With the Klopp honeymoon period quickly returning to dreary grim reality for Liverpool, defeat to West Ham at Upton Park at the weekend highlighted a lot of weaknesses in their squad and a lot of room for improvement in the January transfer window.
Liverpool do have a handful of decent players as a foundation to build upon but Klopp will surely be looking to make some big signings in the next few weeks.
The weak links
Christian Benteke is the man who most people would have picked out as one of the worst performers against West Ham. He is having a difficult time at Liverpool and is nowhere near the form that brought him so many plaudits at Aston Villa.
There is an argument that the Belgian doesn’t fit into Klopp’s system or that he isn’t receiving the right service. However, I don’t buy this view at all. The main issue I have is working out what kind of striker Benteke is trying to be.
As the type of striker who holds the ball up he tends to struggle massively. His first touch simply isn’t good enough to bring others into the game when the ball is played into his feet along the floor. Despite his physique he isn’t strong enough and definitely isn’t technically apt enough to keep the ball and lay it off for a teammate.
He is equally ineffective as a target man as proved against West Ham where Andy Carroll showed exactly how that role should be played. Benteke won just 15% of his aerial duels compared to Carroll’s 60% and Liverpool certainly did put crosses into the box but Benteke simply did not attack them.
Getting in behind the defensive line clearly isn’t his strength either. He has never been a particularly pacey player but he seems to have no awareness of how little time he has on the ball and no hunger to reach fifty-fifties in and around the box.
So what style of play is Benteke going for? Ultimately, who knows, but he certainly isn’t lacking in service and it is his poor form and desire that should be blamed, not the system and not his teammates.
Alberto Moreno is perhaps a controversial choice as a weakness in the Liverpool camp as his offensive contributions often distract from his poor defensive performances.
However, as useful as his attacking play is (and it arguably isn’t with only a single assist this season compared to Seamus Coleman or Bacary Sagna’s three, or even Danny Rose’s two in half the appearances) his defensive performances suffer hugely from him marauding forward.
Both crosses for the West Ham goals came from the flank that he was defending – or not defending in the case of the first goal as he faked injury rather than playing to the whistle and getting back to do his defensive duty.
Often whichever forward player is playing on the left, like Coutinho against West Ham, they’re burdened with covering for Moreno and they often do a better job than Moreno himself. Coutinho made three tackles and one actually in the left back position. By contrast, it must worry Liverpool fans that Alberto Moreno failed to make a single tackle against West Ham, surely?
Squad depth is a general weakness here, not some interestingly named academy player. The only forward player on Liverpool’s bench against West Ham was Adam Lallana, which shows the problems they are facing. Klopp cannot change much personnel-wise if the match isn’t going their way. We all know Daniel Sturridge’s injury problems but Liverpool need players who can come in and inspire a response. At the moment they have nobody like that.
In the short term, a January transfer or two wouldn’t hurt. A striker must be top priority for Jurgen Klopp after Sturridge has proved that pace fits far better into the current system than whatever it is that Benteke brings.
A pacey striker that can finish is on almost every club’s wish list but Liverpool would do well signing someone like Alexandre Lacazette who has proven he knows where the goal is and could combine with the likes of Coutinho, Emre Can and Jordan Henderson. A striker like this would also challenge Sturridge to want to play and stay fit just like Suarez did when their partnership flourished.
Defensively, Liverpool are a bit of a mess, and in the short term it’s hard to see this being sorted out quickly. A solid fullback and centre back next summer are necessities. They already have a good base to build on with Clyne so a physical presence or two would stabilise things.
There are by no means any quick fixes but there are options that Klopp has this month to steady things a bit and add some pace back into the Liverpool attack.