“This year is going to be our year.” The oft-used expression by Liverpool fans since last winning the league in 1990 has assumed a level of ridicule in recent years. Year after year, the new season is embraced with a renewed optimism only for it to fizzle out or end in despair.
The 2016/17 Premier League season started with stunning victories against both top teams as well mid-table ones leading to fans and pundits considering Liverpool as a title challenger. However, the turn of the year brought about a massive drop in form, fixture congestion and loss of players to injury and international commitments.
As a result, Liverpool’s title challenge ended as Chelsea opened a massive gap from the rest of the challengers and to make it even worse, the Reds exited both the EFL Cup and FA Cup in January itself.
January exposed two key problems in Jurgen Klopp’s side as the wafer-thin squad and the absence of quality in certain first-team positions played a part in the debacle. So, instead of preparing for the final run-in to clinch the title, Liverpool are fighting to clinch a top four spot for Champions League qualification.
The summer signings of Sadio Mane, Georginio Wijnaldum and Joel Matip definitely improved the team, but more signings were required to win the League this year.
So, here are 5 realistic signings that could have helped Jurgen Klopp oversee a first ever Premier League title for Liverpool.
#1 Marc-Andre ter Stegen
The goalkeeping position has been a problematic one for Liverpool ever since Pepe Reina left the Reds in 2013. Simon Mignolet has failed to successfully fill the boots of Spaniard as he struggled to command his box and deal with set-pieces although his reflexes were one of the best.
Jurgen Klopp decided to bring in competition to decide on a No. 1 last summer and Barcelona’s ter Stegen was linked as well. The German keeper was however assured of first-team football and later became the undisputed No. 1 on the departure of Claudio Bravo to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in late August. Meanwhile, Liverpool signed another young German keeper Loris Karius who was outstanding for Mainz.
(Video Courtesy: MRG YouTube Channel)
However, he could not hold on to the No. 1 spot due to an unfortunate injury in pre-season and later due to struggling with the physicality of the league, especially from set-pieces. This led to a loss in form and Mignolet is currently the preferred goalkeeper. This lack of a solid No. 1 has hampered Liverpool’s title chances as it has led to a lack of defensive stability and loss in confidence of the keepers.
On the other hand, as the above statistical comparison shows, ter Stegen is having a stellar season and is currently one of the best modern keeper around.
If Liverpool had signed the Borussia Monchengladbach youth product instead of Karius, they would definitely still be in the hunt as emphasised by the advantage Liverpool’s rivals have due to the presence of top quality keepers such as Thibaut Courtois at Chelsea, Hugo Lloris at Tottenham and David de Dea at Manchester United.