Given England’s qualification for next summer’s European Championship had already been confirmed, it’s little surprise that column inches during this international break have been overrun with Klopp-mania. It’s even managed to overshadow the appointment of Big Sam at Sunderland.
Rather than discuss what Klopp might bring to the Anfield club this season – that’s covered rather a lot elsewhere – WhoScored.com take a look at who he might add from German football when the transfer window opens.
Klopp will want to utilise young talent already at the club – forced to work with what he’s got until January regardless – but there’s little doubt that the German will want to add his own influence. He has, after all, been left with a squad lacking any great identity or clear direction since the sale of its greatest player.
With Jordan Henderson out of the team through injury – that’s Jordan Henderson, not Luis Suarez – the team has looked lost this season, perhaps summing up their regression since an overachieving 2013/14 campaign. It’s a squad that needs strengthening in order to match Klopp’s ambitions, and it’s inevitable that the former Dortmund boss is already being tipped to dip into the Bundesliga market.
The first port of call for the new boss may well be to address the issue of Liverpool’s number 1. They are without one in the literal sense – Mignolet wears 22 – and the much-maligned goalkeeping incumbent will need to prove his worth between now and the turn of the year. The Belgian ‘keeper has seen his WhoScored rating drop from a modest 6.73 last season to just 6.51 this, and with only three players boasting a worse save success rate in the Premier League this season (61.5%), he ranks 15th of the 19 shot-stoppers to have played at least five times.
Germany’s top flight, meanwhile, is stocked with an abundance of talented goalkeepers, with up-and-comers in the form of Bernd Leno and Loris Karius likely to be attracting interest. A more cos- effective option, perhaps, would be Schalke’s Ralf Fahrmann – one of the club’s strongest players in a difficult campaign last time out. The 27-year old has improved further this and his rating (7.23) is enough to earn in a place in WhoScored’s Bundesliga team of the season so far, managing the best save success rate (83.3%), having already kept four clean sheets in eight matches.
Defensive reinforcements will also be high on the agenda at the club, with centre-back and left-back proving to be problem positions. Dejan Lovren’s rating of 6.83 this season is unsurprisingly the lowest of the centre-backs at the club after a torrid time on Merseyside, with only Gareth Barry having committed more errors that have led to an opposition shot since the start of last season than the Croatian (7).
Again the Bundesliga offers a number of potential targets in that position, with the experience of Benedikt Howedes and potential of Jannik Vestergaard representing interesting propositions. One player that has excelled somewhat unnoticed in recent seasons is 24-year-old Stefan Bell, who joined Mainz’s youth set-up during Klopp’s final season at the club. Excellent in the air (winning five aerial duels per game) and equally competent at reading the game on the deck with a mightily impressive 4.3 interceptions per game, Bell has maintained his superb form from the previous campaign to earn a rating of 7.53 from WhoScored.com.
The realistic options at left-back in the Bundesliga are perhaps a little more sparse, with Ricardo Rodriguez a notable but costly option. Instead, the breakthrough player in that position since the start of last season has been Jonas Hector, who has earned a place in the German national team, with a move away from Koln surely in the pipeline.
With Alberto Moreno the only natural left-back in the running, questions still remain as to his defensive capabilities. Hector, meanwhile, has taken to the Bundesliga with ease, earning a WhoScored rating of 7.40 in his first campaign in Germany’s top flight, rising to an excellent 7.62 so far this time around. An impressive all-round full-back, the 25-year-old has averaged 2.9 interceptions, 1.8 dribbles and two key passes per game this season, heralding two assists.
Elsewhere, the aforementioned absence of captain Henderson has exposed a lack of any great quality in midfield, with Milner offering the industry expected but perhaps disappointing in possession. Klopp will want to add steel to the ranks to compete with Lucas Leiva but also covet someone capable of playing a part in the counter-attacking style he desires.
Lars Bender – twin brother of Sven, who played under Klopp at Dortmund – would certainly fit that brief given Leverkusen’s similar approach to die Schwarzgelben. The 26-year-old is currently the third-highest rated player in the Bundesliga this season – behind Lewandowski and Douglas Costa – with a score of 7.86. An average of 4.9 tackles per game is the most in the Bundesliga by a distance, with a further 3.7 interceptions, 1.3 shots and 1.1 key passes per game highlighting his ability to contribute at both ends of the pitch.
In terms of attacking options, Klopp has plenty at his disposal but may well be keen to add quality on the flanks given his favouring of a 4-2-3-1 formation. It’s a system that could shunt the likes of Daniel Sturridge and Roberto Firmino into unfavoured wider roles, so the new manager may prefer to add more natural width to the current squad.
One player already linked with the Reds is Schalke teenager Leroy Sané, who is one of the brightest talents emerging from the Bundesliga. The 19-year-old has secured a rating of 7.28 from WhoScored this season, netting three goals despite the fact that five of his eight league appearances have come from the substitutes bench.
Announcing himself to the watching world with a goal on his Champions League debut against Real Madrid last season, Sané has gone from strength to strength and promises to be the latest of a long line of exceptional academy graduates from the Gelsenkirchen outfit. Only Alexander Baumjohann has completed a dribble more often in Germany this season (every 15.4 minutes), while he has beaten a man more times than any other player in this season’s Europa League (11) and registered assists in both league and European action.
Of course, Klopp will be keen to assess his current squad before making any immediate decisions as to potential targets but it’s a squad that he is likely to find lacking in quality in a number of departments, particularly at the back. While his interest is certain to stretch beyond the Bundesliga when it comes to recruitment, his own knowledge of the league will surely be put to use as the manager – who already appears to have cult status at the club before a ball has been kicked under his tutelage – aims to put his stamp on a team in desperate need of direction.