As it stands, Liverpool still have work to do. In recent seasons, the club have kicked off knowing their work in the transfer market was mostly done. This summer, they begin the season knowing more will have to happen by August 31st. For now, though, we do know who Jürgen Klopp will have at his disposal in the opening weeks of the 2017-18 season and have a fairly good idea of what the club’s depth chart looks like.
It also seems clear that Klopp will again deploy a 4-3-3 as his primary formation this season, though a switch to a double-pivot system or diamond or three at the back always seemed unlikely. Of the alternatives, a diamond looks the most likely Plan B, but despite its appearance at the end of last season, any fans hoping or expecting to see it often in order to get two strikers out on the pitch is likely to end up disappointed.
In attack, things seem clear. Roberto Firmino will be first choice striker, though at times due to form or fitness or opponent he will push wide, moving out to the wing and making way for Daniel Sturridge. Third choice, for the time being, appears to be Dominik Solanke, who impressed during pre-season. Meanwhile, on the wings Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané will be first choice—with not much real depth behind them.
Realistically, that wing depth will mostly come from other positions—Firmino pushing wide or midfielder Philippe Coutinho pushing up. When Klopp has his first choice players available, though, Coutinho will spend most of his time in midfield this season. Who starts opposite him in one of the shuttler positions in Klopp’s three-man midfield is probably the biggest question with the season about to kick off.
The safe choice is likely last season’s starter, Gini Wijnaldum. However, Klopp did play Emre Can as a shuttler at times during pre-season, and though Can will be first backup to Jordan Henderson in the six, he will also get minutes higher up the pitch. As with the club’s makeshift wing depth—depth that involves moving players over from other, deeper positions—there will be some flexibility in where certain players play.
And there will need to be, especially early on given Adam Lallana starts the season with a serious injury and isn’t expected back until November. That injury makes the club’s need to sign a midfielder even more urgent than it was at the start of the summer, but at least for the next little while, Klopp will have to make do shifting players like Can or playing younger prospects in order to find midfield depth.
He may also end up moving James Milner back into midfield, something that looks likely following Alberto Moreno’s impressive pre-season and news the club had rejected a late Sevilla approach for the Spanish fullback. Against all odds, Moreno looks set to start the year as Klopp’s first choice at left back while Andrew Robertson settles and Milner heads back up the pitch. How long this lasts is anyone’s guess.
There’s also some uncertainty in the middle of defence, where the club are still trying to sign a centre half, though for now the first choice pairing of Joël Matip and Dejan Lovren remains. On the right, despite Nathaniel Clyne’s niggling injury issues, when the more senior right back is fit he remains favoured to start ahead of Trent Alexander-Arnold, though a strong start for the promising youngster could see that change.
It seems clear, though, that new signings still need to be made. The depth chart, as it stands today, only makes that clear, especially in midfield and attack where there is very little depth of the kind Liverpool will surely need if they are to make a deep run in Europe and hold on to a top four spot in the league.