Taking Inventory

John-Goodman
It's been awhile since I've written anything. This is my third attempt at actually trying to write this piece, so let's see if I can do this without turning into gibberish midway through...

Taking-inventory-meme

As you all know, we're near the end of the January transfer window. We've already seen some pretty stellar outgoing business done, and while we've been repeatedly assured that there will be no incoming business (and we're quickly running out of time), where's the fun in that? The way I see it, it is our sacred and solemn responsibility as fans to incessantly speculate, gossip, and debate any and all possible transfer scenarios for the near future. Or something like that...

We're top of the league and have had some stellar performances, courtesy of some great depth Mr. Klopp put together. However, as the cliche goes, there's always room for  improvement. I'm not going to pretend to be some expert on this (as if I could convince anyone...) but here's a quick inventory of our squad, and some areas that we could potentially boost late this month, or perhaps next summer.

Goalkeeper

Alisson is great, isn't he? Honestly, Mignolet isn't too shabby as a second choice either as long as he never has to play. In all seriousness, he's probably an EPL level keeper, just not a top 10 one. He's also young enough that sitting on the sideline for most of the year probably isn't his ideal career path. There should be plenty of suitors for a GK of his caliber, both domestically and abroad come the end of the season. Karius and Bogdan are also still on the books. I think that's relevant?

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Taking Miggy's place, we have two options: (1) Let the kids compete for it. Kelleher and Grabara have been chomping at the bit for ages. It seems every season we're signing another GK to the academy, so the youth teams really shouldn't be short if we snatch one (or both) up full time for the first team; (2) Sign an aging veteran with some legs left. I'm not sure exactly who's available, but I'm sure there are names out there looking to wrap up their career.

Fullback

Trent Alexander-Arnold will (eventually) make the RB position his own day in day out. For now though, I think most will be happy with him splitting time with another player just to get some rest and reset his form. However, Robertson on the other side of the field has really cemented himself as arguably the best LB in the league. Behind him, Moreno leaves a lot to be desired. He appears unsettled himself as well, and like Mignolet he's probably good enough for a starting spot for a lower calibre team somewhere among the top 4-5 leagues (probably Spain?). As long as he's not turning out for us, I don't really care at this point. I'm not sure what the plan is with Clyne, but as he's on loan now I'll just assume he's not available and set to leave.

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Both fullback options are shockingly low on options. We have plenty of makeshift choices (namely Milner and Fabinho) but we really should be fielding a natural senior player when either first choice option is dropped from the starting line-up for whatever reason. Additionally, while Camacho, Adam Lewis, and perhaps even young Ki-Jana Hoever might be in the conversation, it's wishful thinking that we can reliably field teenagers in potentially high leverage matches. Until one of them really proves themselves, it's simply a risk we don't really need to take. I expect an addition at both positions sooner rather than later. Perhaps we even kill two birds with one stone?

Centerback

Virgil has been worth every single penny and then some, and is comfortably our first choice beast at the back. Next to him, Joe Gomez is probably his best partner. Young, strong, quick, and a good head on those shoulders to boot. Unfortunately, after those two, we are a little weak. Lovren at his best is one of the best CBs in the league. At his worst, he's a bomb waiting to explode. Sometimes both appear in the same match. Matip on the other hand is quite consistently a middling to above average option. If only he spent less time on the treatment table. Between the two, I would suppose we have just about 1 whole reliable CB!

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In seriousness, even when both are fit and available, the squad could still probably use an additional body to choose from. At the youth level, we have the trio of Conor Masterson, Nate Phillips, and George Johnston just about ready to make the jump up. Personally though, I get the feeling all three might best be described as a AAAA player, if I may borrow some baseball lingo. In other words, they are too good for the minor leagues (i.e. AAA -> development league -> U23s) but will never successfully make the jump to top flight quality. Additionally, the aforementioned Hoever made a great first impression when called upon last week, but one would think he's still a few years away from consistent inclusion in the lineup. Fortunately, there appear to be some options. The EPL contains plenty of proven options to chose from that would jump at the chance to move to a club like Liverpool, and there are similarly plenty of options abroad that would love a jump to the EPL. As an aside, there also exists opportunities to fill both FB and CB with one transfer. Perhaps this is the ideal way to move forward.

Center Midfield

This season we've seen a bit of a rotating selection of midfielders start each game. Jurgen has set up with two distinct midfield roles within a trio: an anchoring pivot (or two) and more forward thinking work-horses. In the former category, we have a solid core of Fabinho, Gini Wijnaldum, and Henderson to choose from. Fabinho has been stellar over the past few months and his growing influence is obvious. Gini and Hendo have been up and down over the season, but have proven themselves to be decent second options. Further forward, Milner, Keita, Lallana, Shaqiri, and eventually Ox are the main options. On paper, this seems to be a good selection, but for various reasons, we have largely been lacking real production from this group.

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Overall, despite being bursting at the seams with midfielders, it probably remains our weakest third of the pitch. With a few contracts expiring in the next year, this gives us the perfect opportunity to make some big additions to improve our starting line-up. Finding a more creative player to line-up next to Fabinho and another should be a priority, along with perhaps finding youth to replace Lallana and Milner if they exit.

In house, Wilson is almost certainly going to play a role next season. However, despite his great performances and production on loan, there still exist some worry regarding his passing and physical traits. However, he deserves a shot in the team, and he should get one soon. Grujic has also gotten rave reviews this season from his manager in the German top flight, and at the very least should be considered to step into the first team if there is room. Curtis Jones and Ben Woodburn also deserve special mentions, but it is unclear if they are ready to contribute.

Wing/Wide Forward

Let's get the obvious out of the way: Salah and Mane are locked in to start. Both are pacy, strong, and intelligent wide men with an eye for goal, not to mention fan favorites. I don't really need to say much more, as we all know their importance. Unfortunately, we don't really have any depth of note after our starters. There could be an argument that Shaqiri, and to a lesser extent Oxlade-Chamberlain, should be considered wingers, but they've had their best games to date out of the midfield, and it seems that's where they're preferred. With Firmino, Keita, even Gini being shifted out at various points, it's clear we're really in need of some wide depth.

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As far as youth goes, there don't seem to be too many options. Like Shaq and Ox, Harry Wilson and Curtis Jones might be able to do a job there, but really should be brought into the midfield. Rafa Camacho is a legitimate contender, but recently has taken up a spot at RB. That leaves just Ojo and Kent, and neither are looking likely to make the grade with our first team, though as professionals they should have no difficulty finding spots elsewhere. Thus, it seems the ideal option would be to bring in one of the several young, rising wingers around Europe. Pulisic has already been snatched up by Chelsea, but we've all seen numerous rumours over the years for multiple other targets. There certainly should be choices in this summer's market.

Center Forward

Bobby Firmino has been a serviceable front-man for a few seasons now. His production has tailed off a bit this season, but he's been one of the most, if not outright the most, durable and industrious forwards in the EPL since his arrival, perfectly fitting Klopp's tactical scheme. Beyond him, a strong start from Sturridge has fizzled out, and Origi hasn't really shown much in the few minutes he's been on the pitch (what a goal though!). This is an issue to say the least. Both strikers will likely be shipped out by the end of the season, and we desperately need more production from anyone behind Bobby.

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There are a few youngsters of note coming through the ranks. Brewster is the biggest name, but after spending the better part of the year out injured, we simply don't know how he's going to recover and at what level he'll be playing. Behind him, Duncan and Glatzel are tearing up the U18s, but they are firmly a few years away from contributing to the first team. Without a doubt, CF is one of our biggest areas of need come the off season. Sturridge, Origi, and a fill-in Salah might be able to get the job done now, but we really should be looking to provide some relief to Firmino asap, most likely from abroad as there do not seem to be many viable options currently in the EPL.

Summary

Basically, overall our squad is in pretty stellar shape. Or at least our starting XI is. Jurgen has certainly improved our depth impressively, but there remain key holes in key positions that need to be filled within the next year if we hope to truly contend on all fronts. Fans will expect a trophy this season, but with a few well placed transfers, there's no reason we can't be even better next!
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