From a new centre-back to Emre Can’s contract – 5 things for Liverpool to sort this summer

A crucial summer awaits at Anfield and if Liverpool are to battle on all fronts next season, a number of issues must be sorted by August.


The 2016/17 campaign may only have just reached its conclusion, but there is very little rest where Jurgen Klopp and his Reds are concerned.

Having clinched UEFA Champions League football with a final-day victory over Middlesbrough, Liverpool must now build on a productive season and go up another significant gear.

Things aren’t perfect within Klopp’s squad, and in the approaching weeks and months, several matters must be addressed. Here are five that stand out.

 

Sign a top-class centre-back

Virgil van Dijk

It’s not exactly the world’s greatest secret that Klopp is desperate for a centre-back to come in and help eradicate Liverpool’s ongoing defensive issues.

It is a problem that has been apparent during this entire decade, and until things at the back are shored up, chances are, success will not come the Reds’ way—or at least not consistently enough.

Top of the list of targets is Virgil van Dijk, who would be one of the Reds’ most significant signings in a number of years. Man City and Chelsea remain well in the hunt, though.

Liverpool need a consistent, dominant centre-back to partner Joel Matip from next season onwards, with Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan used more sparingly.

Should a deal for van Dijk not materialise, it is essential Klopp has an excellent back-up option in place. Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly has been mooted, and would be a very good purchase.

 

At least one new left-back brought in

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 20, 2016: Liverpool's Jürgen Klopp shakes James Milner hand as he is substituted against Burnley during the FA Premier League match at Turf Moore. (Pic by Gavin Trafford/Propaganda)

James Milner may not always have excelled in his new left-back role, but it is hard not to feel some sort of admiration for him.

At 30 years of age, he was thrust into a completely different position, and performed well prior to Liverpool’s post-Christmas slump.

Rumour has it that Klopp may keep Milner as his first-choice left-back next season, and while criticising the German never feels particularly easy, that would be a mistake.

Liverpool need a natural left-back marauding up and down the flank, providing more natural width and legs than Milner has managed.

It could even be argued that two new faces should arrive, with a young understudy—such as Hull City‘s Josh Tyman—arriving alongside more of a household name.

Milner can still be a reliable squad player, slotting in when required, but a high-quality left-back would add so much to an already potent Liverpool attack. They need to be able to defend too, though!

 

Emre Can’s new contract sorted

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017, 2016: Liverpool's Emre Can in action against West Bromwich Albion during the FA Premier League match at the Hawthorns. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

We’re a fickle bunch at times, and it doesn’t feel like long ago that Emre Can was almost being marched out of Anfield.

The 23-year-old’s performances were poor during the early part of the year, but the negative reaction to his form always felt harsh.

In the final few months of 16/17, Can was arguably Liverpool’s best player, with the German producing some influential displays in the middle of the park.

He has huge potential, given his still-tender age, but with interest from Juventus reported and his current deal expiring next summer, a new contract must come Can’s way.

Liverpool cannot afford to be weakening their squad, and while Can’s future role remains uncertain—some see him as a key man, others see him as a fringe player—keeping hold of him is paramount.

His best years are ahead of him, and the end of this season showed exactly what he can bring to this team.

 

Improved squad depth

Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho (no. 10) celebrates scoring his side's second goal of the game with team-mates during the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool.

Liverpool have had some excellent teams over the last 25 years, but they have almost always had one thing in common: a lack of squad depth.

While the first-choice starting lineups have often rivalled the best teams in the country, the quality among the substitutes has been painfully lacking.

This once again applied in 16/17, with injuries to the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson effectively ending the Reds’ title push by the turn of the year.

Klopp simply has to be at a point where he has a rich array of quality all over the pitch, including those playing second fiddle to the regular starters.

With four competitions to tackle, failure to rotate the squad and keep things fresh will make it impossible to battle on all fronts.

Liverpool need to be at a stage where current regulars have to make do with a squad role, with competition for places more fierce than it has been at any point this century.

 

Goalkeeping situation made crystal clear

Liverpool goalkeepers Loris Karius (left) and Simon Mignolet (right) before the EFL Cup, Third Round match at the iPro Stadium, Derby. (Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire.)

The goalkeeping department at Liverpool was a curious one last season, with Simon Mignolet or Loris Karius never too sure who was first-choice.

An injury to Karius handed Mignolet the jersey at the start of the season, only for the Belgian to be replaced by his new teammate when he returned to full fitness.

Karius’ form was unimpressive, though, and Mignolet eventually regained his place from December until May, enjoying his best run of form since joining the Reds four years ago.

There are still murmurs that Karius could once again be made first-choice next season, though, but whatever Klopp’s decision, it needs to be a definite one.

Mignolet’s run of form means he deserves to remain his manager’s go-to guy, but as we all know too well, the 49-year-old is never easy to predict.

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