5 Liverpool players facing make-or-break seasons
The 2017/18 campaign is Jurgen Klopp's second full season in charge at Anfield, so you'd expect his own squad to be emerging by now. However, of the XI that started Saturday's draw with Watford, only four were signed by the German (Joel Matip, Gini Wijnaldum, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah).
There are question marks over several first-team players who arrived at the club under the previous regime
A lack of summer signings has left Klopp's squad looking worryingly thin heading into a season in which Liverpool will also have European football to contend with. The situation would have looked brighter had leading targets Naby Keita and Virgil van Dijk been added to the ranks, but those deals have - so far at least - failed to materialise.
A failure to build on last season’s top-four finish would represent a major step backwards for the Reds, and would leave Klopp needing to be far more ruthless with the players he inherited from predecessor Brendan Rodgers. There are question marks over several first-team players who arrived at the club under the previous regime and have never really convinced the Anfield faithful. Here are five of them, each facing a make-or-break season.
1. Nathaniel Clyne
Nobody has made more appearances for Liverpool in the last two seasons than Clyne, with the former Southampton man featuring in 37 of the Reds’ 38 league games last season. Despite question marks over his offensive contribution (zero goals, three assists in 41 outings overall last term), Clyne is a player whose place in the team was seemingly pretty assured heading into the summer.
Alexander-Arnold possesses significantly more attacking endeavour than his senior team-mate
But a pre-season injury sustained by the England right-back has given 18-year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold an opportunity to impress. The youngster has snapped it up with both hands, impressing against Watford at the weekend before netting a superb free-kick in Tuesday's Champions League play-off against Hoffenheim.
Alexander-Arnold dominated games from right-back for Liverpool’s under-23s last season and has already showcased his quality on the biggest stage, while he possesses significantly more attacking endeavour than his senior team-mate.
Of course, a teenager cannot be expected to start every game, and Clyne will be back in the team once he returns from injury (although Klopp may consider switching him to left-back and keeping Alexander-Arnold at times), but next summer could be an interesting one if Clyne finds himself forced out by a local lad who is only going to get better.
2. Dejan Lovren
Lovren has already shown exactly why that’s the case with moments of calamity in both of the Reds' opening games
Rarely do football fans agree on anything, but there's surely not a Liverpool supporter out there who doesn't think Lovren needs replacing. Klopp knows it and, thanks to the rather public pursuit of Van Dijk, the whole world knows it.
Lovren has already shown exactly why that’s the case with moments of calamity in both of the Reds' opening games, when he's flown into challenges out wide, conceded a penalty and generally given the Liverpool defence - and fanbase - the jitters.
He’s an adequate back-up centre-back, and should a new defender be signed that’s where he’ll spend this season. Whether he’ll be happy with that going forward remains to be seen.