Liverpool Keep or Dump: What should the Reds do about their title-chasing squad?

Football

Liverpool’s situation this offseason presented a different set of challenges. They are champions of Europe and finished second in the Premier League with the third-highest points total in history. But even for clubs in their position, every move comes at a cost. On the one hand, they want to reward the players who did so well for them and keep them happy. On the other, they want to avoid complacency. On the one hand, there are areas of the pitch that can and should be upgraded. On the other, they want to tread carefully, so as not to disrupt a team for whom chemistry, more so than for others, is critical.

The assumption is that they can budget for a net spend of up to £100 million, though they don’t need to blow it all this summer, and despite an underwhelming preseason run of results, it’s unlikely that they will.

That said, Mark Ogden and Gabriele Marcotti were tasked with figuring it out.

Jump to: Goalkeepers | Defenders | Midfielders | Forwards | Overall assessment

GOALKEEPERS

Alisson (26 years old, contract expires in 2024)

VERDICT: Keep

Simon Mignolet (31, 2021)

OGDEN: “It’s good to have reliable cover, but I think he’ll want to go, and you’re not going to extend him. So from his perspective, I’m not sure he’ll want to be a number two.”

MARCOTTI: “He’s on starter wages, so it’s not wise to give him a new deal. You can get reasonable value for him, and I think he feels he needs to play, as he’s far and away the first option to be Thibaut Courtois‘ back up with Belgium. But if he never gets on the pitch, that may change.”

VERDICT: Sell (Estimated value: £10-15 million)

Caoiminh Kelleher (20, 2023)

VERDICT: Keep

Loris Karius (25, 2023)

OGDEN: “He’s at Besiktas, and it’s a two-year loan, so he has another season, but there was some uncertainty over whether the loan may be cancelled. If somebody will buy him, then maybe you sell with a good sell-on clause. But he can’t come back to Anfield just yet.”

MARCOTTI: “He had a full season as a regular on a good team like Besiktas. That can only help him long-term. Leave him on loan there or, if not, loan him elsewhere.”

VERDICT: Loan him out again, sell if you can (Estimated value: £10 million with sell-on clause)


DEFENDERS

Virgil Van Dijk (27 years old, contract expires in 2023)

OGDEN: “He’s their best player, and he helped deliver the Champions League. It’s important, I think, that he get the wage he wants to avoid him being tempted by a move elsewhere.”

MARCOTTI: “I agree. He’s on his original deal. You wouldn’t extend him because you risk losing him, but rather because of the message it sends. And it’s the right thing to do.”

VERDICT: Keep and extend

Liverpool won the Champions League in 2019, but can this group go on to bigger and better this coming season?

Joe Gomez (22, 2024)

VERDICT: Keep

Joel Matip (27, 2020)

OGDEN: “You extend him as a reward and to protect the asset.”

MARCOTTI: “If you were sure Gomez was going to be fit and you were bringing in another central defender, maybe you’d be ruthless. But you can’t afford to take risks, so I’d give him an extension.”

VERDICT: Keep and extend

Dejan Lovren (29, 2021)

OGDEN: “Cash in on him now. You hope to upgrade the position, and he’s the odd man out.”

MARCOTTI: “He has some value if you sell him now, he has experience, and he’s a World Cup finalist. But there’s no point to keep him hanging around. Sell.”

VERDICT: Sell (Estimated value: £10-£15 million)

Andrew Robertson (25, 2024)

VERDICT: Keep

Trent Alexander-Arnold (20, 2024)

VERDICT: Keep

Nathaniel Clyne (28, 2020)

MARCOTTI: “You’re covered at right-back with Alexander-Arnold and Gomez, so best to cash in. With a year left, maybe you’d have gotten £10-15 million, but his recent torn ACL injury means Liverpool may be stuck.”

OGDEN: “I agree, but in the stupid world of the Premier League, maybe you’ll get a Bournemouth or a West Ham who’d still buy a former England international when he’s fit again. Time will tell.”

VERDICT: Can’t sell now, so rehab him and revisit


MIDFIELDERS

Fabinho (25 years old, contract expires in 2023)

VERDICT: Keep

Naby Keita (24, 2023)

VERDICT: Keep

Georginio Wijnaldum (28, 2021)

OGDEN: “He had a great season, and he’s very versatile, but do you extend with two years to go? Maybe you offer him another year and a pay rise?”

MARCOTTI: “If you’re ruthless, you should sell. Consider his age and contract situation and fact that his value won’t get any higher. But I guess emotion plays a part, so offer him a one-year extension and a significant bump in wages. I don’t think you can give him more than that.”

VERDICT: Keep and extend

Jordan Henderson (29, 2023)

VERDICT: Keep

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (25, 2022)

VERDICT: Keep

James Milner (33, 2020)

VERDICT: Keep

Adam Lallana (31, 2020)

VERDICT: Keep, decide later

OGDEN: “He has to prove his fitness before you offer to extend. Make a decision in January, and see where he fits in. Klopp likes him, but if he doesn’t get on the pitch, maybe he has value in the transfer market.”

MARCOTTI: “I’d consider selling now, but because he hasn’t played much at all, you won’t get much for him. So maybe best to decide in January. He should get more minutes in the first half of the season.”

Ovie Ejaria (21, 2022)

VERDICT: Loan

Curtis Jones (18, 2022)

VERDICT: Loan

Marko Grujic (23, 2023)

OGDEN: “Sell. He’s been around long enough and had no impact. You can get £10 million for him, which is twice what they paid for him.”

MARCOTTI: “He was on loan at Hertha Berlin and is due to be there again next season. It’s odd because he’s been at Anfield since 2016, never started a league game, and yet they gave him a five-year extension last summer. I guess you loan and hope his value rises and sell next year.”

VERDICT: Mixed


FORWARDS

Sheyi Ojo (21 years old, contract expires in 2022)

VERDICT: Already loaned to Rangers

Sadio Mane (27, 2023)

VERDICT: Keep

Ben Woodburn (19, 2022)

VERDICT: Went on loan to Oxford United

Harry Wilson (22, 2023)

OGDEN: “You loan him again, but he might want to move on so he can play regularly, in which case you’d have to listen to offers. Had a good season last year at Derby.”

MARCOTTI: “I’d assess this closer to the end of the transfer window, but I’d be tempted to keep him and give him a shot, especially with Liverpool’s front three all coming back from summer tournaments. Otherwise, yes: You loan, but he might ask to be sold if he thinks there’s no pathway to the first team at Anfield.”

VERDICT: Mixed

Roberto Firmino (27, 2023)

VERDICT: Keep

Xherdan Shaqiri (27, 2023)

VERDICT: Keep

Divock Origi (24, 2020)

VERDICT: Extend and keep (Origi signed new long-term deal)

Ryan Kent (22, 2022)

OGDEN: “He’s had five different loan spells, but this is the first year where he has really had an impact. But if he’s not going to play at Liverpool, best to take the money.”

MARCOTTI: “He had a good season at Rangers last year, and there are reports they want to buy him outright. If you don’t sell, you need to extend him. Then again, he doesn’t seem to have a future at Anfield, so best to sell, I think.”

VERDICT: Extend and loan, sell if offer high enough (north of £10 million)

Rhian Brewster (19, 2023)

OGDEN: “They have high hopes for him, so keep and play him. He can only benefit from being around the first team.”

MARCOTTI: “I guess the key is getting him minutes, and ordinarily I’d want him to go on loan. But depending what happens with the rest of the forwards, it makes sense to keep him around at least for the first half of the season. If he’s not playing, then loan him in January.”

VERDICT: Keep

Mohamed Salah (27, 2023)

VERDICT: Keep


OVERALL ASSESSMENT

Between the sales Liverpool have already made and the ones we’re projecting, they could raise as much as £60-100 million. Plus, we’ve budgeted a net spend of £100 million, which is far from unreasonable, given the revenue from winning the Champions League and finishing second in the Premier League last season. That’s a veritable war chest.

Off the bat, they’ll need a left-back to provide an alternative to Andy Robertson, but we’re talking backup quality here. If Mignolet goes, they’ll need a reserve keeper. Neither is going to be particularly expensive, though, and it will be up to them whether they opt for veterans who are happy to be squad players or pricier youngsters who might be willing to serve an apprenticeship. (Given that Alisson is 26 and Robertson 25, it could be a very long apprenticeship.)

With Sturridge gone, a center-forward might come in handy. The front three played a lot of football last year, and each was involved in a summer tournament. Brewster might not be ready to be the main backup, and Origi, despite his occasional heroics last year, is a step down. You don’t want to block Brewster’s pathway, but equally, you need to be prepared.

If Lovren goes, you’ll want another central defender. The question is whether to spend big on a top-shelf guy or a squad player. We’d lean toward the former, especially if it’s a younger player. They could also use some creativity in midfield to unlock defences that park the bus. Keita was supposed to provide it, and though he showed glimpses, he’s obviously not yet at the level Liverpool hoped he would be when they signed him.

In all three roles — center-back, creative midfield, center forward — it’s a case of not being forced into a signing but having the funds if the opportunity arises. That’s a great position to be in.

There is one other factor to think about that will need to be addressed over the next few transfer windows. Salah, Mane and Firmino are all 27, and all go out of contract in 2023. Van Dijk, Shaqiri and Matip are also all 27, and the former two also go out of contract in 2023. You don’t want a team where the best players all get old at once, which means there might be some tough decisions up ahead.

We’re not quite there yet, but at some point, they’ll need to start thinking about succession and how they want to deal with it.

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