importantly though he is a solid defender. He is unlikely to risk moving in January as he has a very good chance of representing Spain at the European Championships.
2. Sam Byram - Liverpool have previously looked at the 22 year old Englishman. He is very versatile having covered at both right back, left back, right midfield and left midfield in his short career. He is very powerful and wingers have a tough time beating him because of this. He is still fairly raw but is widely regarded as one of the top talents in the Championship. If Liverpool were to stump up the asking price, Leeds would probably let him go next month.
3. Oscar De Marcos (wild card) - Oscar is actually played as a midfielder a lot of the time. However he is absolutely brilliant at right back. He regularly covers there for his team, Athletic Bilbao. As expected, he is a very attacking full back hence why he also plays in midfield. He isn’t lightning fast but he has great energy and tenacity. He represents an intelligent signing as he could also be signed to cover a number of positions including right wing or central midfield. Klopp could coach him into being a formidable right back though. At only 26 he has plenty of time left to develop and he’s already a very solid fullback and utility player. It is unlikely that Bilbao would let him leave next month but it wouldn’t be disastrous if Clyne was given until the summer to prove that he does have what it takes to be a Liverpool player.

Centre back:
Liverpool have a major centre back crisis. Skrtel is injured, Lovren is injured, Sakho is injury prone, and Toure is in his mid 30’s. With Gomez also out and no stand out academy players in this position, it isn’t looking too bright for Liverpool in the heart of their defence.
1. Joel Matip - Matip is an absolutely huge man. He stands at 1.93m and perhaps largely down to his size has one of the highest aerial duel success rates in Europe. He’s statistically better in the air than Mats Hummels although I’d take that with a pinch of salt. However the 24 year old isn’t the quickest along the ground. He is surprisingly well balanced though for such a big player and his composure on the ball has seen him used in midfield previously in his career. It is very unlikely Schalke 04 will let him leave in the winter window though. He hasn’t missed a game for them all season proving that he is integral to their European Football charge. He is free to negotiate a free transfer for the summer window though. This is perhaps one to watch out for next summer.
2. Neven Subotic - Unlike Matip, Subotic is really struggling for game time and Borussia Dortmund are willing to let the big Serbian leave. He has struggled with injury in the last year which has seen him replaced in the side. He has sorted his injury troubles out now though and wants to get back playing. He knows Klopp well and therefore it would be no surprise to see Liverpool make an offer for him next month. Dortmund would allow him to leave if Liverpool made a suitable offer therefore this may be an immediate fix. Subotic is a commanding centre back who doesn’t get muscled out of the game by anyone and reads danger well.
3. Kamil Glik (wild card) - Glik is a born leader. The Polish centre back is captain of Torino in Serie A and his stock rises every game. There are some big teams across Europe interested in him including Arsenal. Whilst Liverpool haven’t taken a look as of yet, their dire need of defensive reinforcement may see them turn to him. Whether or not Torino would let their captain leave mid-season though is the main issue. It is pretty safe to say Glik will not be moving at least until next summer.
4. Martin Caceres - Juventus have such a rich supply of top centre backs that Uruguayan international Caceres cannot even get a game! He would most likely be allowed to move in January but at just 1.80m he is fairly short for a Premiership Centre back. I am a big believer though that height is not the most important part of being a footballer and Caceres is still as tall as Kolo Toure who was part of the Premier League invincibles. He would be a relatively safe buy in my opinion, but he isn’t in the same class as Subotic or Glik.

Left back:
Some may argue that Moreno is not a problem in the Liverpool side. However he is still yet to convince myself and many other Liverpool fans. As for Enrique, well you’d probably be able to find Area 51 before you could find Jose! Brad Smith whilst being a talent, is currently more potential than guaranteed success. So it isn’t unreasonable to assume Klopp may be after a left back.
1. Sead Kolasinac - This young Bosnian left back is incredibly strong. Physically you would do well to find someone more powerful. He is a strong runner with the ball and knocks opposition wingers off the ball with ease. At just 22 years old the scary thing is, he will only get better. He is very good at whipping crosses into dangerous areas as well. He is currently sharing game time at Schalke 04 though so they may be willing to part with him for a top price. He would be well worth it in my opinion though and his physicality would see him slip seamlessly into English football. He is the kind of tough character Liverpool need against the likes of West Brom and powerful wingers like Bolasie and Zaha.
2. Raphael Guerreiro - Guerreiro is a very dangerous young full back. He is very quick and skillful coupled with excellent defensive awareness. He currently plays in France for FC Lorient but for the right price the Portuguese talent could probably be tempted away from the club with their consent. Unlike Kolasinac though, he is still physically quite weak so it would be a gamble throwing him into Premier League football mid-season with no contingency plan. He might get bullied in which case he would be no more effective than Moreno who despite his lack of awareness, doesn’t let himself get knocked around.
3. Robbie Brady (wild card) - Brady is essentially the left sided Oscar De Marcos. He is often deployed further forward but when played at left back, he is tenacious, hard working and solid defensively. His energy is incredible. In fact, I’d say he’s as hard working as Dirk Kuyt was. The Norwich utility player has to go down as a wild card though as he hasn’t had that long in England's top flight and would still need coaching to become a consistently solid full back.

Central midfielders:
For me personally, I think central midfield is one of the only areas Liverpool are not lacking in. Henderson, Lucas, Can, Rossiter and now Marko Grujic as of next summer should be more than enough. Rossiter needs to start getting gametime or he may well be tempted to take his skills to Tottenham Hotspur. So even with the expected departures of Allen and Milner over the next 6 months, Liverpool aren’t really short here. However, Klopp may disagree. So I’ve looked at some potential options anyway.
1. Dani Parejo - Parejo has been looked at by Liverpool before. He is a robust box to box type midfielder very much like Henderson. He is very hard working and contributes both offensively and defensively. Valencia would likely expect a large fee to tempt him away from the club though and an even bigger fee to part with him mid-season.
2. Mahmoud Dahoud - I will forgive you if you haven’t heard of this Syrian midfield dynamo. He has seemingly come out of nowhere and stepped into the Borussia Monchengladbach midfield like he’s always been there. It would probably take a relatively large sum to land the young talent, but he would be worth every penny. Either way, one to watch out for in the future.
3. Harry Arter (wild card) - Arter has been a revelation this season. He has stepped up from the Championship and taken Premier League games by the scruff of the neck. He drives his side forward and is very under rated technically. Bournemouth are financially stable though and with all the injuries they have suffered, there is no way they’d let him go next month and I don’t think he is the type of man to force his way out of the club.

This is perhaps the most glaring hole in Liverpool's squad. Aside from Ibe, Origi and Markovic (on loan) they have no out and out wide players. All three players are young though and have a handful of Premier League goals between them. Whilst Sergi Canos and Sheyi Ojo are impressing in the Championship for Brentford and Wolverhampton Wanderers, they are also very young. So it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Liverpool will look to sign a wide player either next month or next summer.
1. Anwar El Ghazi - Liverpool are known to be admirers of El Ghazi. He is a very talented goalscoring winger currently tearing up the Dutch Eredivisie for Ajax. He scores all kinds of goals and creates lots of chances for his team mates as well. It would take a massive transfer fee to make Ajax sell him next month, but he may be just the kind of mid-season impact player Klopp needs to reinvigorate his faltering attack.
2. Keisuke Honda - Honda can play anywhere across a front 3 and even in midfield but the versatile attacker is best cutting in onto his lethal left foot from a wide right position. The Japanese maestro is also deadly from set pieces which is something Liverpool are seriously lacking in the absence of their old talisman, Steven Gerrard. Honda whilst being a different player to Gerrard, could replace his set piece potency. He is also very technically gifted so would suit Klopps fast passing game. At 29 years old, Honda will not be impressed with his bit part role at AC Milan this season and may look towards a January exit.
3. Matt Ritchie (wild card) - I know what you’re thinking; “another Bournemouth player?” Ritchie has been one of Bournemouth's best attacking players this season. He contributes massively to their fast build up play and chips in with a fair few goals and assists as well. At 26 he is not an inconsistent young player, but a player in his prime years. In a team with more gifted players around him, he could potentially flourish.

Attacking midfielders:
It seems almost silly discussing this when Liverpool have Coutinho, Firmino, Lallana, Teixeira and Branagan who all play best here. However Lallana and Teixeira have not guaranteed a future at Anfield, Branagan is just a teenager, Firmino hasn’t settled yet and Coutinho is rumoured to be a target for Barcelona. So things could quickly turn!
1. Max Meyer - Widely regarded as one of the top talents in world football, Meyer would command a sizeable transfer fee. Though you’d assume that in the event Liverpool sold Coutinho they would have money to spend. Meyer is one of those players who seems to play the game in slow motion. His movement and touch are so good that he never seems like he is in a rush. The mark of a truly talented player. Meyer is unlikely to move in January but so is Coutinho so this is a very unlikely scenario for next month.
2. Davy Klaassen - Klaassen is a goal scorer; pure and simple. He comes alive in and around the penalty area. He is one of Ajax’s top goalscorers this season because he is just deadly when he gets in shooting range. Ajax are almost always willing to sell for inflated prices, but Klaassen is a top talent to keep an eye out for in the future. It is unlikely he will end up at Liverpool though.
3. Hakim Ziyech (wild card) - Ziyech is another player from the Dutch league who just seems to love scoring goals. He is best described as being absolutely fearless. He will attempt anything that you would consider impossible and the scary thing is, he is actually capable of doing it.

Liverpool actually have a good set of strikers. Sturridge is top class when he is actually fit and Ings was just starting to prove why Liverpool signed him before his injury. His work rate will surely capture Klopps admiration as well. Origi and Firmino have both covered here and Ryan Kent is an excellent young talent who can play as a second striker. Benteke has a lot to prove if he is to stay though. It looks like he may be replaced next summer after failing to impress. Klopp is actually using Origi ahead of him right now.
1. Breel Embolo - The Basel wonder kid has 8 goals already this season despite being just 18 years old. Liverpool are rumoured to be interested, but so is every other top team in Europe. Unlikely to happen in January either way as he is getting game-time and should be left to develop.
2. Arkadiusz Milik - Milik is a born goalscorer. He is one of those players who seemingly has no stand out attributes but just puts the ball in the net. To be fair, what else matters? Goals win games. It is unlikely he will leave Ajax anytime soon though as like Embolo, he is developing his game well and could get a big move later in his career when he is more ready.
3. Benik Afobe (wild card) - Afobe rose to everyone's attention last season when he smashed in over 30 goals in the football league. He has continued where he left off this season and is already approaching double figures. The 22 year old is making Arsenal regret letting him go. His powerful physique and willingness to get into the box and attack everything just gets him goals. A year ago I’d have been worried about whether he could step up to the Premier League, but after watching Vardy, Wilson, Ighalo, Austin, Ings, Deeney and Mahrez step up to the top flight and become some of the most exciting players in it, I wouldn’t even dare to doubt Afobe could do the same. It would probably take a big offer to get Wolves to part with their prize asset, but if he comes in and scores goals for Liverpool, then it would be worth it.

So there you go. A little insight into some of the more unknown talents around Europe. We know Klopp likes to make his own team from players less known to the world of football so anything is possible right now; and that’s what makes it so exciting!

Written by Adam Jones December 22 2015 22:07:35