Liverpool, like the rest of the footballing world, are in limbo right now—but at some point the season will end and then big decisions need to be made.
The Reds are hoping to be able to complete the 2019/20 season, wrap up the title which they were strolling to before the current interruption and move on as champions, but there remains much for the authorities to sort out before that can happen.
Once the coronavirus pandemic can be slowed and, eventually, stopped, it will lead to sport restarting—and hopefully within time that the league season can be completed.
If that happens, Liverpool should go on to get the points they need with ease—then we’ll be looking forwards, planning how best to retain our crown and continue the improvement which has been non-stop under Jurgen Klopp.
Here are the biggest decisions facing the club this summer…or whenever it is that the campaign finishes.
First and foremost might be the decision on who takes over as U23 manager.
Neil Critchley did a great job and the Reds need to continue that upward momentum, with the 23s providing a string of players to serve as backup for Jurgen Klopp‘s senior squad over the last couple of years.
A few players there are on the verge of cracking the squad properly, too, so top-class coaching and young player development skills are a priority.
Even if U18s boss Barry Lewtas is promoted, to ensure an element of continuity, the same task remains of who to bring in as a new appointment to make sure the next generation are equally capable of stepping up.
At senior level there have been constant changes in staff over the past couple of seasons.
Aside from Jurgen’s closest advisors, it’s the doctoring department which needs most attention at present.
Liverpool need a new head of medical services, with Gary O’Driscoll not joining from Arsenal in the end to replace Andrew Massey.
Two first-team physios have, or will, depart by the end of the campaign, too.
Given the current climate of social health around the globe, it seems unlikely many medical professionals would be happy to depart one group of people for another in the midst of the pandemic, so this is likely an appointment (or three) which will be decided upon at season’s end.
Grujic and Wilson
Let’s look at the playing staff, then.
There are one or two current Reds, such as Adam Lallana and Nathaniel Clyne, who are out of contract and likely to leave.
But the bigger question marks lie over experienced players out on loan, particularly Marko Grujic and Harry Wilson, both well into their 20s now.
We’ve already looked at how the sales of both could raise in excess of £40m for the Reds, but Klopp has always seen the development of them as adding to his squad over the long term.
This summer it’s decision time: have they done enough to show they can improve the squad?
Grujic has aggression, power and versatility in his favour. Wilson has speed, goals and perhaps less competition for places. But talent and mentality will be the defining factors for Klopp to pick from.
The ‘fourth’ forward
If Wilson returns, it’s likely as a replacement for Xherdan Shaqiri, who might be a rare first-team sale.
In that case—and certainly if the Welshman doesn’t stay a Red—Liverpool need another potential starter to come in and battle for a starting spot.
Jadon Sancho and Timo Werner have been the two most-linked names over the past six months, and both have plenty of attributes which would make them a great fit.
Whoever it ends up being, with AFCON games, multiple competitions, more teams taking aim at the champions and the massive burden placed on the front three over the last couple of seasons, Klopp and Michael Edwards need to make the right call.
This is the biggest on-pitch decision of the close season, arguably.
Other potential squad members
Depending on each fan’s view and opinion of the squad, there might be as many as three other positions which need tending to this summer, at least to provide depth.
At left-back it’s probable that Andy Robertson needs competition, or at least a back-up, with Yasser Larouci and Adam Lewis not making an iron-clad case for inclusion yet and both potentially needing loan spells.
There has been talk of Adrian returning to Spain as a first-choice goalkeeper, which would necessitate a new understudy for Alisson Becker and the continuation of the careers of the young stoppers at the club, be it on loan or as No. 3.
And perhaps midfield, too, is an area for improvement, with the centre of the park being Jurgen Klopp‘s biggest headache all season long, with regards to fitness, creativity and individual consistency.
In a parallel universe somewhere, Liverpool have already clocked up six more points with games ongoing and the title-winning parade has been confirmed through the city after the Reds’ last home match of the season.
Doesn’t appear likely it’ll happen in mid-May now, at this stage.
So, if and when we do finish up the 19/20 campaign, win the league and be officially crowned champions…we’ll have an entirely new decision to make.
When can the parade happen at reasonably short notice? Can it still happen, or are social distancing measures and crowd controls still ongoing and mean the greatest triumph of the club in three decades cannot be celebrated with the fans?
Yes, we all want to show appreciation and acclaim for what the players have achieved.
But health and safety is going to take centre stage for a while yet, which might well mean the parade has to be postponed for far longer, if it happens at all.
Training ground switch
Liverpool were due to move from Melwood to the Kirkby Academy site for training this summer.
That Academy site would then instead be the entire, expanded club complex, the “headquarters of Scouse football” according to Jurgen Klopp.
As recent as February, it was on course and looking good—but the building industry hasn’t been exempt from recent shutdowns, depending on the necessity of the project and the individual companies involved.
After it was confirmed that construction had indeed stopped on our soon-to-be training ground, it might be that the Reds have to start training elsewhere in pre-season, be it Melwood or a third-party location—plus there’s the knock-on effect to consider of the season going overdue.
It’s not ideal to move mid-season, so the club may have to make an early call on moving into a partly-completed complex or delaying the moment they switch.
Finally, what happens with 2020/21 when we don’t even know when 19/20 will finish?
So much will impact on pre-season plans: when the transfer window is shifted to, which countries have successfully stopped the spread of coronavirus, how long there is between one season ending and the next one beginning.
It’s the biggest of the unknown quantities, so the Reds can only come up with different scenarios at this point and then select the best course of action later.
Reasonable assumptions would be Europe-based tournaments and training camps, with local fixtures perhaps depending on whether fans are allowed to attend games by then or not.
So many unknowns, so much to decide—and the continued success of Liverpool FC hinging on many of them.