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January transfer window: which players should Liverpool sign?

Jürgen Klopp's Reds have shown signs of the scintillating form that returned the Premier League title to Anfield, but signings may be needed.

Update:
January transfer window: which players should Liverpool sign?

It’s been a positive start to the 2021/22 Premier League season for Jürgen Klopp’s team as they look to be crowned champions of England for a record-equalling 20th time. In the early months of the campaign, most commentators have the title race down to three viable candidates - Manchester City and Chelsea the other two - but with so many points still up for grabs, and with decades of experience watching The Beautiful Game, we're fully aware that much can still happen.

Liverpool FC: Klopp's January transfer window

The January transfer window is often a relatively quiet affair, compared with the summer equivalent where clubs aim to make a real impact on their playing squad, although there have been exceptions. Fans of The Reds will, for example, remember well the Súarez-Torres-Carroll mid-season switch.

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This time around, however, much is expected with several established clubs desperate to improve under new managers while there is also the curious case of Newcastle United, now deemed the richest club in the world, but in serious risk of relegation from the English top flight. Then there are the influences of the African Cup of Nations, where key players will be lost, and the Qatar World Cup, prior to which fringe stars are keen to get more minutes under their belt.

Injuries impact Reds last season

Before looking ahead, it’s worth remembering that The Reds were cruising at the top of the table at Christmas 2020, with almost every commentator in television, radio or print journalism, not to mention the reliable bookmakers, nailing them on to retain the title they had lifted after 30 years of waiting. Then the wheels came off, and there is potentially an important lesson in that for this campaign.

The most obvious issue then lay at the back. Injuries to Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, in particular, meant replacements were needed. Some temporary, and hopeful, I would argue, signings in the centre were made but Klopp instead favoured the removal of two key cogs in his midfield wheel - Jordan Henderson and Fabinho - to fill in. They impressed in a sense, but were so missed from the heart of the team that things fell apart. A relative gamble on youth a few weeks later, returning the natural beat to the side, steadied the collective nerve, and a strong finish led the Reds to an unlikely third-placed finish.

Liverpool's on-field leader | Jordan Henderson
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Liverpool's on-field leader | Jordan HendersonNaomi BakerGetty Images

The summer arrived and no sooner was the option available than promising young Ibrahima Konaté was brought in. With the return to fitness of the regulars, plus a new-found, and somewhat fortunate, faith in fringe defenders, the backline crisis looked to have been resolved coming into the new season. But a new area of concern would soon need consideration.

Focus areas for the current Anfield side

As I explained above, it’s been a more than decent start for the Merseyside club, scoring goals for fun and finding a sometimes untouchable balance between controlled possession, in sync press, and some scintillating attacking exchanges. They sit on the shoulders of Guardiola’s equally impressive Sky Blues as we near the opening of the transfer window, and there are two obvious areas of the team that may be targeted.

Ahead of highlighting where the focus should be, it’s worth pointing out another masterstroke from Klopp and the teams responsible for identifying talent and then coaching them to the standard required. A perfect example of this was Andy Robertson. He arrived at Anfield from Hull to little fanfare. We were then made to wait as he worked on the training field and inside Melwood. He was then unleashed and hit the ground running, and he kept on running, all the way to being recognised as one of the very best left-backs in world football.

Bring it | Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk gets in between Andy Robertson and Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo.
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Bring it | Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk gets in between Andy Robertson and Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo.PHIL NOBLEREUTERS

Great news, but a problem Liverpool then had was the drop-off in quality in that position when 'Robbo' was out. The ever reliable James Milner did admirably when called upon, but a specialist was needed. And in Kostas Tsimikas - who followed the low-key Robertson model - the solution was found.

Back to the current focus, and where central defenders were last season’s dilemma, it’s been the middle of the park where the injuries have blown up this time around.

Some fans had pointed to a relative lack of depth in midfield compared to the other top sides, but when young Harvey Elliott was thrown in at the start of the season and shone, there were reasons to believe that Klopp felt comfortable with his engine room resources. Unfortunately for Elliott, injury ended his campaign almost before it had begun. Curtis Jones had stepped up to the top level last season but he too has been unavailable. And as you can see from the table below (h/t sofascore), several others have been forced out, and this is before the hectic festive schedule.

Liverpool's midfield injuries this season
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Liverpool's midfield injuries this season

Klopp has shown that when required he can flex his squad and has used the likes of Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino in a slightly deeper role. But with doubts over how the squad may look come January, and the African Cup of Nations due to remove Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and baby Keïta for at least a couple of Premier League fixtures, reinforcements may be brought in, ideally with an eye on them being key to future versions of the XI. So, who could fit the bill?

Key January target potentials

Raphinha has been shining for Leeds United and has long been linked with a switch to Anfield. The Brazilian would, rather like Jota, bring the elements that are needed to allow a substitution without impacting on the style, his skill and vision complementing those around him.

Another name that has been linked is Villarreal’s Arnaut Danjuma. The 24-year-old has starred for the Yellow Submarine in both LaLiga and the UCL group stage and has many of the attributes to fit right in to Klopp’s structure, already having played in England aiding his transition. That said, the transfer was available in the summer and didn’t materialise, so don’t expect it now. Other names mentioned include the likes of Jérémy Doku, ripping it up for Rennes in Ligue 1, Porto's winger Luis Diaz, and Atlético Madrid’s talented Joao Félix, who incredibly isn’t working out under Diego Simeone. His future is uncertain but January is too soon.

An eye on Arnaut Danjuma
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An eye on Arnaut Danjuma

Recent reports have said that Salah is putting pressure on the club to get Erling Haaland in as soon as possible, but competition is rife for the Dortmund goal machine, while RB Salazburg's Karim Adeyemi has made it clear that his plans lie elsewhere.

Oh, and for those Reds dreaming of Kylian Mbappé running down the wing for them in the second half of the season, that was only ever faintly possible if PSG didn’t make it to Champions League round of 16. They did, and the French superstar will be aiming to take them above teams like Liverpool to the continental title. Everything points to him then heading to Madrid in the summer but no doubt further Anfield rumours will surface.

Liverpool’s January 2022 transfer activity

Truthfully, if you’re anticipating big signings in this winter transfer window then quickly get over it. Klopp himself has admitted that no deals are being worked on, and he usually tells it as it is. And despite injury problems and potential covid implications, it’s impossible to predict where the critical need may be. Of course, if a suitable squad player can be brought in - someone dependable like Aaron Ramsey - then he may be tempted.

Fans and pundits (especially those who do little research before appearing on TV or radio) are quick to point to poor decisions with the advantage of hindsight. The frontline of Salah, Mané, Firmino and Jota have all remained relatively fit thus far so few questions have been asked about further back-up. Much has been made about the two forwards disappearing for AFCON - some of those aforementioned pundits suggesting it’ll see them miss up to six EPL games - but the truth is the likelihood is that only Crystal Palace and Brentford would escape their threat.

Liverpool should be able to navigate those games without two of their key men and, assuming no excessive injuries to one area of the team, they look in good shape to compete for all four competitions they are in. What happens in those will determine how busy the summer of 2022 will be.

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