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A Tactical Guide to Liverpool's Summer Transfer Business, Part 4: Striker

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We close out this four part series with the position that has proven the biggest problem for Liverpool this season: center forwards.

This series has been brought to you by photos of Klopp hugging players in each of the positions being discussed.
This series has been brought to you by photos of Klopp hugging players in each of the positions being discussed.
Michael Steele/Getty Images

What type of striker thrives under Klopp's tactical tutelage?  Again, there is more room for flexibility here than you might think, although some attributes are far more critical than others.

Klopp prefers attackers who work tirelessly without the ball, and he certainly wants his strikers to be doing their fair share of the pressing.  Once Klopp's team regains the ball, he wants his strikers to do three things:  1) hold up the ball and distribute it to onrushing teammates; 2) move intelligently (and, often quickly) behind the defense and around the six-yard box; and 3) score clinically.  Klopp's counterattacks are designed to create numerous one-on-one opportunities behind the defense, along with a host of poaching opportunities from balls rolled or lofted across the front of goal from a wide position.  Klopp's strikers need to take these chances at a good rate when they come.

It will surprise absolutely no one that Liverpool already have a squad member who satisfies every criteria for an almost-perfect Jürgen Klopp center forward. This, of course, is Daniel Sturridge (though some would argue that, even when fit, Sturridge's off-the-ball work rate is sub-par). His fitness problems are well-documented and don't need to be repeated here.  But it still raises the legitimate question of what Klopp should do with Sturridge under the circumstances.  The press has reported that Klopp wants rid of him.  This choice seems rational, tragic, and risky all at once.  Given the world-class skill level of the player and his glove-like fit with Klopp's tactical approach, LFC's ownership might be willing to spend significant sums on other strikers while still holding onto Sturridge, just in case he can eventually regain sufficient fitness to appear in more than one game in a row. If that's true, then keeping him around for at least another season, just in case, seems wise.

Danny Ings is not much of a hold-up man, but he works his butt off out of possession, and he makes excellent runs in the box. He is a better-than-average finisher.  He's a good fit, even if he's not the complete package and not an elite striker.

Divock Origi has the skills to be a "complete striker," which Klopp has explicitly pointed out. He needs a lot more playing time, preferably without the pressure of being the primary goal-scorer.  Given his upside, it's unlikely that Klopp will want to sell him.

And, this finally brings us to the biggest tactical conundrum of all: Christian Benteke.

Most LFC fans seem more than happy for the club to cut its losses, sell Benteke, and use those funds to help buy a replacement who better fits the club's playing style.  This may well be the best approach.  Benteke is far from a perfect Jürgen Klopp striker.

Nonetheless, there is another possibility, which might be even better.  Christian Benteke could be a fulcrum in Klopp's counterattack, with two pacey wingers flanking him, and an attacking midfielder behind him, who will collectively do the pressing and running that Benteke does not. With wingers latching onto Benteke's knockdowns and layoffs, Benteke would not bog down counterattacks.

That's not all. When LFC faces a packed-in defense, Benteke could be key to unlocking the door that has remained frozen shut for the last two seasons. Those packed defenses cannot stop Benteke from making his presence felt in the box, especially if he were flanked by fast wingers and fullbacks who got behind the opposition fullbacks, and then whipped in crosses and cutbacks from either side.  So far, Benteke has had only fullbacks and Jordon Ibe to rely upon for such service, along with the occasional early cross from a central midfielder.  With more potent weapons on the flanks, Benteke could thrive.

This is not crazy. Klopp has repeatedly told the press that they need to give Benteke time to develop.  Klopp is not prone to exaggeration or fibbing.  He believes that Benteke has the potential to become a key player for LFC.  This manager has a history of developing players into superstars. And, although Benteke has neither the touch nor the anticipation of Robert Lewandowski, he has otherwise similar physical skills.  Christian Benteke will not be Lewa, but he could be a pale imitation of Lewa and still be a helluva "Plan B" for LFC.

Striker needs: One fast, hard-working, clinical scorer.  The interesting decision will be whether to get rid of Benteke and/or Sturridge in order to help fund this and other purchases.

Bottom Line

Look for Klopp to purchase: 1) a striker; 2) two wingers (at least one left-footed); 3) a defensive midfielder; 4) an attacking midfielder (to replace Lallana); 5) possibly also a box-to-box midfielder (to replace Milner); 6) a fullback for additional cover; and 7) a new center back.  That's seven or eight incoming players. Outgoing players will be Toure, Enrique, Bogdan, Lallana, and Milner. Allen may leave as well. In that event, Klopp should look to replace his minutes with any combination of the up-and-coming youth midfielders, including Joao Teixeira, Cameron Brannagan, and Jordan Rossiter.  If Klopp deems that 7 or 8 new faces is too many, expect the fullback position and the box-to-box midfielder slot to remain unfilled. Of course, as with most predictions involving multiple variables, the most reliable thing you can say about this one is that it will almost certainly be wrong.

The biggest decisions relate to Sturridge and Benteke. Klopp's LFC future may hinge on the outcome of those two decisions.

Also in This Series

Wednesday — Part 1: Introduction and The Flanks
Thursday — Part 2: Central Midfield
Friday — Part 3: Centre Back
Saturday — Part 4: Striker