As Liverpool gear up to take on the Champions League as well as the Premier League next season, it’s clear the squad needs strengthening.
With Mohamed Salah already confirmed as a Liverpool player, the team’s reliance on Sadio Mane appears less pronounced, and clearly the summer dealings won’t stop there. A defensive midfielder and a left-back will presumably be on Jurgen Klopp’s shopping list, and a centre-back is clearly a priority, too, as we have seen from the Virgil van Dijk fiasco earlier in the summer.
Defensive midfielder Naby Keita is a name on many Liverpool fans’ lips, and the speculation surrounding the player won’t go away. But perhaps another player from RB Leipzig, the German runners-up from last season, would be a good fit for the club.
Whilst Salah, Mane and Firmino would represent a formidable attacking trio next season, beyond that the Reds look a little short. Philippe Coutinho is at his best with players ahead of him, and dropping back into more of a midfield playmaker role behind the front three looks to be a better fit for him, whilst neither Divock Origi or Daniel Sturridge proved that Liverpool could rely on them last season. It’s hard to see how they can rely on them next season when the rest of the top six will strengthen, and the club will compete in the Champions League.
With that in mind, a move for a striker like Timo Werner, who scored 21 goals for Leipzig in 28 starts last season and is valued at £21.25m by Transfermarkt.com, would seem like an obvious upgrade to a squad that will be stretched by extra games next season.
The obvious reason for signing Werner is his age and goalscoring record. At 21 years of age, Werner already has an impressive 126 Bundesliga appearances to his name, having played three full seasons for a struggling Stuttgart before their relegation. A move to Leipzig, though, is what has seen the youngster shoot from a promising player to a potential star, and a place in Germany’s full national team solidifies his place as an exciting talent.
His goalscoring has improved, too. Playing in a team who weren’t fighting off relegation, but were challenging at the top instead has helped. So too has the style of play. Leipzig’s intense, but choreographed, pressing style and their ability to counter-attack with pace and directness has suited the pacey Werner. It has enabled him to show that, despite his tender age, he can be trusted to lead the line for a club who could finish above the likes of Borussia Dortmund in a competitive league.
That would seem to suit Liverpool no end.
Klopp’s side, too, play a fast-paced brand of counter-attacking football when they are at their best, and in Salah and Mane, they will have the pace and skill to trouble any defence next season, but beyond their attacking three, it’s hard to see the same threat emerging either from the bench or in a rotated side.
That should worry Anfield bosses. Seven goals in their final two games of the season belies the fact that the Reds scored more than one goal only once in the five games which preceded those two – not to mention the fact that those matches came against teams with nothing left to play for.
The early fluency gave way to a stale Liverpool in patches after Christmas, one which seemed to have run out of ideas, and a key factor was Klopp’s inability to change a game with the use of his substitutes bench. That might say something about the manager’s ability to make the right changes at the right time, but in reality it probably just says more about the squad’s depth last season.
Werner would certainly add something in that department. A pacey, direct striker who has an eye for goal is clearly the kind of player you want in such situations, and with so many games to play next year, it’s surely impossible to keep a starting front three in most games, especially with the sort of high intensity demanded by Klopp.
But perhaps the most important thing about Werner is his style of play. Liverpool’s current options in attack seem to revolve around converted attacking midfielders and wingers, but whilst the German attacker is pacey and has played off the wing, last season he had his most prolific season to date playing exclusively in the central role. Of Werner’s 2.4 shots per game last season, on average 2.2 – the overwhelming majority – came from inside the box. By contrast, Roberto Firmino, who played in that central role for most of last season, averaged almost one shot from outside the box every game.
They are different players, but that’s exactly what Liverpool could be doing with adding to the squad. Next season will be all about options and managing squad depth, and it’s hard not to think that Liverpool need to strengthen in as many areas as they can.
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