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Bellingham, Mason Mount: Why Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool Need Midfield Overhaul After Champions League Exit
- Liverpool's timid exit from the Champions League should shake up the club's board transfer priorities
- Whichever way they look at it, the Reds need to sign a midfielder in this upcoming transfer window
- At least three midfielders could leave Merseyside with their contracts up at the end of the season
Virgil Van Dijk did not mince his words to the Liverpool board once they were kicked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid on March 15.
His message was clear - the Reds need to get quality signings if they are to compete with the big boys in Europe.
Already trailing 5-2 from the first leg, Liverpool needed a huge miracle to put three-plus goals past Carlo Ancelotti's team to progress.
But as Van Dijk aptly captured, as reported by the Athletic, they failed to generate anything and once again, Los Blancos became their waterloo.
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The Dutch star's rallying call for signings, plus Jamie Carragher's scathing comments on Trent Alexander-Arnold's abilities, lay bare the problems at Anfield.
Despite being a top club, the FSG ownership has never really gone out of their way to splash top dollar to land quality players.
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With Roberto Firmino's confirmed exit plus the expiry of contracts of James Milner, Naby Keita, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, you get the feeling this summer will be a busy one in Merseyside.
Sports Brief previously raised questions on how Liverpool's talent acquisition team saw Cody Gakpo as the answer to their problems in January despite the glaring issues in their midfield.
Don't get me wrong, Gakpo is a class player with lots of room to improve but have you seen Liverpool's midfield?
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Fabinho's major slump in form, plus Thiago Alcantara's fitness issues, have exposed the Reds this season. There has been a huge disconnect between the potent fullbacks and their forwards.
To put it into perspective, teenagers Harvey Elliot and Stefan Bajčetić have been the most promising midfielders for Klopp this season. This explains why Klopp desperately needed the club to sign Aurélien Tchouaméni.
How Liverpool fared against Real
Against Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, Klopp opted to go with a double pivot of Milner and Fabinho. Look, whatever midfield the German coach paraded in Spain was bound to fail against Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, and whoever Ancelotti decided to throw in - in this case, Eduardo Camavinga.
But at least the double pivot helped him add a second striker in their pursuit to score goals. Both tactics failed, but the midfield two offered some semblance of balance for large periods of the game.
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This is why Liverpool urgently need a midfield overhaul. No disrespect, but Henderson, Keita, and Milner have all outlived their importance at Anfield.
Klopp has never recovered from the loss of the versatile Georginio Wijnaldum - a dynamic box-to-box midfielder who fits the coach's gegenpressing tactic.
Who can Liverpool buy?
Jude Bellingham is the outright answer to Klopp's issues. His short career has already shown he has what it takes to thrive at a different level. His energy, creativity and desire to compete is something Liverpool could use in the middle of the pitch.
Mason Mount is another viable option, with his Chelsea future uncertain. Mount is the type of player you want on your side to close down opponents when out of possession.
Both England internationals would transform Liverpool's fortunes. The lack of creativity from the current midfield setup has often been overshadowed by Mohamed Salah's blistering performances and TAA's incisive crosses. You can't depend on that every season, as Klopp has learned.
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Outside candidates include Nicolo Barella but good luck convincing Inter Milan to let him go, especially with FSG's budget. Matheus Nunes could also be a decent option.
Klopp deserves credit for making the Liverpool squad tick with such a 'dry' midfield over the years. Liverpool's midfield rarely creates chances or score goals. They work for the fullbacks and the forwards.
But life has a way of catching up to you.
Is Klopp the problem?
Sports Brief earlier reported on Liverpool losing to Real Madrid on March 15 to hit a new low, with the defeat confirming the Reds would endure a trophy-less season.
This was their biggest-ever aggregate defeat in the Champions League and put into sharp perspective the dramatic collapse of a team which has won the competition.
In his post-match interview, Klopp admitted his side was struggling as they 'could not put up a special performance' - but is the German the one who needs to step away?