Aldo: Klopp needs to land targets now to push Liverpool to next level
SO what would constitute success for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool this season?
With Champions League football making a welcome return to the Anfield diary, I would love to see Klopp leading his team into the final of that competition in Kiev next May.
It would also be a dream to see the long wait for another league title success ending, with the 27 years since the club last lifted the trophy feeling like a lifetime ago now.
Domestic cup success should also be important to Klopp, although I get the impression it is a long way from being his top priority, as he has tended to put out second-string teams in the early rounds of the League Cup and FA Cup in his time at the club.
Yet despite all those lofty ambitions, what I view as one of the sad realities of modern football must be that success in the game now is based around one pretty uninspiring target: finishing in the top four of the Premier League.
In many respects, Liverpool should be disappointed with the season they put together last time around.
Going out of both domestic cup competitions early was a hammer blow that could, and maybe should, have been avoided if Klopp had picked stronger teams.
They also fell away in the Premier League title race after a very positive start, with the 17-point gap between Liverpool and Chelsea at the end of the season far bigger than it should have been.
When we saw Liverpool go to Stamford Bridge last September and comfortably beat Chelsea on their own patch, it appeared that the two teams were heading in opposite directions.
There was already talk that Antonio Conte would be under pressure at Chelsea if they turned in too many more performances like that, while Klopp danced around the pitch after that game believing it was a big moment in the season.
No-one could have imagined then that Conte would be lifting the Premier League trophy eight months later.
Even heading into Christmas last year, Liverpool fans were daring to dream that the title famine would end – yet we all know what came next.
I didn’t want to turn my TV on throughout January as I knew it wouldn’t be long before I was reminded of Liverpool’s demise.
What happened in that mid-season period was clear for all to see, with the departure of Sadio Mane for the African Cup of Nations duty and a few injuries – not too many, by the way – to other key players, completely derailing Liverpool’s season.
It exposed Liverpool’s squad as being far too fragile, even during a season without European football, and it was clear that they were trying to resolve that problem long before this summer.
I’m sure Klopp was hoping to see Liverpool getting their business done early in this summer’s transfer window, but some initial attempts ran into trouble.
The Virgil van Dijk saga was an embarrassment for the club and the player, with the suggestion that Liverpool tapped up the Southampton defender a big PR disaster.
Tapping up goes on all the time in the game and has done forever, so I can’t understand why Liverpool felt the need to apologise for their approaches to Van Dijk.
I’ve heard that other clubs were also talking to the player and they haven’t issued letters to say sorry, but it did seem to throw a spanner in the works in terms of Liverpool’s relationship with Southampton.
Liverpool have also been chasing young Leipzig defender Naby Keita, but the prices being quoted this summer for players who are unproven at the highest level has been hard to believe.
On the plus side, Mohamed Salah should be a good addition following his arrival from Roma, with his ability to play in a variety of positions useful to a squad that has a few players prone to injuries.
Salah would have been a good guy to have around when Mane was out for lots of different reasons last season and he can be deployed on the left flank and maybe even in a central attacking role.
He has plenty to prove after a disappointing first spell in England with Chelsea, but plenty of players have failed at that club in recent years and thrived elsewhere.
Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku are two that spring to mind in that respect.
Liverpool also did well to get young striker Dominic Solanke in from Chelsea, where he realised he had no chance of getting first-team football a long time ago.
Chelsea seem to use their academy just to groom players to sell them on for big money these days and Solanke comes with a big reputation, so I’m looking forward to seeing him play.
All Liverpool fans would have liked to have seen a few more faces added to the Liverpool squad with the Champions League qualifier against Hoffenheim now just over a week away, but there is still the best part of a month of the transfer window to go and I’m sure lots of business will be done between now and deadline day.
If Klopp and the Anfield board can pull a few rabbits out of the transfer hat and sign some top performers, maybe I can upgrade may ambitions beyond just a top-four finish for Liverpool this season.
Yet, as we saw last season, this talented squad that can blow any team away on their day also has some flaws in it and Klopp will need plenty of luck with injuries if he is to have any chance of making a push to win the Premier League or Champions League.