Jurgen Klopp battling transfer uncertainty ahead of Liverpool’s title defence

LFC Globe
5th September 2020
Jurgen Klopp

Jurgen Klopp would no doubt have hoped for more from the summer immediately following Liverpool's first title in 30 years.

Having finally brought an end to the Reds' painful three-decade-long drought, the German had set his sights on kickstarting an era of dominance.

But then the coronavirus pandemic struck, shifting the economic outlook for businesses the world over, not least professional sporting institutions.

For Liverpool fans, the first sign that their club might be feeling the pinch as a result of Covid-19 came in the form of confirmation that long-time target Timo Werner would instead be joining .

The Reds' recruitment staff had done everything they possibly could to put themselves in pole position for the forward but, when it came to sealing the deal, found themselves unable to commit to such a significant financial outlay.

It certainly wasn't down to a lack of interest; Werner's age, versatility and impressive goalscoring record had ensured that, at Melwood, he was considered an ideal fit for Liverpool's frontline.

Klopp had in fact already made plans to slowly integrate him into the team just in time for Sadio Mane and 's expected mid-season departure to the Africa Cup of Nations.

But, while the Afcon's subsequent postponement has served to slightly ease the pain of missing out, Werner's move to Stamford Bridge has without doubt dealt a blow to Liverpool's succession planning.

Making plans of any kind during a period of so many unknowns has proven difficult, of course, leaving Klopp facing a situation he has often tried to avoid during his managerial career.

Jurgen Klopp

Image: Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Renowned for preferring to get his summer business done early, the Reds boss has question marks hanging over a number of his players as the new season nears.

And a sell-to-buy approach necessitated not just by the pandemic but also by a desire to avoid a bloated squad means certainty is in short supply.

The obvious example is , whose contract is scheduled to expire next summer and who is no longer in negotiations over fresh terms.

Liverpool anticipate a bid from for the Dutchman, a favourite of new manager Ronald Koeman, though they have yet to receive a firm approach just yet.

Should that transfer materialise, it would mark the beginning of the end for one of the transfer sagas of the summer thus far: Thiago Alcantara to .

Thiago - Bayern Munich / Liverpool

Image: Getty Images

The Spain is desperate to work under Klopp, and the Reds chiefs will no doubt have been made aware of his contract expectations should the conditions for a transfer arise.

However, the pieces have yet to fall into a place, something that will serve as a source of frustration to the Liverpool manager, whose plans for the season currently feature Wijnaldum.

This uncertainty is not just consigned to the centre of the park, either, with moves to strengthen other areas also contingent on departures.

winger Ismaila Sarr is among the players Liverpool have considered to bolster their frontline, while recent links with forward Patson Daka make sense given his profile.

But a swoop for either player remains unlikely while interest in the likes of , and has yet to turn into anything more concrete.

Gini Wijnaldum

Image: Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Prior to the pandemic, Liverpool had initially hoped to bank around £45m for the latter pair, with Origi also expected to have a decision to make over his future.

Yet, with potential buyers still assessing their financial position amid debate over when fans might return to stadiums, those funds are not forthcoming.

The champions, too, are having to make difficult decisions this summer, with a direct replacement for seemingly low on their priority list as things stand.

defender Ben White had been watched during last season's stint at , but was quickly disregarded once it became clear any fee would surpass £20m.

Meanwhile, Klopp's faith in as a fourth-choice option at the heart of the defence and the emergence of mean Liverpool appear willing to enter the new campaign without making any further defensive additions.

The wisdom of removing one of world football's premier holding midfielders from his preferred position with any regularity, or relying on a 17-year-old, is sure to be tested.

Still, evolution is not only possible through transfers, as Klopp and his coaching team well know.

Jurgen Klopp and Alisson

Image: Liverpool FC via Getty Images

The signings of Alisson and have so often been touted as the key reason behind the Reds' transition from exciting challengers to relentless winners.

Yet the tactical tweaks that saw heavy-metal football abandoned in favour of a more attritional style were just as vital to that change.

Klopp's 2018 call to lock down his midfield and work the majority of attacks down the flanks brought about this recent period of success and, prior to coronavirus, plans were being laid at Melwood for the next step in the evolution.

Visits to and Watford prior to the enforced break had proven to the coaching staff that opponents were now capable of shutting off both the flanks and the centre of the park simultaneously.

As such, it was decided that greater variation in the Reds' attacking play was necessary, a quality that the addition of Thiago and greater attacking depth would be expected to provide.

Of course, Klopp is often reluctant to utilise new signings until they have become fully accustomed to his style of play in training, and so he will need to look within for solutions.

With that in mind, it would make sense to see more of Naby Keita next term, the Guinean having finally begun evidencing his talent more consistently toward the back end of last season.

But whoever is tasked with combating more resilient opposition cannot waste time finding their feet - a flying start has been a prerequisite for the champions over the last three years.

Sources close to Liverpool insist the manager is - as should be expected - under no pressure whatsoever to repeat that feat this year, particularly given the big spending of rivals.

Fenway Sports Group's preference is always to think in the long term, and their goal remains to maximise the possibility of trophies over the remaining four years of their boss' contract rather than just next season alone.

But, while Klopp has been denied the sort of preparation he covets, and so much remains up in the air over the shape of his squad, it would be foolish to write off the chances of another memorable year at Anfield.

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