Why Liverpool must spend again to regain the EPL title

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020 00:00 |
Liverpool’s Senegalese striker Sadio Mane reacts after scoring the opening goal during their English Premier League match against Aston Villa at Anfield in Liverpool, on Sunday night. Photo/AFP

Manchester, Wednesday 

It will not have escaped Liverpool’s attention that the contest for next season’s Premier League title began in Manchester last Thursday.

Manchester City’s 4-0 dismantling of Jurgen Klopp’s team was not that important but it did serve to remind everybody just how deep the reserves of talent at the Etihad Stadium run.

City arguably have a better and deeper squad than the new champions. If that sounds odd towards the end of a season that Liverpool have dominated by a margin of more than 20 points then so be it. 

Just take a look at City’s bench next time they play. It is extraordinary.

So in order to defend their title next season, Liverpool will probably have to be at least as good as this again.

City will be stronger next season and will not lack motivation. They will buy at least one defender this summer and that could make an enormous difference.

The question is: What will Liverpool do?

The perceived wisdom is that teams should strengthen when they are ahead.

During Manchester United’s years of dominance, it was something Sir Alex Ferguson always tried to do, with various degrees of success.

Interestingly it was something City didn’t do last summer – they never replaced outgoing captain Vincent Kompany – and it could be argued they paid a heavy price.

At Anfield the situation is complicated by the influence of the Covid 19 epidemic. Other clubs will feel this too. 

The fact that Liverpool’s owners initially felt it necessary to furlough staff at the start of the nation’s lockdown – a decision they quickly reversed under public pressure – indicates they feel the organisation is not awash with money. 

With the return of supporters to football grounds something that is currently under only the gentlest of discussion, income streams promise to be depleted for a while yet.

So Liverpool could suffer and their former captain and manager Graeme Souness was quick to point out where the problem may lie as he watched Klopp’s players limp rather modestly through this game.

‘I am disappointed they aren’t buying another striker because when you don’t play one of the big three there is a fair drop in quality down to Divock Origi,’ Souness told Sky on a day when the Belgian deputised for Roberto Firmino at centre forward.

‘I hope they don’t live to regret that.

‘Firmino links everything from back to front and that’s what they have missed in this game.’

The postponement of next January’s African Cup of Nations will help Liverpool. They are no longer facing being without Mo Salah and Sadio Mane for as long as six weeks in the middle of the season.

That could yet be hugely significant but even so Klopp must hope that those two players and Firmino stay as fit as they have managed to do over the last two years.

Their availability has been almost constant over that period and Liverpool have benefited. But if something does give at some stage, what happens?

The Japanese attacker Takumi Minamino was added to the squad in January and may or not become the significant player Klopp thinks he will.

But only time will tell whether the decision to withdraw from negotiations to buy Timo Werner from RB Leipzig will prove harmful. -Dailymail

This was a game that cannot be relied upon to tell us much. Games behind closed doors are one thing. Playing in an empty stadium when there is no longer anything on the line is quite another.

Liverpool, short on adrenaline, looked vulnerable at times. Villa, on the other hand, were just not good enough to take advantage and the closer they get to relegation the more their own failings in last summer’s transfer window continue to hamper them.

It is said the club’s sporting director Jesus Garcia Pitarch – or ‘Suso’ as he is known – is under pressure and no wonder.

Goalkeeper Tom Heaton – unlucky to be injured mid-season – and central defender Tyrone Mings were both signed on the say-so of manager Dean Smith. So far so good.

But Suso’s recommendation that Villa rely on the young Brazilian signing Wesley for goals now looks just as suspect as does his call to replace him when he fell injured with another player from the Belgian leaguer, the Tanzanian Mbwana Samatta.

Between them those two forwards costs £30m and the fact young Keinan Davis – signed five years ago from Biggleswade Town - has recently been chosen in that position perhaps speak volumes.

The only thing that can save Villa over the next five games would appear to the hopelessness of those around them.

They have scored only two goals in their last seven league games and have Manchester United coming to Villa Park on Thursday. Goal scorers remain important, no matter where in the league table you sit.

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