With the season opener against West Ham United (and the close of the transfer window) just around the corner, there continue to be speculation about Liverpool’s activity on the inbound market, despite Jürgen Klopp giving every indication - at least publicly - that the Reds’ remaining business is likely to consist of shipping out players deemed surplus to requirements. Of course, Liverpool also gave every indication that Danny Ward was going to have a key role this year before suddenly announcing the imminent arrival of Alisson Becker.
Part of the reason why speculation about new recruits persist is because, even accounting for the absence of World Cup players, the absence of certain individuals from preseason matches - Joël Matip and Naby Keïta, for example - can make the squad feel a little bit thin. Flashbacks to Liverpool’s alarming dearth of midfielders for key portions of last season are bound to play on the mind.
Klopp, unlike certain other managers who will remain unnamed, seems chronically disinclined towards public declarations of need. Following the Reds’ 4-1 victory over Manchester United in yesterday’s friendly, the boss was asked about whether additional defenders would be needed before the season kicks off. The answer was Klopp’s usual mix of clear plain-speaking mixed with just a touch of mystery.
“No, I am happy with our players, to be honest, so I don’t see the need,” said the manager. “When you see Joe Gomez playing in that role tonight as a central defender, he combines a lot of things you don’t find in the transfer market, to be honest.”
“I can’t see in the moment the need, but there are 12 days to go and a lot of things can happen,” he then added. “You ask me now and I say no, but maybe if you ask me tomorrow I will say something different.”
Klopp’s ebullience, even in the wake of everything that happened in the Nabil Fekir pursuit, and even with certain players till absent, and with question marks still surrounding Adam Lallana’s ability to make key contributions this season, likely stems in part from a number of youngsters acquitting themselves rather well during the current tour of the United States.
“Yes, all the young boys who came on today are in really good shape this pre-season, to be honest,” said Klopp. “They had little holes because of the intensity. Sheyi is a really confident boy as he showed tonight, not only around the penalty when he sent Daniel Sturridge away! You have to be really confident to do that!”
“Curtis Jones played his first game as a full-back in front of 100,000 people – I would have been nervous, he wasn’t,” noted the manager. “Rafa Camacho plays a pre-season that is just fantastic, mostly as a full-back which he’d never played before, so they’ve learned a lot. Ben Woodburn is 100 per cent back, for example.”
Whether Klopp is being coy during the final few yards of the transfer window, only time will tell. His praise for some of the younger players seems, however, quite genuine, and we can almost certainly expect one or two of them to be given the opportunity to replicate Trent Alexander-Arnold’s journey this season.