You’ve read the players Liverpool need to build around. Now for the opposite…
The only controversial one on this list, but the truth is that fitness is no longer Daniel Sturridge’s biggest barrier to starting games for Liverpool – Jurgen Klopp is. The striker was available for almost three-quarters of Liverpool’s Premier League fixtures but started less than a fifth of them.
The final straw might well have been the EFL Cup semi-final second leg against Southampton, in which Liverpool were eliminated without scoring and Sturridge was rotten throughout. The accusation is that his movement is not good enough for Klopp’s fluid attack; he’s more of a drifter than a zipper. The only way Sturridge could disprove that theory was by scoring so many goals that his manager could not ignore him. That Southampton second leg marked the sixth game of the season in which Liverpool had failed to score; Sturridge had started four of those matches.
It would be incredibly harsh to welcome Danny Ings back into the Liverpool fold after two years out through injury by telling him that he is no longer wanted, but there is precious little room for sentiment. The purchase of Mohamed Salah reinforces the principle that Klopp will require Liverpool’s attack to be fast, fluid and flexible. Roberto Firmino might be nominally selected as a centre forward, but will be expected to dovetail with the attacking midfielders.
That is not to say that Ings cannot rebound from injury and get his career back on track, but what he needs after regaining fitness is regular competitive minutes. That could only come by being loaned out or sold. Last summer, Aston Villa, Sunderland, Bournemouth, Leicester and Sporting showed interest. Expect a similar list this year.
One bid rejected, but others on the way. That is the line Liverpool are taking after telling Napoli that £11m wasn’t enough to sign their unwanted, second-choice left-back. Make it £15m, and they’ll talk.
I feel a bit sorry for Moreno, nowhere near as bad as people make out but understandably mocked after several high-profile defensive errors. He will go to Spain or Italy and make a lovely career for himself, but that career cannot continue at Anfield. Liverpool’s list of most-used left-backs in their last eight seasons is as follows: James Milner, Albert Moreno, Jon Flanagan, Jose Enrique, Jose Enrique, Paul Konchesky, Emiliano Insua, Fabio Aurelio. Sort it out.
Liverpool are still in the weird position of having a first-choice goalkeeper that nobody is quite convinced they really want, but that doesn’t say much for the No. 2. It’s one thing being dropped for a new goalkeeper before regaining your place, as was the case with Simon Mignolet, but another entirely to be backed as No. 1 before being abandoned midway through the season. Karius can speak to Manchester City’s Claudio Bravo and Newcastle United’s Matz Sels for how this one ends.
Karius cannot be happy as a No. 2, and Liverpool should not be happy with keeping him. Mignolet did regain form in the second half of last season, but it is easy to envisage his old problems recurring. This would be the perfect time to upgrade, or at least replace Karius with a goalkeeper who will offer more stiff competition. And I’m not talking about that Stefan Postma video.
From 564 Premier League minutes in 2015/16 to 16 Premier League minutes last season. We should be wary of wanting rid of any fringe players in a squad low on numbers, but it has become perfectly clear that Stewart is not up to the task. He turns 24 in September; he is not a fledgling.
With Liverpool likely to finally sign an actual left-back – thus allowing James Milner to become a midfielder again – Jordan Henderson fully fit for the new season and with eyelashes being fluttered at Naby Keita, Liverpool can afford to lose one central midfielder. Stewart has to be that fall guy. Someone get Huddersfield on the phone.