Every team loses games. To lose a game is not a problem; the issue comes when a team does not learn from a loss. The Reds this week are in that situation. They suffered a disappointing result against a top team and now they need to learn their lesson. The Liverpool squad depth is simply not up to par.
Manchester United Defence Lesson
There were harsh lessons for Liverpool in defence. Trent Alexander-Arnold is a talented young player, the experience against Manchester United will be good for him long term. Yet, the defence of age cannot be given to Dejan Lovren who has once again been caught out whilst playing against top-class opposition.
Liverpool’s defence put them in a difficult position. Yet, they are not the reason that Liverpool left Old Trafford with nothing. With almost 25 minutes to play, Liverpool were only one goal down and chasing the game. The reds had the momentum and Manchester United were nullified as an attacking force.
Liverpool Squad Depth is Lacking
Much can be said about what happened on the pitch, lack of luck and refereeing decisions. However, what was off the pitch, or specifically the lack of options off the pitch, was Liverpool’s undoing. Liverpool have been extremely successful this season with the starting XI. They have a front three who would scare any side in the world. However, the Liverpool squad depth is thin. Tellingly, the seven Liverpool substitutes available had managed a total of three goals this season between them. Liverpool lacked options when it came to changing the game.
In the winter transfer window, Liverpool allowed two key squad members to leave in Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge. Together, they had scored a total of 15 goals in all competitions. Liverpool made the choice to not replace either of these players and against Manchester United, this decision caught up with them.
Failure in the Forwards
When Liverpool were pushing for a late equaliser, they looked to their bench for striking options. The other top six sides in the Premier League have international stars and World Cup winners to bring on. Manchester City have Gabriel Jesus, Manchester United Zlatan Ibrahimović, Chelsea Álvaro Morata, Tottenham Fernando Llorente, Arsenal Alexandre Lacazette. Liverpool were forced to go to Dominic Solanke, a 20-year-old without a career Premiership goal. That is not good enough for a team that want to push for honours.
Weakness out Wide
A similar problem was evident out wide. Sadio Mané has not been able to match his team of the year form from last season. He has struggled to find his role in a Mohammed Salah dominated side. Yet, since Coutinho’s departure, he has been a virtual ever-present. Both Salah and Mane were struggling in the game. When Liverpool needed a wide player to freshen up their attack there was a distinct lack of options available. There was no natural wide player on the bench, as there are no other natural wide players in the squad. Again, looking at the other top Premiership clubs, we can see this is not the case for them.
Liverpool, against Manchester United, were for the first time made to regret their winter transfer policy.
According to Football Weeks, the problem for Liverpool is the lesson that needs to be learnt cannot be acted upon until the summer. Liverpool supporters are well aware that Liverpool needed to recruit wisely in the next window. Many hoped that the summer would see the same quality of players brought into midfield and defence that have been brought into the attack. However, the loss of Coutinho the likely loss of Sturridge and Divock Origi means that Liverpool’s attack is just as in need of reinforcements as the midfield and defence.
Liverpool are not a Manchester City. They do not have the financial resources to bring in six £40m players in a single window. Even with the surplus from the Coutinho sale, Liverpool’s transfer kitty will be meagre in comparison to rivals. Liverpool will, therefore, have to decide on the transfer policy that will suit them best. Do they look to fill all of the holes in the squad in one go or bring in two or three top class signings?
Either way, the Liverpool squad depth must improve for the team to progress.
Liverpool have the experience of suffering from trying to bring in six or seven players in the same summer. As Tottenham discovered after selling Gareth Bale and Everton after Romelu Lukaku, this strategy rarely works. For Liverpool to fill all their needs in one window is next to impossible. It would require a monumental scouting mission and fortune to sign and integrate that many players. Yet, if they cautiously bring in two or three players they will leave at least one area of the pitch short of numbers. Players like Salah are going to be in demand this summer. Liverpool look strong enough to hold onto the Egyptian goal scoring machine this window. However, if the process to become title challengers is going to take a further three seasons, he may see his future away from Anfield.
This summer, Jurgen Klopp will have to make a decision. Either of the options will entail a gamble of some sorts. Liverpool fans will hope that will hope that he picks correctly. If not, it may lead to more trophyless seasons and could spell the end of the Klopp reign.