Premier League football comes back shortly and thought it seems there are no breaking transfers or changes in teams, this 2018/2019 season could be one we remember.
Following the trend, teams along the table are more equal and stronger than ever.
In this piece, we’ll concentrate on Liverpool which is now one of the best clubs in the league after a long period of uncertainty.
Though the transfer window doesn’t bring shining arrivals on the Merseyside, we could see the Klopp’s hand being more powerful and impacting than the last season.
With Naby Keita, Fabinho, Shaqiri and Alisson Klopp didn’t buy superstar players but he had the intelligence to reinforce all the strategy in place since his arrival: a mix of speed, pressing with physical and enduring players without alignment of superstar players bought for hundreds of millions (this point is changing…)
Tactically these three players are mature (though it’s more difficult to say for Shaqiri) and have strong physic and stamina.
Moreover, it covers one of the weakness of Liverpool these last seasons: the fragility of midfield.
While Henderson, Lallana, Chamberlain, Wijnaldum are quite skilled, they aren’t spared by injuries. Chamberlain seems to miss all the season, Henderson and Lallana always have difficulties and Wijnaldum have some limits in the ways Klopp wants to use him.
With Fabinho and Keita this problem is solved and it improves the main tactic: in fact, Klopp doesn’t need very skilled players, he need fighting players, able to run with pace and speed over 90 minutes. These two guys fill perfectly the position.
For Shaqiri it’s a not quite different: he is an experimented player who played for Bale, Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and Stoke and he also has a strong physic.
The question here is more about his role in the squad rotation: will he play in the starting eleven or be a substitute. With Saha last season performance and as the main concurrent for right position of the attack it’s difficult to imagine Shaqiri to replace the Egyptian.
However, Klopp maybe has new ideas for the coming season, here are the possible squad plans with new arrivals and potential evolution from the last season:
Squad plans and tactics
Last season, Liverpool played most of the time in a 4-3-3, sometimes looking like a 3-4-1-2 with Henderson playing very deeper and wing backs going ahead. This tactic is very understandable while Henderson is one of the best passers of the league and both Milner and Alexander-Arnold being very offensive players. The front of the attack was often very free of movement, with Sane, Firmino and Salah always in spaces.
Bringing both Fabinho and Keita in this squad would be difficult thought possible knowing Klopp spirit.
Taking this hypothesis, we could see a kind of what it was sometimes in place in the Juventus Turin midfield last season: Pjanic playing as deep-lying playmaker with two strong midfielders above him with Khedira and Matuidi (or Marchisio/Sturario/Bentancur who are also stronger than Pjanic physically speaking).
With Henderson in the same role as Pjanic and Fabinho, Keita as strong midfielders in front of him, the Liverpool tactic would be very powerful and potentially devastating.
Another possibility, maybe more realistic, should be using Keita as an offensive midfielder (replacing Wijnaldum?) while Henderson, helped by Fabinho, close the midfield. The former Monaco player, who also played as a right back.
In the same idea, we could see a powerful turnover between Keita, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Lallana (and Henderson) while Liverpool ambition being higher than previous seasons.
A word on Alisson
Buy a new goalkeeper is maybe the worst idea in this Liverpool transfer window.
They already have Karius and Mignolet who are quite equal to Alisson, here is why:
If you put apart the Champions League final, Karius did a decent season. With 10 clean sheets and 14 goals conceded in 19 appearances, the German player has very good performances (moreover within a team playing offensively). As we can see on the chart below, he’s in the same position as De Gea and Ederson in term of clean sheets and goals conceded.
For Mignolet it’s the same thing. If you look at his average performances over the last seasons, you can find that he is an excellent goalkeeper. Interest from Barcelona can prove his value.
They are not top goalkeepers in the league but Alisson is not that good too. Everybody talks about his excellent season in Italy but before that, he didn’t impress that much compared to other young goalkeepers…. Moreover, he doesn’t know the Premier League, which is very different from others leagues for goalkeepers (also true for other positions).
Spending £56 millions on him is clearly not the best deal made by Jurgen Klopp.
Goals for next season
Ending with a Champions League final and a fourth position in Premier League, it should be difficult to do better this coming season.
With mid-table teams and direct concurrents improvements, Liverpool should, like last season, rely on their tactics more than on his squad which is still a bit lower from direct concurrents. Keep in mind too that Salah performances count a lot in Liverpool success and it probably difficult to continue like this (think about Vardy/Mahrez after Leicester title).