The Reds are top of the Premier League and into the last 16 of the Champions League – and they already have one new arrival lined up
Things are pretty rosy in the Liverpool garden right now.
Champions of Europe, World champions and in a wonderful position to end their three-decade wait for an English league title, Jurgen Klopp’s Reds could not have asked for a better end to 2019.
But what will 2020 bring for the men from Anfield?
Clear at the top of the Premier League, and with a testing Champions League last-16 clash against Atletico Madrid on the horizon, Liverpool will have plenty of chances to add to their silverware collection in the New Year. The “mentality giants” will get the chance to prove they deserve the tag.
Klopp has always insisted it will be hard to improve his squad, given the demands placed on his players in terms of energy, fitness and consistency, but the Reds’ recruitment team, led by sporting director Michael Edwards, are always open to a bargain.
They didn’t spend big in the summer, so will that change in January?
Well, we know there will be at least one new arrival at Anfield.
Takumi Minamino , the versatile Salzburg midfielder/forward, has already agreed to join after the Reds triggered a £7.25 million ($9.4m) clause in the Japan international’s contract.
Minamino, who impressed in two games against Liverpool in the Champions League group stage, has penned a four-and-a-half year contract and will wear the No.18 shirt. His debut could come in the FA Cup third round tie against Everton on January 5.
“All the things we know about Takumi, so many things fit very well to us,” Klopp said of his new capture. “His football skills first and foremost obviously, his decision-making in tight areas, his speed, his desire to win the ball back. Counter-pressing, he’s used to that because Salzburg have a similar philosophy that we have.
“Long-term, there is no doubt that he will help us, that’s clear. I’m looking forward to working with him.”
Otherwise, it is likely to be a relatively quiet month in terms of incomings.
Klopp hinted that Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip and Fabinho are closing in on a return to action, which would remove a lot of the pressure on his defence and midfield, and remove the need for a short-term signing in that regard.
Liverpool brought in a centre-back, Steven Caulker, on loan during Klopp’s first January window at the club, but it would be a surprise if they were to do something similar this time around.
The likely outgoings will be loan players, with Rhian Brewster and Curtis Jones among the main candidates.
Brewster is attracting interest from pretty much the entire Championship, with Swansea particularly keen to sign the 19-year-old striker. Liverpool are open to the idea of loaning the England under-21 international, but only to a club which will both play and develop him.
The same goes for Jones, the home-grown teenager who made his Premier League debut against Bournemouth earlier this month.
Captain of the under-23 team, the 18-year-old has impressed with his development in the last 12 months and is keen to go out and experience regular senior football. Leeds are among those who have enquired, while Preston, Middlesbrough and West Brom have also made checks.
Besides those two, there could be a trimming of the under-23s squad, with midfield duo Herbie Kane and Pedro Chirivella likely to attract interest. Kane spent last season on loan at Doncaster, and could join Hull in January, where he would again link up with former boss Grant McCann.
Chirivella, meanwhile, deserves a little luck having seen a move to Extremadura in Spain turn sour last January due to a registration issue. It would be no surprise if he were to leave on a permanent basis.
HOW THEY COULD LINE UP
Minamino’s arrival certainly provides fresh options if Klopp chooses to rotate, but it would be a surprise if the Japan star was to become an automatic starter straight away.
His versatility at least allows for changes in system, perhaps 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2 when required, but if Liverpool were to play a crunch game we could pretty much guess the starting XI now.
It will, however, be interesting to see whether, for example, Naby Keita or Joe Gomez can keep their places when everyone is back fit.
Fabinho is a certain starter, but Matip and Lovren will have a bigger task on their hands.