Connect in the back of the net

There are already indications of heightened ambitions at Liverpool as Jurgen Klopp heads into his first summer transfer window with the club. Defender Joel Matip has already been secured on a free from Schalke and will move to Merseyside in July, but another Bundesliga name could provide the real statement of intent for a club preparing to access the added revenue streams reaped from their expansion of Anfield’s main stand.

Seven points separate Liverpool from the top four and there is a fear that the newly added 8,500 seats won’t be greeted with Champions League football. To secure it they will have to win the Europa League, a tall order when considered they will have to firstly navigate past Borussia Dortmund over the next fortnight and when their 3-2 defeat at Southampton two weeks ago laid bare just how much a work in progress Klopp’s Liverpool currently are.

Matip will doubtlessly bolster a defence that looks worrisome regardless of whatever combination Klopp fields and it is hoped that Mario Gotze, given his recent fall from grace at Bayern Munich and his past relationship with Liverpool’s German coach during their days in Dortmund, will bring a glittering of star quality to the attack.

Expensive and inherent signings such as the £32.5 million Christian Benteke will be certainly shipped out in the summer while there is also a big decision to be made on the sustainability of Daniel Sturridge with the England striker’s woeful fitness record restricting him to just five league starts this term. Otherwise the brilliant form of Phillipe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino, plus the improvement of Divock Origi, means the forward line is shaping up well.

In terms of the support cast captain Jordan Henderson has emerged as a surprise candidate for the exit, although injury problems and the rehousing of Emre Can to central midfield have given way to an underwhelming campaign for the 25 year old.

James Milner seems ideally suited to Klopp’s style and has reacted well since being move to a more familiar auxiliary role but Lucas Leiva, while always dependable, continues to be hampered by injury troubles and Joe Allen, together with Jordan Ibe, may be offered a route out of Anfield with Watford.

 

Certain place

Adam Lallana can be all but certain of a place in Klopp’s first full season on Merseyside however having established himself as an important cog in the German’s midfield. The 27 year old is versatile, at home playing in-field from the left but able to roam, and is now accustomed to the high-intensity pressing that Klopp espouses having had it previously impressed onto him by Mauricio Pochettino at Southampton.

“A great, great player. And for our game very, very important because he is a real lively, energetic player. He loves the pressing and counter-pressing” is how Klopp described Lallana to BT Sport and after a slow first year at Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers following his £25 million move from the south coast in 2014, he is now beginning to make a return on that investment having registered 3 goals and 4 assists in his last 10 appearances.

The international break hasn’t slowed the momentum either, with Lallana impressing in England’s friendlies with Germany and the Netherlands, adapting to the high-pressing game Roy Hodgson played out in Berlin and playing a crucial part in crafting Jamie Vardy’s goal against the Dutch back at Wembley.

The 27 year old can now be relatively certain of a place in the squad for this summer’s European Championship and having had his involvement limited to sporadic appearances since he was taken to the World Cup in 2014, his late revival can be owing to the influence of his new club boss.

 

Rise in form

The rise in form has coincided with the sustained run in the team given to him since he emerged from the bench to sway the rollercoaster 4-5 win at Norwich in Liverpool’s favour with a goal and an assist. He was overlooked by Klopp for the Capital One Cup final with Manchester City, only coming on as a substitute for the last 18 minutes, but he made his mark against the same opposition three days later, opportunistically finishing off a fine passing move with an unexpected strike before teeing up a goal for Firmino to round things off.

“He really was outstanding” said Klopp on Lallana’s performance from which he scored his fifth goal of the season, hinting that his previous return, five in the whole of last season and only two before the end of January this term, wasn’t satisfactory.

“In that situation he’d usually pass, so for him to shoot, it was a surprise” the manager said, “he doesn’t shoot too often, but if you aren’t satisfied with your scoring record then the first thing you do is shoot more often!”

His primary qualities lie with creating however and stats of 38 chances created this season, placing him behind only Milner, Firmino and Alberto Moreno in the Liverpool squad, will be attractive to Klopp’s value of attacking enterprise, as will his number of successful dribbles, 36, which position him behind Firmino and Ibe.

 

Endearing himself to the club’s supporters

He topped off a wonderful performance in the Europa League win over Manchester United with an effortless assist for Firmino’s goal, helping him to endear himself to Liverpool’s fans who have so far been underwhelmed by the winger’s contribution since moving from Southampton.

That will come as no trouble next season if he continues to respond to the belief Klopp has installed in him, the manager tapping into the wizardry that was on show with that sumptuous through-ball he provided for Benteke to strike at Sunderland. If Gotze arrives to make the runs that supplement such vision, it will be a brutal combination fitting of Liverpool’s vast aspirations.

 

Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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