Liverpool are still working on sorting out their senior management roles this summer, including a Director of Football and first team manager, but once those positions have been accounted for they will need to turn their attentions rapidly to on-pitch improvements.
Despite spending around £60 million on new recruits last summer Liverpool failed to improve on their 2010-11 Premier League position, with Stewart Downing
in particular failing to provide a reasonable return on investment.
While any regular formation that Liverpool use next season will depend on who is eventually appointed as head coach, there are certain areas of the pitch which need a little more depth in—and some which need a rather severe overhaul.
The Reds are well stocked in goal and may see departures in this area rather than additions.
With Pepe Reina
firmly established as number one, either of Brad Jones
or Alexander Doni
may move on after just a couple of appearances each this term. Young Hungarian stopper Peter Gulacsi
will also return after another season spent gaining loan experience.
Of course, any unexpected departures will need to be replaced but the Reds seem sorted in the middle—and on the right, where Glen Johnson
as well as Kelly and Jon Flanagan
offer quality and depth.
At left-back though, Liverpool find the first area they must improve in.
Jack Robinson is still too raw and inexperienced, though promising, while Fabio Aurelio has departed after the expiration of a contract. That leaves Jose Enrique alone.
While he enjoyed a promising start, the Spanish defender's form slumped dramatically after the new year period as he lost his place in the team at one point before finishing the term back in the side.
The ex-Newcastle defender is fast, strong and can send over a good cross, but is also prone to holding onto the ball far too long, delaying the pass to the point of irritation; as well as being debatable in one-on-one situations in defence and a poor decision-maker at times.
He needs competition to bring out the best in him—or perhaps outright replacing.
In midfield, Liverpool have numbers without the required quality in key attributes; namely a never-say-die spirit, an aggressive winner of the ball and above all else goals and creativity.
Experienced campaigners Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez are rumoured to be on their way this summer, while Downing has yet to show what he is truly capable of.
As such, both flanks—whether by bringing in outright wingers or creative wide men, of the sort who are genuinely adapted to playing in the wider areas and channels, not the Jordan Henderson type—need serious investment this summer.
Not just in terms of expenditure, but in correct and appropriate identification of players who can fill those voids.
In the centre of midfield the recuperating Lucas Leiva
needs backup in the holding role.
An aggressive player, not afraid to stick the boot in, but who can also pass and stride forward to cover ground quickly would also be a great asset.
And up front.
A real point of contention, and this perhaps more than any other depends on the chosen formation—if Andy Carroll
continues his end of season form over the course of a whole season then playing with two up front Liverpool need only find a reliable third forward who can score goals, and preferably has pace.
In a 4-3-3 or similar though, Suarez will likely be coming in off one of the flanks in a free creative role—meaning serious competition for Carroll would be required, while an extra body on the flanks would not be.
Left-back, central midfield, both flanks and up front—the Reds have got a lot of work to do over the next three months.
Liverpool are not far away now from naming their new manager and presumably Director of Football. This summer will provide a good insight into how well FSG have chosen, and to what can be expected from Liverpool next season.