Suggesting that Liverpool have a problem with their forwards is a little disingenuous given they don’t. Liverpool’s forward three is among the best in Europe. Roberto Firmino is the best false nine around, and Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are both world-class wingers.
Their respective goal tallies over the last two years stand as a testament to that. Even when Salah is supposed to be having a bad season, as some will tell you this year was, he still finished as the joint top scorer in the Premier League.
Every club in world football would take these three players without a moment’s hesitation. That includes all of the ‘elite’ sides and every single one of Liverpool’s rivals. Indeed, Real Madrid have been linked with both Mane and Salah this summer. The fact that nobody questioned whether those players would be good signings at the Bernabeu spoke volumes. Liverpool front three is world-class, and there is no debating it. That is not where the issue lies. The problem is the players who back them up.
Liverpool lack quality back throughout the squad, but it’s their forward line where it’s a real issue. Divock Origi is a solid squad player and loves a big goal, as he proved this season, but the drop off from Firmino to his is considerable. Likewise, Xherdan Shaqiri is a good player and useful to have in the squad, but he is no replacement for Mohamed Salah on the right.
Liverpool have to change their entire system and style to accommodate the Switzerland international if rotation is needed. On the other wing, there is no back up for Sadio Mane, hence why he played 50 games in all competitions this season alone. In fact, to demonstrate how Liverpool lack back up options, each player featured in over 75% of the available minutes in both the Premier League and Champions League. Mane and Salah’s totals in both were 90% or above.
Adding strength in depth this summer will be a priority for Jurgen Klopp, particularly if they plan to maintain their challenge to Manchester City’s Premier League dominance. The difficulty, though, is finding a player who will be happy to play second fiddle and fits into the current style. So who could those players be?
Ousmane Dembele would be an ideal capture. The forward hasn’t fitted in at Barcelona, which could have been anticipated given he was expected to replace Neymar. He’s a player Liverpool have had an interest in in the past, though, and one that would fit in under Klopp. He’s a top player on his day and has plenty of development left in him at 22-years-old. However, he also has a tonne of experience in three top-five leagues as well as the Champions League. His style is also one that would fit in well with Liverpool’s. Not only is he fast and a great dribbler, but he’s also a superb passer and finisher as well. Indeed his love to cut inside and strength on the counter-attack makes him almost perfect.
If he cannot be secured from the Nou Camp, then Liverpool should look at Nicolas Pepe. The youngster is one of the hottest properties in Europe right now and rightfully so. 23 goals and 11 assists made him one of the star performers in Ligue 1 this season. At 24-years-old he’s slightly older but still in a perfect age bracket. And, like Dembele, his play style would suit Liverpool’s. He’s a strong dribbler, fast and loves to cut inside to take shots at goal. He’s also a strong passer and has good stats for key passes and through balls in particular. That is something that the rest of Liverpool’s forward line would benefit from significantly.
However, his ability to hold onto up the play is negligible at best and that’s something Klopp demands of his forwards. Firmino, Salah and Mane are all great at holding up play and allowing the rest of the team, particularly the full-backs, to get up the pitch and cause havoc. It’s also debatable whether Klopp would sanction spending £60m or upwards on a player to bolster the squad.
At the cheaper end of the scale, Juventus youngster Moise Kean could be a target. Juve are reportedly considering his future at the club this summer after disciplinary issues with Italy’s U21’s. He’s top talent, though and could be available for as little as €30m. He can play up front and down the left, which would suit Liverpool perfectly, and at 19-years-old would be happy playing second fiddle. He’s also a player that Klopp could spend time and energy developing into a player to suit his side perfectly. The fact he has all the talent to be a top player in future is an added bonus.
Like the others, he’s a great dribbler and finisher and is particularly dangerous on the counter attacks. However, his passing isn’t great, and his ability to hold onto the ball is minimal. They are skills that could be developed, though and at such a reasonable price Liverpool would be happy to spend the time to do so.
Indeed, they would be happy to get any three of the players named here. Knowing Liverpool’s recruitment team and the excellent work they’ve done in recent years, they’ll have an extensive list of potential targets and already be working at securing them.
With Klopp promising Liverpool will spend big this summer to compete with their rivals, it should be an exciting summer anyway. Adding a forward, be it the ones named here or another, would certainly make it so.
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