Liverpool will miss out on Champions League football next year. There were some really rough moments this season, they’re losing sporting director Julian Ward (a disciple of Michael Edwards, who built the current squad before leaving a year ago), and there is some uncertainty with the ownership who initially put all or part of the club up for sale, only to later change their minds.
That said, we don’t think they’re that far away. Top to bottom, this is probably the second-best squad in the Premier League. They’ve been pretty forward-thinking with their signings and contract extensions (though they’ve had a couple of misses, too) and are not in a situation where they need major surgery this summer, provided they believe this past season was just a blip and they continue to have faith in Jurgen Klopp. (And, as we see it, they should.)
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The issue is midfield, as evidenced by their pursuit of Jude Bellingham. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner, Roberto Firmino and Naby Keita are all being released, which should free up some money to ideally bring in two players. Ogden is particularly bullish here, thinking that for less than what they would have spent for Bellingham, they could probably add a dynamic Ligue 1 midfielder and a proven Premier League player, like Alexis Mac Allister (who has a release clause) or Mason Mount (who is one year away from free agency).
(It seems like a move for Mac Allister is close to being announced and while that will help, they need more help in midfield.)
There’s a big call to be made around Trent Alexander-Arnold, too. Do you convert him into a midfielder, which means finding a right-back who’s ready for the first team? Do you work on the version of him we saw late in the season, stepping into midfield? Or are you tempted to move on if the right offer comes in?
Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of stories over the coming weeks applying the same “who to keep, who to extend and who to move on” approach to all the top clubs in the Premier League and Europe. You can find our Manchester City edition here, and our Arsenal edition here.
MARCOTTI: He has been a good servant to the club but has slipped to No. 3 and, at his age, you imagine he wants to be at least a No. 2.
OGDEN: The key question here is whether he wants to continue as Alisson’s backup. He’s battling Gavin Bazunu for the Ireland keeper role, and he has now been a backup for two seasons. Not playing regularly isn’t going to help him. He might ask for a transfer, in which case I think Liverpool would be grown up about it and he could also fetch a good fee.
MARCOTTI: I broadly agree, though I wonder if he could be loaned to a Premier League team for a season to get playing time. It might also help if they were to move him on next summer.
You can view him as a long-term replacement for Alisson, but the reality is Alisson has plenty left in the tank. Kelleher is 24 and probably isn’t going to want to wait around another five or six years. But of course, if he leaves, you either extend Adrian another season if he’s happy to stay or you have to find a backup.
OGDEN: It’s a huge question. If you keep him, you have to extend him. If not, this is the time to unload him, though his skill set is so unique that I’m not sure how many teams would be interested in him. It’s down to how Klopp sees him. I’m not sure he’s dynamic enough to play in midfield on a Klopp team, so the question is to what degree you trust him at right back.
MARCOTTI: I think what he gives you going forward is so important that I can live with his occasional defensive mishaps. Plus, he can improve. I agree: It has to be Klopp’s call, and it’s a big one, but I think he’ll want to keep him. And that means you have to give him a long-term deal.
OGDEN: I’m not sure this is a decision you need to make straight away. He’s a local lad, he’s committed to the club, he’s going to want to stay, I think you can wait to see how the new season unfolds with the new signings and make a decision in October or November.
Verdict: Split (keep and extend his contract/keep and wait)
MARCOTTI: I think he has been exceptional.
OGDEN: He’s totemic, you have to look to extend him.
MARCOTTI: I don’t see any reason to extend him now. He’s 32 in July, he has another two years, he’s not the sort of guy who is going to grumble and try to force a move next summer when he has a year left or wind down his contract so he can leave on a free. I think you can bide your time, see where you are, see where he is and see what he wants to do.
Verdict: Split (Keep/Keep, but do not extend his contract)
OGDEN: He’s versatile, I just don’t think he’s very good on a consistent basis. He hasn’t kicked on, but he’s a good squad player.
MARCOTTI: I agree. Plus I’m not sure you’d get significant money for him.
MARCOTTI: He’s 32 in the summer, he’s played very little in three of the past four years, I see no need to extend his contract.
OGDEN: I think you have to extend him, because the alternative is Nat Philips. Or, if you find a new club for him, you have to bring in another centerback.
Verdict: Split (keep/keep and extend, or find a new club)
OGDEN: Klopp never plays him. He was on loan at Bournemouth last year, and this year he made two league appearances. Somebody will give them money for him; he did a job during lockdown after all. I think they can get £10m or £15m for him. Let’s not forget, they got £17m for Neco Williams and £23.5m for Rhian Brewster in transfer fees, so they’re really good at getting good money for their young players.
MARCOTTI: I assume he wants to play, so let him go and look to bring in a young center back whom you can develop and can then replace the depth he provides.
Verdict: Split (loan/find a new club)
OGDEN: Another guy who played well during lockdown when everybody was hurt. But he has been on loan the past two years, so it’s time to find him a new club if you can or at least loan him out.
Verdict: Split (loan/find a new club)
MARCOTTI: I don’t see a reason to give him a new deal. He’s locked up for two years. He does a decent job when he comes in, and I like the fact that he’s different from Robertson.
OGDEN: This year was a write-off for him with injuries, but he was highly rated when he arrived. Let him get fit and see what he can offer. If it works out, he can be the alternative to Alexander-Arnold.
OGDEN: He signed a new deal this year and was good when he got on the pitch, so I’d keep him.
MARCOTTI: I agree he has been good, but I think it’s important that he gets minutes on the pitch. You’ll have no problem finding a home for him on loan if, after assessing the incoming players, you think he’s not going to get regular football.
Verdict: Split (keep … if you can give him consistent playing time)
OGDEN: You’re stuck with him, he’s never fit, nobody is going to take him with his wages. Good player when fit, but you can’t rely on him being fit.
MARCOTTI: You can’t count on him because of his injuries, but when he’s there he can contribute. See where you are at the end of the season. He’ll be 33, there’s no need to rush into a deal.
OGDEN: He has been a disappointment and as such, they’re letting him go.
OGDEN: You keep Bajcetic and let Jones go. He ended the season well and had some very good performances (Leicester comes to mind). But you can get a decent transfer fee in return — he almost went to Villa at the start of last season.
MARCOTTI: I appreciate he’d have a market, but it totally depends on who comes in. With the three midfielders leaving on free transfers, Jordan Henderson well into his 30s and Thiago’s fitness, maybe it doesn’t hurt to keep another live body in the squad. And he has had his moments.
Verdict: Split (find him a new club/keep)
OGDEN: I’m pretty sure Liverpool didn’t take up the option to acquire him on a permanent basis… and rightly so.
Verdict: Do not take option
OGDEN: There’s a theory that maybe he can go back to Sunderland and get them back into the Premier League. That would be a romantic story. He definitely gives you something, but he’s 33 in June. It’s time to move on.
MARCOTTI: Unless he wants to go, I think you keep him. He’s a great leader, maybe he can be a James Milner type down the road. Squad captain type of thing. I certainly wouldn’t plan on him starting 30 league games — not least because he hasn’t done that since 2015 — but he’s a good guy to have around.
Verdict: Split (find him a new club/keep)
MARCOTTI: It’s not hard to see why they released him. He needs a fresh start somewhere else.
MARCOTTI: He made a ton of league appearances this year, and he’s a guy Klopp evidently trusts. If he wanted to stay on reduced wages and an ever-reducing role, I would have had no problem with it. But evidently he and the club decided it was time to move on.
OGDEN: No reason to extend him yet, but continue to play him. He has played well, it’s important that he continues to get meaningful playing time.”
MARCOTTI: Obviously it didn’t work out for him this season, but he showed the year before at Fulham that he has real quality. However, if everybody is fit, he will be well down the pecking order this year and, at his age, you want to get him playing time.
Loan him out to somewhere he can play regularly and then see where you are in a year’s time. He might be somebody who can return and be effective, or he might be somebody who is just not right for this club. But either way, with a solid season of regular football you can better assess him. And you can get a better transfer fee if he leaves.
Verdict: Loan him out
OGDEN: He’s over his injuries, he’s exceptional when fit, and they really missed him this year.
OGDEN: His goals this season showed they were right to give him a new deal last summer. There’s no need to rush into another extension, however, given he’s over 30.
MARCOTTI: I think he can contribute, but the decision to release him is the correct one both for him and for the club, I think, given the number of forwards.