The 5 big changes Liverpool need to make to prepare for 2017/18
The dust has barely settled on the 2016/17 season and already Liverpool have flown halfway around the world to embark on a post-season friendly against Sydney FC.
While the match bookended the campaign for Jurgen Klopp’s side, it also provided a glimpse of Liverpool’s future, with four academy youngsters featuring in front of a 72,000 crowd. Teenagers Ben Woodburn, Rhian Brewster and Trent Alexander-Arnold, plus 20-year-old Harry Wilson, will have gained invaluable experience from playing alongside ex-Reds Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger and Steve McManaman.
Naturally, supporters are already begin to look to the future. That starts with the 2017/18 season and, provided they pass the test of a Champions League qualifying play-off, a return to Europe’s elite competition for just the second time in the last eight seasons.
A top-four finish in Klopp’s first full season in England is a clear sign of progress for the Merseysiders, but improvements will be needed again if they are to remain there while also competing in Europe next term.
Here are five changes Klopp will need to make as his side prepare for 2017/18.
1. Solve the injury issues
Klopp insists the injuries were down to bad fortune and not his training methods or high-intensity style of play
Without injuries to key players, Liverpool could have been challenging Chelsea for the title last time out. Centre-back duo Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren, plus captain Jordan Henderson and Player of the Year Sadio Mane, all missed 25% of the campaign. Key midfielders Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho missed almost 20%.
Klopp insists that the injuries were down to bad fortune and not his training methods or high-intensity style of play. “It’s not about the day-to-day, it is just unlucky,” said the boss in April.
Yet the fact remains that, in Klopp’s first full season in a league with no winter break, his team started like a steam train, blowing sides away with pressing and pace, and ended it crawling over the finish line and struggling to break down defences.
Klopp appointed a new head of fitness last summer, his doppelganger Andreas Kornmayer, and has already moved to appoint a new head physio - recruiting Christopher Rohrbeck from former club Mainz. Whether this move was planned, or a reaction to the injury issues that have beset the Reds this season would be interesting to know.
Every manager will evaluate their season, and while Klopp may publicly bemoan the injuries as simply bad luck, he must be checking if there's something he can do to ensure such problems don’t arise again - whether that’s tweaking the pre-season or in-season training regime, or even the style of play slightly in-match. That’s for the manager to solve.
2. Add more pace
While adding pace up front is vital, Liverpool also need speed in midfield and defence
Sadio Mane’s debut season at Anfield proved a revelation, with the Senegal man adding much-needed pace in the final third. His ability to beat defenders and run in behind was a welcome addition, and something that was crucially missing when he was away at the Africa Cup of Nations in January, then again following his injury late in the season.
Finding a player who can add similar qualities to Mane must be high up on Klopp’s summer to-do list, with the likes of Mohamed Salah and Demarai Gray mooted. Bayern Munich winger Douglas Costa would be the choice of most fans; the thought of the Brazilian and Mane flanking Firmino up front, with Coutinho pulling the strings in a deeper midfield role, is an exciting one for Kopites.
While adding pace up front is vital, Liverpool also need speed in midfield and defence. James Milner was a capable but flawed auxiliary left-back, with the 31-year-old’s lack of pace becoming an issue as Liverpool’s season waned.
Gael Clichy is reportedly a target at left-back on a free transfer, and the 31-year-old would certainly add solidity down the left, while reported targets Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita would both provide pace and energy in central areas.