Even with Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur investing in their squads, Liverpool and Manchester City still appear to be a class apart heading into next season.
With the arrivals of Kalvin Phillips and Erling Haaland, even Reds fans will admit that it is hard to see City not retaining the Premier League in the upcoming campaign – though it is somewhat of a foregone conclusion that it will go to the wire. Liverpool have acquired some top talent themselves this summer though.
Darwin Nunez and Calvin Ramsey have both arrived at Anfield, with the club’s most significant piece of business arguably being striking a deal with Mohamed Salah for him to stay at the club beyond 2023.
Of course, Nunez was signed with the intention of preventing the goalscoring burden from falling with Salah entirely. But the matter does bring to light that City have an abundance of what Liverpool don’t – goalscoring midfielders.
Last season, the Reds’ midfield had a combined 14 goals between them. By comparison, City’s four out-and-out midfielders of Kevin de Bruyne, Rodri, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva scored 38 between them – and that figure would only increase if versatile playmakers Phil Foden (nine) and Jack Grealish (three) were included.
City didn’t have a regular striker last season which must be considered, but the absence of a no.9 only highlights that they have goalscorers all over the pitch – compared to Klopp’s side, which relies heavily on their attackers, rightfully, to put the ball in the back of the net. And perhaps, given the two sides are so closely matched, that may be the difference next season.
However, the club did have to wave goodbye to Sadio Mane, which means that they will lack his consistent clinical finishing in the final third.
De Bruyne scored 15 and assisted eight last season from central midfield, a tally that would catch the eye if they came from a forward.
Thus, the Reds may need to find themselves a like-for-like playmaker in the centre of the park in what remains of the summer transfer window that is able to chip in when it matters most.
The need for one is fairly emphasised considering that they will be without Mane, who scored 16 last season and had a knack for scoring important goals.
Liverpool’s interest in Jude Bellingham of Borussia Dortmund certainly indicates that Klopp is looking to improve his options in midfield in the long term. And with James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Thiago Alcantara in their 30s, it is the next logical step for the team’s progression.
Bellingham scored three Bundesliga goals last season, meaning it would be silly to assume that he could be ‘Liverpool’s KDB’ if he does make a big money move to the Premier League in 2023.
The Reds do have young attacking-minded midfielders in their ranks, with Fabio Carvalho and Harvey Elliott both expected to be on the fringes of Klopp’s squad next season. But both lack the experience to be considered the final piece of the puzzle at Liverpool just yet.
The Reds have such strength in depth in the final third that the Merseyside outfit will be hoping that the departure of Mane isn’t hard felt, largely relying on Nunez, and that their lack of an extra goalscorer in a different department doesn’t come back to haunt them. But when just a solitary point separated the sides last season, it may prove the difference once again.