The 2019/20 season has gone pretty much exactly to plan for Liverpool.
Following on from the 18/19 season in which they were crowned Champions of Europe for a sixth time, the Reds have won both the UEFA Supercup and FIFA Club World Cup. Adding to this, they sit 25 points clear at the top of the Premier League table at the time of writing.
While the coronavirus has halted Liverpool’s charge to their first league title since the 1989/90 season, it is becoming clear that they will be awarded their 19th title, one way or another.
This has not prevented fans from looking ahead to next season, whenever that may begin.
In order to confirm Liverpool as one of Europe’s very best once again, the club must look to continue this spell of dominance for many more years. Liverpool FC must become serial winners, in contention every season for honours both in England and on the continent.
The question is, how do you improve the team that has won everything?
The template to aspire to must be similar to Liverpool’s teams of the 1970s and ’80s. A more recent example is Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United of the 1990s and 2000s.
Establish a side that can consistently win, year in, year out.
The way to establish this dominance over such a long spell: gradual improvement and measured change. Two or three players in and out every season. This must begin whenever the next transfer window opens.
Here, we take a look at the personnel changes that may be made by Jurgen Klopp and Michael Edwards ahead of next season.
This is probably the position that warrants the least amount of speculation, yet there are still many talking points surrounding the role.
In Alisson, Liverpool have one of the very best keepers in world football.
While he has missed 17 games this season through injuries to both his calf and hip, he has maintained his world-class level in between, keeping 10 clean sheets in the league.
Had he not missed so many games, he would be a shoo-in for both Premier League and arguably European Team of the Season places.
The man who replaced him during these missed fixtures was Adrian, the Anfield side’s only senior signing in the last summer window.
The Spaniard has come under fire for his costly mistake against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, which saw Liverpool dumped from the competition. This error saw many fans harshly call for his exit from the club.
While the former West Ham player is nowhere near Alisson’s level, not many goalkeepers are. Especially ones who would be happy to sit on the bench for the majority of the season.
The reality is that Adrian did perform well when called upon earlier in the season, and there would not be many better choices to provide cover for Alisson. For this reason, he should remain at the club as second choice.
Should Adrian leave, his former West Ham teammate Darren Randolph could be a shrewd addition as back-up.
Randolph left the Hammers for Championship side Middlesbrough, where he proved to be one of the league’s best in his position. He then returned London in January 2020 as cover for the injured Lukasz Fabianski. He has proved himself as ultra-reliable both for Boro and the Republic of Ireland.
Randolph appears to be second choice for West Ham, so why not move to the same role at one of the game’s elite teams to see out your career?
There is also Loris Karius, who has experienced a mixed spell on loan at Turkish outfit Beskitas. He looks set to end his time at the Vodafone Park as rumours of a legal battle with the club have gained some traction in the press.
It is unlikely that certain Liverpool fans would welcome the German back into the fold after his 2018 Champions league nightmare, but he may not be a bad second choice keeper should Adrian leave. However, it appears that this is an unlikely scenario.
Other options between the sticks include youngsters Caoimhin Kelleher and Kamil Grabara. The pair will likely battle it out to be the third choice keeper, with the loser of this battle going out on loan or leaving permanently in the hope of establishing a good career.
Liverpool have one of the world’s best starting back fours. Many can make the case that in Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson, Jurgen Klopp’s side have the world’s best right-back, centre-back and left-back.
Add to this Joe Gomez, who could also potentially reach a world class level if he can maintain fitness, and Liverpool’s defence is hard to top.
Joel Matip is a fantastic third choice in the centre, and he arguably performed to a world class level himself in the back half of last season.
This is where things become a bit more uncertain.
Dejan Lovren is the fourth option at centre-back, but due to Gomez and Matip’s injury struggles, he still receives a lot of minutes.
It is obvious that the majority of Liverpool fans do not believe he is of the required standard to play as many games as he does. At 30 years old, the Croatian has one year left on his contract.
It may be best for all parties for the World Cup finalist to move on.
Lovren would do an admirable job at a lower end Premier League team that plays a much deeper back line than Liverpool do. A move to good-structured Italian team may also hide his weaknesses and highlight his strengths.
This would mean signing a new central defender, with young Dutch prospects Sepp van den Berg and Ki-Jana Hoever not yet ready to make the step up.
There are two ways the club could go about this task. One would be to sign an older player, similar to the signing of Ragnar Klavan, to replace Lovren’s experience.
This would have to be a cheap option. Someone who is better than Lovren, but content with not starting every single game. They would be required to come in and do a job when the team has injury struggles for the next 2-3 years.
Signing this type of player will be a challenge, and there are not many great options on the market.
One possible option is Jan Vertonghen. He looks set to leave Spurs at the end of his contract this July. However, he will likely demand high wages. Plus, at 33 is passed his best. He is probably not a massive upgrade on Lovren either, so this move is very unlikely.
A more likely option is to sign a younger player and rely on van Dijk and Matip for experience in the back line.
Brighton’s Ben White has been touted by The Athletic. This comes after a phenomenal campaign for Leeds in the Championship.
Another option could be Nice’s Malang Sarr.
The 21-year-old has looked very promising for the French side and could be available on the cheap considering he is approaching the end of his contract.
Ligue 1 is a great place to look for similar types of players – young, promising and not going to break the bank.
In the unlikely case that Klopp decides to spend big, Dayot Upamecano, Nico Elvedi and Ben Godfrey could provide good competition for a starting place.
Nonetheless, it is likely that Lovren stays, unless he pushes for a move himself.
The fullback positions are locked down for the foreseeable future by Alexander-Arnold and Robertson. There is no chance of anybody coming in to usurp either man.
However, it is clear that cover is needed, particularly on the left side.
While James Milner does an admirable job when called upon, he will turn 35 in January 2021. A more natural left-back would be a great addition to the squad.
Again, it is hard to find someone of the desired quality that would be happy to sit on the bench for most games. Sport have linked Layvin Kurzawa on a free, but coming from PSG he will expect big wages.
Someone more realistic is Norwich left-back Jamal Lewis. The Canaries look set to get relegated this season, and the Northern Irish international could be happy to move to such a big club and provide competition, even if he receives limited game time.
Right-back cover is less urgent, as academy prospect Neco Williams has produced some outstanding performances in the cup competitions for The Reds. Expect to see more of him next season when Alexander-Arnold needs the odd break.
Nathaniel Clyne is expected to end his injury-ravaged spell at the club.
Midfield is Liverpool’s strongest position in terms of depth.
There are 7 players battling for three positions. These are Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, Gini Wijnaldum, Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner and Adam Lallana.
Lallana is not expected to extend his contract, which runs out at the end of this season. It will be the end of his six year stay at Anfield, and he has been a fantastic servant to the club.
His replacement is expected to come from within. That man is local lad Curtis Jones.
The captain of the under-23 side has been a standout in any game he has played this season. He scored the winning penalty against Arsenal in the Carabao Cup as well as a stunning winner in the Merseyside derby in the FA Cup.
The 19-year-old is expected to make more regular appearances next season, and he is one of the most exciting academy prospects in years.
There may be a role for returning loanee Marko Grujic, but he is expected to be moved on for a good profit after a very encouraging spell with Hertha Berlin. Selling him with a buy-back clause in his contract may be a good option due to his potential.
Kai Havertz has been linked, but his transfer fee would be astronomical, so a deal is very unlikely.
Unless an extraordinary offer comes in and the players edge for a move, Liverpool’s front three is going nowhere any time soon
Mo Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino are three of the best in the world.
However, what is beneath them arguably needs upgrading.
Divock Origi is a cult-hero at Anfield. He is deserving of his place in the squad as a back-up striker or left-winger. However, it would be better for the team if he was the fifth choice forward, rather than fourth choice.
The team needs a player who can come in for one of Salah, Mané or Firmino. A man that is of a similar quality to these three. At the moment, that drop down is too large.
The most strongly linked player to Liverpool this year has been Timo Werner.
The RB Leipzig marksman is approaching world-class status and would be fantastic competition for the current attacking force. Should the German sign, the team would jump up yet another level.
I have previously written an article profiling exactly how Werner may fit in at the club. That article is available here.
Takumi Minamino should improve after his bedding in period this season. His best position appears to be in the false 9 role occupied by Firmino. His versatility also makes him a very useful weapon going forward.
Xherdan Shaqiri is another player expected to depart following his own injury struggles. He has had his moments in the red shirt, but unfortunately these injuries appear to have ended his Anfield career.
Returning loanee Harry Wilson is a possible replacement for the Swiss. However, he lacks the pace to play on the wing in Jurgen Klopp’s style of football. He is in a similar position to Grujic, and moving for a big profit may suit all parties.
It is improbable that Liverpool will spend big on two players this summer, especially in the same position. Nonetheless, Adama Traore would be an interesting signing as further front 3 competition. After some question marks, he appears to have improved his final ball. Unfortunately, his price tag will likely be too expensive.
A cheaper, pacey winger would be a nice addition to the squad. Players that fit the bill include Jeremie Boga, Ferran Torres and Samuel Chukweze.
Rhian Brewster would benefit from another season on loan.
Projected Liverpool 2020/21 First-Team Squad
Goalkeepers: Alisson, Adrian, Kelleher
Defenders: Alexander-Arnold, Williams, Van Dijk, Gomez, Matip, White, Robertson, J. Lewis
Midfielders: Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Keita, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Milner, Jones
Forwards: Salah, Mané, Firmino, Werner, Origi, Minamino