Liverpool owners FSG have Jurgen Klopp transfer theory that puts pressure on five players

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Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group are reportedly adamant that Jurgen Klopp’s first-team squad does not need major investment this summer and only needs tweaks rather than a full rebuild – but such a belief puts the pressure on several players next season.

The Reds are in the midst of a crisis with their side having been depleted by injuries this term, especially defensively.

All of Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and midfield centre-back stand-ins Fabinho and Jordan Henderson have spent long spells out injured this season.

Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies were signed in January to strengthen the Reds’ options, though the former Preston defender has yet to play a single minute since joining.

Liverpool have the option to sign Kabak from Schalke permanently for £18million but even if they do not, are expected to sign a new central defender in the summer.

The Merseyside club are also likely to pursue a central midfielder to replace Gini Wijnaldum when his contract expires, unless a new deal can be agreed before then.

And another forward may also be on the agenda given Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino’s struggles this term, and the success of summer signing Diogo Jota pre-injury.

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But FSG believe that Liverpool do not need a complete overhaul, say Telegraph Sport, with a belief within the club’s hierarchy that they still have a world-class squad capable of challenging for the biggest prizes in the game.

Liverpool are optimistic that while they are enduring significant short-term struggle, once they get key players fit again and play in a season less condensed and chaotic than this one, they will be back to their best.

They will hope to be back among the teams challenging for the Premier League title again next term as they look set to finish well adrift of champions elect Manchester City this time around.

That expectation, though, heaps an awful lot of pressure on five players – firstly centre-back Van Dijk.

The Dutchman may not be too fazed by that pressure, having led the Liverpool back-line with aplomb before his anterior cruciate ligament injury in October.

Arguably the best centre-back in the world, any team would miss a player of Van Dijk’s quality and imposing presence and while Liverpool coped without him for the first few months, it is clear his on-pitch leadership is missed amid their current struggles, just as much as his actual abilities are.

But there will be plenty of expectation upon him to immediately return to his best level if Liverpool are to challenge for the league title in 2021-22.

There will be similar anticipation with centre-back partner Joe Gomez, who broke down with a knee injury while on international duty less than a month after Van Dijk did.

Liverpool will hope the duo have not lost any of the pace that allowed them to play with a high-line so effectively last season.

Gomez is sure to be Van Dijk’s go-to partner next term unless Liverpool opt not to sign Kabak and instead go for another top-level target such as RB Leipzig’s Ibrahima Konate.

Being out of the Champions League and instead in the Europa League or the Europa Conference League, as they may well be unless they win a seventh European Cup this term, may prevent that though.

Van Dijk and Gomez will need to get back into rhythm and quickly for Liverpool to rediscover their defensive steel.

Another player who will have significant pressure on his shoulders is Fabinho, who has spent much of the campaign at centre-back but has been dogged by muscle problems more recently in 2021.

He has missed seven Premier League and Champions League matches with injuries having established himself as a brilliant deputy centre-half in the absences of Van Dijk and Gomez at the back-end of the previous calendar year.

But while the Brazilian played well when stepping into defence his presence is sorely missed in midfield, where he offers greater protection than any of his team-mates can offer as a defensive shield in front of the back four.

Liverpool need their No 6 to be at his peak in his favoured holding role next season to offer greater structure to Klopp’s midfield, which will also in turn aid the back four and the attack.

Captain Jordan Henderson will also be required to produce upon his return, with the void left behind in midfield when he is not there absolutely chasmic.

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Liverpool desperately lack his tempo-setting energy and passing and it’s no surprise that when he has started in midfield, they have only lost once in the league across the past two seasons.

That sole defeat came in the 4-0 reverse at Manchester City in the first game after Liverpool were crowned league champions in July, and every loss this season came with the 30-year-old either out of the team altogether or playing at centre-back.

Against Aston Villa in the infamous 7-2 game at Villa Park the skipper was an unused substitute while he played at centre-half against Southampton, Brighton, Manchester City, Leicester and Everton. 

With him and Fabinho in the centre of the park, and Van Dijk and Gomez at the back, Liverpool’s core is significantly stronger – provided they all play to their best ability that is.

The fifth and final player Liverpool’s owners are counting upon to produce the goods to prevent them needing a huge overhaul is Jota.

Signed from Wolves last summer, the Portuguese winger was a revelation for the Reds before injury, scoring nine goals in just 17 games while playing across the left wing, right wing and through the middle.

Signed to offer help to the front three, Jota sustained a knee injury in December that forced him to miss 14 league games and the Champions League win over RB Leipzig, as well as the club’s FA Cup campaign.

The 24-year-old’s absence meant that there was no high-quality alternative to Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino and all of the trio – although Salah has 17 league goals – have suffered.

Liverpool need Jota to regain his rhythm in the final weeks of the current campaign and avoid injury at the Euros over the summer so that he can start next season strongly, giving Klopp a vital fourth option in attack. He is probably likely to be a starter over Mane and Firmino at this rate.

Firmino and Mane have suffered campaigns well below-par by their standards and Klopp has needed much more than he has got from the duo.

More generally for Liverpool, having an in-form Jota would certainly have prevented some of their recent defeats, and he is capable of offering 15 to 20 goals in a full season.

If Van Dijk, Gomez, Henderson, Fabinho and Jota can all stay fit for much of the 2021-22 season and produce their best form, Liverpool can have a much better campaign and perhaps one that ends with silverware.

But if FSG are pinning their hopes solely on the current squad and aren’t at least planning to make two, three or four additions of players capable of starting for the club to freshen things up then they are playing a very dangerous game that could set Liverpool back even further in their chase for title No 20. 

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