The 16/17 season was one where no European competitions meant that Klopp had to trim the squad back as much as possible. Not only because a large majority of the players weren't deemed fit enough to play in the first, but also to ensure that a tight-knit team culture was developed.
For a professional footballer, there's probably nothing more devastating for your career than to dwindle away in the reserves and never getting a game. When you're stuck in that predicament, it's easy to get disgruntled and upset, and to naturally vent your frustration with your fellow teammates.
Klopp's decision to let go or sell 12 players last season therefore was sound, despite our lack of depth being clearly highlighted during the barren Jan/Feb run.
Just for those of you who have forgotten who was let go last season, here is a list:
Joao Carlo Teixeira
With the strange argument about us keeping Balotelli, the only other person who showed some level of promise last season was Joe Allen. In that, I still doubt he would have offered much more than our current players during that tough run.
SO WHAT NOW?
We are back in the Champions League (assuming we win our qualifying game). Our team is a year older, a year wiser, and no one from the first team has been released/sold just yet. So what would our best squads look like with our current setup?
(Potential) Strongest XI for Premier League & Champions League games
Salah - Firmino - Mane
Coutinho - Lallana
Milner - Lovren - Matip - Clyne
Subs: Karius, Klavan, Moreno, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Wijnaldum, Can, Sturridge
Immediately you can see the weaknesses forming. A new starting left-back will put Milner on the bench. A new centre-back will put Lovren on the bench and a new central box-to-box midfielder (hint: Keita if it's possible) will create stiff competition between Lallana, Wijnaldum, Can and Henderson.
(Potential) Second Tier squad for League Cup & FA Cup
Kent - Sturridge - Ojo
Grujic - Wijnaldum
Moreno - Klavan - Gomez - Trent Alexander-Arnold
Subs: Mignolet, Matip, Clyne, Henderson, Mane, Coutinho, Firmino
Now the glaring difference here is that the bench is extremely hard to pick from. Players like Salah & Lallana miss out. Maybe Solanke comes good and should be included in these games, but that means that we can't call on Coutinho & Firmino to bail us out if the game isn't going our way. Then think about the development of Ben Woodburn, Harry Wilson and any other academy player that shines for us next year.
Now take a look at the defensive options. Moving from Lovren & Matip, which already proved to be shaky in some games last year, to Klavan and Gomez is a dramatic drop in quality. Throw in a proven centre-back into our first team and suddenly we have Lovren or Matip playing these games, adding much needed experience and quality to the backline (I'm going to get into the argument about Lovren's quality in this article).
I think Kent and Ojo will be able to do the business on the wings. Both are ready to take the step up this season and I feel that they could really shine off the bench in the league and starting in the league cups.
So looking at this squad knowing that we have these 22 players over 2 squads, how many more players do you think we need to ensure we have enough for the tough season ahead?
In my opinion, I feel that only 2 more high quality guaranteed starters + 1 more good quality squad player could make a huge difference.
What are your thoughts?
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