Preparations for Liverpool’s 2017-18 campaign are well underway, and there is no small amount of excitement among supporters. If the squad can navigate a tricky qualifying phase, Liverpool will be making a long-awaited reappearance in the UEFA Champions League with manager Jürgen Klopp at the helm. The Reds made a barnstorming start to the 2016-17 domestic season, and all eyes will be focused on whether they can replicate that form against Europe’s best.
Former Liverpool midfielder and current pundit Dietmar Hamann feels that Liverpool urgently need options - arguably on the tactical front, as well as in terms of squad depth. Speaking to the Mirror, Hamann - who is sometimes viewed by some supporters as a bit of naysayer, but whose emotional connection to the club (as a key member of that Istanbul squad) clearly runs deep - noted that Liverpool’s setbacks in the second half of last season appeared to coincide with opponents who set out to frustrate.
“I’m intrigued to see how they will get on because I feel they need a Plan B,” observed Hamann. “They need another way of winning games that doesn’t always involve them playing at 100mph.”
While it may be a bit of an oversimplification to imply that Klopp’s method solely involves playing at a high tempo, Hamann is arguably correct in observing that Liverpool sometimes seemed bereft of good ideas against opposition that was intent on closing up shop at the back. That might not be strictly down to Klopp, as the squad was also hobbled by a lack of depth due to injuries - which leads to Hamann’s next point.
“Every season is big for Liverpool but this might be bigger because the last thing you want to do is to drop straight back out of the Champions League if you don’t finish in the top four,” cautioned the former German international. “So it could be a decisive campaign because at times last season Liverpool looked tired even though they had no European football.
“They have got to prove they can compete on three or four fronts and be reasonably competitive in each of them,” he added. “That’s the big test for Klopp and the team.”
Liverpool’s disastrous January led to something of a vicious circle. Tumbling down in the table meant that a Champions League spot was now in peril, which made securing three points in every match even more important - and which also meant that the disappointing FA Cup and League Cup exits took a back seat. At the same time, the lack of depth meant that fewer risks could be taken with starting lineups, which all contributed to a white-knuckle final stretch for the club and for anxious supporters around the world.
The manager has already hinted at injecting a bit more variation into the squad’s tactics this year, so in this respect at least, Liverpool and Hamann might be on the same page. Time will tell if this transfer window affords Liverpool the players with which to display that versatility, as well as the depth to perform in a variety of different competitions.