Having added Cody Gakpo to his squad, Jürgen Klopp is about to enjoy the same luxury as Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, but it won’t all be plain sailing.
With the signing of Cody Gakpo now complete, Jürgen Klopp will soon be able to tap into some truly frightening depth at Liverpool.
Come March, by which point Luis Díaz and Diogo Jota should have returned from their injuries, he will have six quality attackers to choose from.
In more than seven years at Anfield, Klopp has never been afforded this level of luxury. Even last season, when Díaz arrived and Sadio Mané was still at the club, there were only five elite forward options at his disposal.
When any of the frontline players are injured, the German will be able to call upon world-beating back-up. And beyond that, he’ll be able to rotate to keep them all in peak condition without compromising his side’s chances.
The stylistic variety of his roster should enable him to exploit the vulnerabilities of each opponent, and he’ll also have another potential game-changer on the bench when everybody is fit. In short, Liverpool’s threat will become more comprehensive.
But with all these fresh advantages, there will be challenges too, as Pep Guardiola and Manchester City demonstrate.
City’s squad includes six top-drawer forwards in Jack Grealish, Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden, Erling Haaland, Julian Álvarez and Riyad Mahrez. Yes, Bernardo alternates between a midfield and wide role, but it’s still closely comparable.
In the last year or so, though, Guardiola has repeatedly had to deal with wantaway players.
There has been long-term uncertainty around the Portuguese international, with Guardiola admitting in August that he ‘didn’t know’ whether Bernardo would say amid interest from Barcelona. Similar rumours had swirled around the former Monaco man 12 months earlier (The Athletic).
On the face of it, Bernardo’s continued openness to leaving City, who have been among the top three teams in the world for a number of years now, is puzzling. It would be understandable if his playing time was limited, but he’s started 14 out of 19 matches in the two biggest competitions (Premier League and Champions League) this season, and started 44 out of 49 last term.
But perhaps it comes down to feeling important. Bernardo has often been touted as the Premier League’s most underrated player, and maybe that’s because he’s almost in the shadow of others at The Etihad. By courting him long-term, Barcelona make him feel like he can become a bigger star in his own right at the Nou Camp.
Fortunately for City, the ongoing reports have not affected Bernardo’s performance levels. He was, after all, named in the PFA Team of the Year for 2021/22 after helping them pip Liverpool to the title by a single point. But herein lies the problem — the prospect of losing one of their best players persists.
The cases of Raheem Sterling and Ferran Torres, meanwhile, appear more clear-cut. Sterling was named on the bench 21 times in the two big competitions last season and resisted City’s attempts to tie him down to a new deal, instead successfully pushing for a move to Chelsea (The Athletic).
Torres, meanwhile, forced a move to Barcelona in part because of his frustration with limited playing time at The Etihad, and City lost a hugely promising player just 18 months after he joined (The Athletic).
For Liverpool, it will be difficult to keep all six attacking players happy and make them all feel important, perhaps with the exception of guaranteed starter Mohamed Salah.
Even when Roberto Firmino departs, whether that’s at the end of his contract in the summer or in a year or two, the challenge will remain.
Núñez, Jota, Díaz and, yes, Gakpo, know that other elite clubs will welcome them with open arms if they don’t receive their desired treatment at Anfield.
It wouldn’t be hard to imagine one of them leaving, and given the quality and potential each has demonstrated so far, that’s a scenario Liverpool will hope to avoid.
It is, then, on Klopp to man-manage and rotate effectively, ensuring that he reaps the benefits and minimises the issues of enviable squad depth.