Never let it be said that this Liverpool team don´t keep us on the edge of our seats. With Coutinho having flown the nest, and record signing Van Dijk looking on from the stands with a tight hamstring, you could be forgiven for being doubtful about how Liverpool could stem Manchester City´s lethal attack. But those doubts were allayed 90 minutes later, after a huge 4-3 on Sunday at Anfield, although the home side very nearly surrendered a 3 goal lead to the champions elect in a game that was as manic as it was electric.
Apart from winning the game by a single goal, Liverpool´s performance can only be described as dominant, as they pressed and harried from the first whistle, forcing City into costly mistakes, a tactic that ultimately won them the game. The question on many peoples lips is; why can´t Liverpool do that on a consistent basis, and what does the team need to realistically challenge for the league against a squad with the depth and quality of Manchester City?
After the fanfare has died down and the dust has settled on an exhilarating game of football, the squad needs to be looked at objectively rather than the heroics of Sunday. The first and maybe most obvious position of concern is goalkeeper. Simon Mignolet, as even the most die-hard fan would agree, is simply not consistent enough to be starting in a team with aspirations of winning the league. Looking back at the dominant sides that have won the league in the last decade and a half, a strong presence in goals has always been essential; Courtois, Cech, Van der sar, and de Gea to name a few.
Karius has hardly covered himself in glory when given the opportunity, and that trend continued against Manchester City, as he was beaten at his near post by Leroy Sané´s equaliser. He has youth on his side, and for that reason may be worth keeping rather than Mignolet, but still no where near ready to be starting in a team hoping for domestic glory.
With that in mind, what options are available to Liverpool should they decide to buy a number 1 this Summer? After being loaned out to Ponferradina and Valladolid, Kepa Arrizabalaga has made the number 1 spot his own at Athletic Bilbao after turning in some extremely mature performances. At only 23 years old, if he continues in this upward trajectory, he should expect to enjoy another 10 years in top flight football, a commodity that is much sought after for a team which is building for the future. What sweetens the deal even more is that Arrizabalaga´s contract currently has just 6 months left to run, so a precontract agreement could even be finalised this month, if Liverpool had the interest.
Andrew Robertson is one that could easily be considered for Man of the Match against City on Sunday, having turned in a lung-busting performance from start to finish while also keeping the in-form Raheem Sterling extremely quiet; two things that the Anfield faithful would have greatly appreciated. Robertson is, however, a rough diamond at the moment, and while there is no doubting he has potential, Liverpool may need to strengthen at left back. José Gayá for Valencia has been playing regular first team football for the last 3 years, and at just 22, his reported 40 million euro buy out clause seems like a steal. Added to that his versatility in being able to play in the left side of a midfield 4, Liverpool could do much worse than signing the player who should realistically be Spain´s first choice left back after Jordi Alba retires.
Plugging the holes in these two positions could be done relatively cheaply if both Athletic Bilbao and Valencia were willing to sell two of their assets, whether Liverpool will address their defensive frailties in the Summer remains to be seen.