Liverpool's Biggest Need in Final Week of Transfer Window

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Liverpool's Biggest Need in Final Week of Transfer Window
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Unless you're the unfailingly content Arsene Wenger, everyone involved in football will have drawn up a mental list of requirements for their side this January, and this is no less accurate for Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool.

Since the German's arrival on Merseyside, Liverpool have endured a hit-and-miss run of form, with Saturday's chaotic 5-4 victory away to Norwich City encapsulating their makeup for 2015/16 so far.

Though he is, rather famously, not the biggest fan of the winter transfer market, Klopp has recently discussed the possibility of making additions to his squad before the close of the current window, as reported by the Liverpool Echo's Andy Kelly:

The January window is not the best. If you are under pressure, everybody wants prices where it is 'are you crazy?' If not you should not do it because of the situation, if you take a new player now it is two days to the next game, four days to the next game, so it’s not the perfect moment, that’s how it is and my opinion didn’t change on this.

But we have to watch the market, to think about what makes sense for us now plus for the summer and if we find a solution, if it’s for both transfer windows, and a player who could help us as soon as possible, of course we could try it. But that’s all.

[...]

As I always said, we’ll watch the market. We’ll see if something happens, a few days to go, that’s it.

With a clutch of worrying individual performances undermining the Reds' late victory at Carrow Road, Klopp will have once again acknowledged the glaring deficiencies within his squad.

So if the 48-year-old is to dip into the market this January, what is his side's biggest need? 

Stephen Pond/Getty Images

With four goals conceded in East Anglia on Saturday, one of the most obvious areas in need of improving is at the heart of Klopp's defence, as the former Borussia Dortmund manager lamented in his post-match briefing, drawing from his experience as a player with Mainz, per the Guardian's Paul Doyle.

"I was an under-average player but if I was good at something it was defending set plays. It’s not that difficult," he said.

"So we know how to defend. We have to do it now."

The centre-back pairing of Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho has proved strong in recent weeks, with the former benefiting from extended game time and the latter returning to form after injury. Against the Canaries, though, they struggled to find a balance.

Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

With Martin Skrtel, Dejan Lovren and Joe Gomez all currently sidelined with injury, and Sakho's durability under question—despite his undoubted quality—following a number of troubling muscle problems, the prospect of signing a new centre-back could tempt Klopp.

But having acquired Queens Park Rangers' Steven Caulker on a short-term loan deal already this January, this may be an unlikely move at this stage.

It could also be argued that Liverpool's defensive problems against Norwich stemmed from a lack of support from Klopp's holding midfielder, Lucas Leiva, with the Brazilian contributing little throughout—particularly in failing to track the overlapping runs of Jonny Howson and Steven Naismith.

Lucas' questionable long-term future under Klopp extends to his midfielder colleague Joe Allen, who has been linked with a return to Swansea City at the end of the season by the Liverpool Echo's James Pearce.

If Lucas and Allen are to be moved on during Klopp's reign, signing another established defensive midfielder should become a priority, though with the impressive form of Emre Can and Jordan Henderson in Liverpool's 4-2-3-1 this season, the former could represent the long-term solution.

SERGEI SUPINSKY/Getty Images

Widely reported interest in Shakhtar Donetsk's Alex Teixeira underlines Klopp's desire to add to his attacking line, with Sky Sports indicating that a deal could be close with Teixeira looking to "push through a move."

With the Brazilian having scored 26 goals in 26 games so far this season, his arrival would address a major deficiency at Anfield.

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Liverpool have scored just 30 goals in 23 Premier League games so far this season, and a plethora of injuries to Klopp's attacking ranks, with Danny Ings, Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge all out, has given the German little in terms of options.

Sturridge has made six appearances for the Reds in 2015/16, and searching for his long-term replacement will be in Klopp's mind as he assesses the personnel at his disposal throughout the season.

But with Roberto Firmino shining in the No. 9 role of late, having scored five goals and registered four assists in seven games as a striker, Klopp may already have his solution, negating the market.

Instead, Klopp should focus on a more pressing issue this January—that of his goalkeeper. 

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Liverpool offered up a shock move when they handed Simon Mignolet a new long-term contract earlier this month, with the Belgian's performances for the Reds this season leaving a lot to be desired.

Speaking to the club's official website after extending his terms, Mignolet hinted at a worrying plateau, as he nears his 28th birthday:

I’m very pleased that I can be at Anfield and a part of Liverpool for a long future. I’m happy to commit my future to LFC.

I know signing a new contract comes with new responsibility.

I’m getting older as well and coming into the years where people would say those are the years a ‘keeper is at his best.

For many supporters, this move was seen as the club rewarding mediocrity, as the Guardian's Sachin Nakrani explained via his Twitter account, saying "quite simply, a club of Liverpool's ambitions should not be giving half a thought to him being their No. 1 goalkeeper for the 'long-term'."

Clive Mason/Getty Images

This, of course, jars with Klopp's enduring faith in the former Sunderland goalkeeper, but with Mignolet producing a string of dismal performances this season so far, it is difficult to side with the Liverpool manager on this one.

According to This is Anfield's Henry Jackson, "Mignolet has now conceded seven times from the last eight shots on target against him," belying his reputation as a top-level shot-stopper.

Incredibly, Mignolet has registered the worst average of saves per 90 minutes of any Premier League goalkeeper in 2015/16:

While his inability to keep out Naismith's low drive on Saturday afternoon highlighted his flawed nature, Mignolet's baffling decision to drop to his knees as Marouane Fellaini powered a header at goal in Liverpool's 1-0 defeat to Manchester United this month was perhaps his most worrying contribution of late.

Fellaini's effort rebounded off the crossbar, allowing Wayne Rooney the opportunity to fire a shot beyond the Belgium international to give United the victory; it was one of many frustrating errors resulting from lapses in concentration from Mignolet.

Boasting a history of flamboyant, multi-faceted, all-round goalkeepers in the likes of Tommy Lawrence, Bruce Grobbelaar and Pepe Reina, Liverpool should be searching for a leader to operate between the sticks.

Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

Klopp's other options—the raw, untested but potentially potent Danny Ward, and the weak, unfavoured Adam Bogdan—are short of this status at this stage, though the former may progress into a dominant No. 1 on Merseyside, and this January signing a new No. 1 should be priority despite Mignolet's new contract.

Having rebuffed suggestions that he is interested in the likes of Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Timo Horn and Jack Butland so far in his short time in charge at Liverpool, Klopp overlooked considerable talents.

Quite why is unclear, as replacing Mignolet with a truly competent, all-round goalkeeper would provide Liverpool with a new-found stability within their defence—something that is distinctly lacking at present.

Statistics via Transfermarkt.co.uk.

 

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