“This team is not the finished article.” Those were the words used by Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp during an interview on Sky Sports’ The Football Show this week.
With the Reds currently sat 25 points above Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table as well as being the current European champions, it would be safe to say that this side is one of, if not, the best side in the world.
However, even the best in the world can get better and the German will for sure know of the areas that could use an improvement. The question is, how far off is Klopp’s Liverpool from being the complete package?
From the outside looking in, a main area of refinement is the back up to the front three. The drop off when one of Mo Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino isn’t playing is substantial. Divock Origi, Xherdan Shaqiri and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have been the most-used players other than the usual trio in those positions across the last couple of seasons, but don’t offer the same attributes or end-product in those areas.
While the Belgian, the Englishman and the Swiss have provided the Reds with high quality performances while occupying roles in the forward line, Liverpool’s prowess in the attacking third is diminished when one or more of the main trio is missing.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is much more suited to a midfield role while Shaqiri lacks the pace that the Egyptian and Senegalese provide on the wings. Origi, while being a quality back up option, is unable to provide the influence that Roberto Firmino gives this side when playing central. When on the wing, the No.27 is usually deployed on the left and doesn’t have the same combination of pace and power that the No.10 provides on the left of the attack.
The recent acquisition of Takumi Minamino as well as the constant circling rumours surrounding Timo Werner joining the Reds in the summer shows that Klopp has identified the room for an upgrade. Minamino is capable of playing on either wing as well as through the centre while the Leipzig forward can also play in any position across the front line.
We have only seen glimpses of the Japanese player since his arrival back in January. The former Red Bull Salzburg player is able to supply that extra yard of pace that Shaqiri — who looks likely to depart the Anfield club in the next window — cannot provide. With a little more time to acclimatise to the new league and new culture, the No.18 could be one of the solutions to this problem.
The possible signing of Timo Werner would be a major boost to Liverpool’s attacking options. The German has been playing as more of a ‘false nine’ this season under Julian Nagelsmann so he could be a perfect signing for Klopp. He adds pace, he adds goals and is already used to playing a similar role at his current club.
Werner’s hypothetical arrival on Merseyside could also see the Reds revert back to the 4-2-3-1 set up that they used in the first half of the 2018/19 season. this formation it would see Firmino would drop deeper and the Bundesliga forward lead the frontline.
The left-back area could also use more depth. Andrew Robertson is one of the best in the world and is perfect for how his side plays. The issue arises when you look at cover for the Scot — there is currently no natural left-back who can deputise for the No.26.
James Milner played a full season in that position under Klopp but he is a midfielder and not a natural defender. When Milner steps in for Robertson, he doesn’t have the same effect on the left flank and, similarly to the issue with the front three, the prowess in attack is reduced.
These are just two areas where Liverpool could become even better. Both of these issues can be solved by dipping into the transfer market and spending some money. However, there are other areas that could be enhanced in terms of tactics, and Klopp and his team will have identified them.
For now let’s appreciate the team the German has built and, while the boss is correct in saying they are not the “finished article”, they are definitely not far off.