Premier League

Liverpool in 2020/21: Starters, substitutes and potential signings

The runaway Premier League champions will be the hunted next season - where are they looking to round out their squad?

7:00am on Thursday 6th August 2020
By
Nicholas Hughes

The transfer silly season has got a whole lot sillier thanks to COVID-19, but the objective remains the same as clubs scramble to make their teams better before the imminently arriving start to 2020/21.

Jurgen Klopp will be looking to strengthen his Liverpool team that ended an eight-year trophy drought with four titles in 12 months.

But Liverpool were nowhere near Manchester City on expected points for the season, and were barely even in second place on that metric with Chelsea right behind them.

They scored less goals and conceded more this season than they did last, lost two games more than the previous season but still managed a two-point increase from the 2018/19 campaign, registering a second-best all-time 99 points across their 38 games.

Read into those numbers with some caution, but the apparent security of the 18-point gap between themselves and City is not quite as comfortable as it seems on first viewing. Teams around them will strengthen, and Klopp must do the same. He has a history of looking internally for players to aid his cause, so which positions require additions?

GOALKEEPER

Goalkeepers

StatusPlayer
StarterAlisson
SubstituteAdrian
ReservesLoris Karius, Caoimhin Kelleher

Alisson will be unmoved in net for Liverpool for years to come, and it is worth noting that Liverpool’s conquering of the Premier League came in the absence of the Brazilian for significant periods.

Two injuries and a red card throughout the season meant he only played 29 times, but his impact was clear to see as he kept 13 clean sheets and conceded just 23 – a rate of 0.8 concessions P90.

Behind him in the pecking order is where it gets a little interesting. It appears that Adrian will stay after an effective debut season as back-up keeper at Anfield, but Loris Karius might have something to say about that.

The German has not played for Liverpool since his Champions League final horror-

show two years ago, but Besiktas have opted not to make his two-year loan stay a permanent one, meaning he will return to Liverpool when the team resumes training for next season.

Behind both of them is Caoimhin Kelleher, the 21-year-old Irishman who made his first four Liverpool appearances in cup competitions this season.

CENTRAL DEFENCE

Central Defenders

StatusPlayer
StartersVirgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez
SubstituteJoel Matip
ReservesNone
Signings?Ozan Kabak (Schalke, £25m)
Signings?Aissa Mandi (Betis, £8m)

Klopp completely revamped Liverpool’s defence in 2018/19, but there were some signs of the haphazard defending of old during this campaign and plenty of food for thought going forward.

The much-maligned Dejan Lovren has departed for Zenit St. Petersburg, meaning the Reds currently have just three senior centre-backs – Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip.

The former played every minute of the league season, and his consistency is just as important as his ability, but the same can’t often be said of Matip. The Cameroonian has exceeded 25 appearances in just one of his four seasons at the club, playing a mere nine times this season due to persistent injuries.

Real Betis’ Aissa Mandi has been linked to the Reds, while Schalke youngster Ozan Kabak is another possible signing with the Gelsenkirchen club undergoing financial difficulties.

Liverpool target Ozan Kabak

FULL-BACK

Full-back

StatusPlayer
StartersTrent A-Arnold, Andrew Robertson
SubstituteNeco Williams
ReservesJames Milner
Signings?Jamal Lewis (Norwich, £10m)

Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson are quite obviously sorted as first-choice full backs and Neco Williams is now well and truly the man the cover at right-back, but there remains a vacancy on the left-hand side.

Yasser Larouci is set to depart the club as James Milner remains Robertson’s back-up. Much like van Dijk, the Scotsman is perennially fit and available, but for pure rotation purposes there needs to be a new arrival at left-back.

The club are thought to be looking at Norwich's Jamal Lewis as cover on Robertson's side. Despite going down rather meekly, the Canaries have talent within their ranks and Lewis could be more than adequate as a back-up, available for a reasonable fee.

MIDFIELD

Midfield

StatusPlayer
StartersFabinho, Gerginio Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson
SubstituteNaby Keita, Alex Ox-Chamberlain, James Milner
ReservesCurtis Jones
Signings?None

The roles that the likes of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum in Liverpool’s midfield are so unique and vital in their own way that it makes this area a very interesting position for the team.

Naby Keita appears finally ready to stamp his authority on the team after being arguably the Reds’ best player in Project Restart, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner remain in competition, and Adam Lallana has departed for Brighton and Hove Albion.

The most exciting prospect in the middle of the pitch is Curtis Jones. Heading into next season with a new senior squad number and on the back of his first Premier League start and goal, the young Scouser is ready to break into the side and become a regular in Klopp’s plans.

Thiago Alcantara rumours have subsided in recent days and while the Spaniard is a world-class player, it remains unclear who he would be a replacement for, considering he would have to be a guaranteed starter.

READ MORE:

Why should Liverpool spend when Curtis Jones is right there?

Thiago Alcantara to Liverpool - is it worth it?

ATTACK

Midfield

StatusPlayer
StartersMo Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane
SubstituteTakumi Minamino, Divock Origi
ReservesXherdan Shaqiri
Signings?Ismaila Sarr (Watford, £30m)

Quite simply, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are immovable objects at Anfield and they remain an integral part of Liverpool's success.

Behind them is where there is most potential for strengthening. Takumi Minamino arrived in January and has shown signs of becoming more involved. Klopp praised the Japanese’s “perfect mindset” last month and tipped him to improve further as he adapts to his new surroundings.

Xherdan Shaqiri will feel like he has unfinished business at the club. In a rather peculiar campaign, the Swiss appeared to be injured for its entirety only for Klopp to say he was “on a good way” whenever he was asked about him.

Just two starts in the league, 181 minutes all together, but a goal in the Merseyside Derby in December offered a slight reminder of his capabilities – he had six goals and three assists in 24 league games the season prior.

For all the quality in Liverpool’s attacking ranks, there remains a certain enigma in Divock Origi. The Belgian will forever be a legend at the club after his Champions League heroics, but he failed to kick on in season 2019/20.

But, in his usual unorthodox and unexpected way, a stunning goal on the final day of the league season might have built his own case to remain in the side next season.

Depth in attack is the most glaring hole in this Liverpool squad, and that's why the links with Ismaila Sarr make sense. The wide forward was the key protagonist in Liverpool's first league defeat of the season, scoring two goals and providing an assist, and given Watford's relegation he is likely available.

With the futures of Shaqiri, Origi and the returning Harry Wilson uncertain, someone that can fill the void of the front three will go a long way to strengthening the Reds’ title defence.

READ MORE:

Liverpool don't need to chase a replacement for Gigi Wijnaldum

Can these Liverpool loanees provide additional squad depth next season?

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