Just over a month has passed since Liverpool’s agonising defeat in the Europa League final against Sevilla, leaving the side short of European football after finishing eighth in the Premier League last campaign.
The Merseyside club, reinvigorated but inconsistent under Jurgen Klopp, can now look forward to a season without European distraction, with the compilation of fixtures hampering their progress mid-season and allowing them to slip away from the title race.
On the whole, the first team shows a lot of potential, with Brazilians Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho providing goals and assists, the increasingly confident Emre Can driving from midfield and a luxurious choice of Daniel Sturridge and the raw but cultured Divock Origi up front, there are many reasons to be cheerful for Liverpool fans as they approach 2016/17.
However, one area overwhelmingly in need of strengthening is the position of left-back. Alberto Moreno, for all of his attacking gusto, was exposed in the Europa League final against his former club, causing many to blame him for his club’s disappointing defeat. Klopp is sure to strengthen in his first summer in charge, and left-back is sure to be one of his primary ports of call. But who would best fit a cautiously optimistic Liverpool side?
First in line for a move to Anfield is FC Köln and Germany’s first choice left-back Jonas Hector.
In the two years since Germany have won the World Cup, 26-year-old Hector has impressed in the Bundesliga for the stingy defence of Köln, as well as solving Germany’s troubled left-back spot, which was rather awkwardly filled by centre-back Benedikt Höwedes during the 2014 World Cup.
Standing tall at six foot one, Hector doesn’t quite posses the attacking potency of Moreno, but he is far from a hindrance going forward. In fact, the German provided exactly the same number of assists (four) as the Spaniard over last season’s domestic campaign.
Despite earlier rumours of Liverpool being very keen on Hector, interest has now reportedly cooled on the German international. That being said, Hector remains a relatively cheap, reliable option that the Reds could well use to shore up the defence as they attempt to return to the top 4.
He may not be a star, but for a defender, a lack of ego can help the back four function as a whole. Hector may be the sort of achievable signing that could help Klopp’s leaky defence turn into a solid unit for the near future.
Second on the list of candidates to challenge Moreno is Leicester City’s teenage left-back Ben Chilwell.
Whilst the 19-year-old may be a member of the current Premier League champions’ squad, he is yet to make his Premier League debut after spending the Foxes’ triumphant campaign both on loan at Huddersfield Town and as understudy to Austria captain Christian Fuchs.
Despite his lack of experience, Chilwell impressed at Huddersfield with his willingness to get forward and dangerous delivery, whilst not abandoning his defensive duties. He still has a lot to learn, but could be a viable option for the future.
With a reported bid of £7 million turned down already, Liverpool may have to pay through the nose for the callow Fox. Leicester City want £10 million for the youngster, putting him in a similar price bracket to Hector, and it would not immediately fix the problem that currently plagues the Reds at left-back. However, Chilwell’s potential is sky-high, and in the long term, he could prove to be a better investment. For now, though, he is probably not ready to walk into a team that aims to be challenging for Europe.
The final player listed who could solve Liverpool’s left-sided issues is West Ham full-back Aaron Cresswell.
Almost ever-present on the left side of the Irons’ defence, Cresswell scored twice in 37 appearances last campaign, winning plenty of acclaim and, in some sectors, bafflement at his exclusion from the England squad for Euro 2016.
Cresswell also has the added caveat of being not only Liverpool born, but a boyhood fan and academy member of the Anfield club. Released at 14, Cresswell broke through at Ipswich before his transfer to East London two summers ago, where he has impressed under both Sam Allardyce and Slaven Bilic.
Whilst it would cost a reported sum of £15-20 million to prise Cresswell away from West Ham, it could be a price worth paying. With Premier League experience and a bright future, he could be the man to fix Liverpool’s biggest problem.
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