Liverpool have achieved their main target for the season of securing a return to the Champions League, at the expense of Arsenal and Manchester United. That in itself is a reason to celebrate on the red half of Merseyside, but Jurgen Klopp will be wary of the work required to sustain their position next season and mount any kind of title challenge.
Throughout this campaign, the side’s frailties have been exposed all too often. Weaknesses within the squad are evident to even casual spectators and the Reds have struggled tremendously against weaker sides, despite competing excellently against those teams around them.
A major part of the problem has been the defence, including the goalkeepers, but individuals have arguably received too much blame for their part in a system which appears ultimately flawed. Liverpool are fortunate that two of their rivals have been sub-par this season, as the side’s tendency to drop points from winning positions would have usually left them short of fourth place.
In light of those shortcomings, here are three ways Liverpool need to improve next season…
Defence and Goalkeeper
When Liverpool brought in Loris Karius last summer, it was thought that Simon Mignolet’s time at Anfield may have been reaching its end. The German keeper was by no means a definite improvement on the Belgian, whose performances last season were poor, but it was widely believed that Klopp would replace his no.1.
Instead, aside from a spell of ten matches early in the season, Mignolet has retained his place, keeping eight clean sheets from 27 games. This season has been better than last for the 29-year-old, but he is still prone to errors, particularly from set-pieces. Out of the top five’s first-choice ‘keepers, Liverpool’s ranks behind only Claudio Bravo for goals conceded per game, saves per goal conceded, and clean sheets.
Obviously, Mignolet isn’t solely responsible for his side’s poor defensive record. A back four usually consisting of James Milner, Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip and Nathaniel Clyne has proven to be fragile. This is only made more apparent by the lack of cover provided by Klopp’s 4-3-3.
Alberto Moreno will surely be on his way out of Anfield having lost his place in the side to Milner, meaning that Klopp will require at least one recognised left-back. He also needs to improve his options in central defence to create a side capable of winning the league.
Like Manchester City this season, scoring goals has not been a problem, but letting them in has been commonplace, even at home against struggling sides.
Whilst Pep Guardiola will be looking mainly at full-backs this summer, Liverpool should be after two centre-halves, at least one that will improve the current starting XI. They have already been heavily linked with Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk, which would be a promising start, and are reportedly interested in Hull’s Andrew Robertson, as per The Independent
It would also be surprising if the Reds don’t bring in another keeper, at least to offer more competition for Mignolet, but with the aim of replacing him. Jordan Pickford had an impressive season, as one of few positives during Sunderland’s relegation, and appears to be a suitable candidate for the position.