While there has been an undeniable improvement since Jürgen Klopp took the reigns at Anfield a few months ago, you’d struggle to find a single LFC fan who would disagree that a lot of work needs to be done on the defence.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see three or four new players in our back line next season, but who would be out the door and who might keep their place next term?
The League Cup final seems to be all the proof Klopp needed that Simon Mignolet is not suitable between the sticks for the Reds (something the fans figured out long ago) and rumours have it that finding another keeper will be a priority in the summer.
However, it seems that any new addition will only serve as competition for the Belgian, rather than a direct replacement. This way, it at least gives Mignolet a chance to prove that he deserves to keep his place in the team rather than starting by default (unless the new guy ends up actually being worse).
Bogdan seems to have been bombed out of the team since Watford with Danny Ward jumping ahead of him in the pecking order. The former will likely be sold in the summer but once the new keeper arrives, Ward will likely return to being our third choice.
The club has already announced that Joel Matip of Schalke will be joining the club for free in the summer, a player that a lot of other big clubs were hoping to snap up once his contract ran out (that’s the benefit of a having widely respected foreign manager – a perk we haven’t been able to enjoy since the days of Rafa Benitez). If he’s as good as everyone says, that should help solidify our defence considerably next campaign. Undoubtedly he will be first choice for the foreseeable future if he starts well.
Of our existing centre-backs, it would seem that Kolo Toure will not have his contract renewed. A shame, as we could do with the experience that he offers (plus he’s been great in the last month when called upon). It wouldn’t surprise me if Martin Skrtel is sold either. The Slovakian centre-half has been mostly poor this season and the majority of fans consider it a small miracle that he’s managed to remain such a key fixture of our defence for so long (and a damning indictment of its quality).
In a development absolutely no one expected, Lovren looks like an early contender for first or second choice centre-back next year. No one really believed Klopp when he came in and claimed Lovren wasn’t as bad as people thought, but now he looks unrecognisable from the player he was under Brendan Rodgers. In 2016 he’s become one of our best players; something no one ever thought possible 12 months ago.
Sakho should definitely stay at the club, though if his form doesn’t improve he could slide to third choice behind Matip and Lovren. If he can have a long run without picking up any injuries, then he shouldn’t have a problem. Sikh has always looked weakest when returning from injury, but currently it seems to be taking him a long time to rediscover his old form.
Rumours have been swirling recently that Klopp will be looking for a new left-back once the season ends, as while Moreno has shown he can be effective going forward and even capable defensively sometimes, he has been known to fire off erratic crosses and shots that go high into the stands. However, he is certainly better than our other Spanish left-back (Jose Enrique will be released once his contract runs out) so I’d expect him to stick around as a back up at least.
Rather than a sign a new left-back, Klopp might be better off using alternatives already at his disposal. With Jon Flanagan back from an 18 month-long injury, he now provides a valid option should Klopp decide to bench Moreno (should the young Scouser remain injury-free).
Clyne will likely remain our first choice right-back next season, but he has to improve going forward if he wants to claim that role long term. Currently, the only option behind him is Flanagan but Andre Wisdom will be returning from his loan at West Brom once the season’s over.
Rodgers didn’t seem to think Wisdom was ready to play a role in the Liverpool squad, but Klopp may decide to keep him around once he returns, having made everyone well aware of his opinions on LFC’s current loan system. At any rate, Wisdom is now in his early twenties and may only have one more season to prove his worth to Klopp before having to move on. It will be interesting to see what happens when he returns.
Ultimately, though it seems we’ll see a new centre-back (Matip), left-back and goalkeeper arrive in the summer, I’d imagine a lot of our current back four will be sticking around next year. As for whether they’ll still first choice though, well that’s anyone’s guess.