Manchester City’s Premier League missteps this season provide a cautionary tale for how champions-elect Liverpool need to plan for the future.
Nobody saw Manchester City’s decline coming, not least Pep Guardiola.
The Etihad Stadium side finished last season as Premier League champions for the second successive season, collecting an astonishing 198 points over the two campaigns. City won all of their final 14 fixtures to hold off Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp. They were considered by many to be the greatest Premier League team of all time.
And then from that peak came the fall. Guardiola’s side are currently slumped 22 points short of Premier League champions-elect Liverpool having dropped more points in 25 games (24) of this season than they did over the entirety of the 2018-19 campaign (16). Man City now seem braced for a squad overhaul this summer having stood still for one window too many.
Liverpool must take note. Klopp’s side are well on course for the highest Premier League points tally in history having won 24 of their 25 fixtures so far. As domestic champions-elect, reigning European winners and Club World Cup champions for good measure, few would argue that the Reds are anything other than the best team in the sport at this moment.
And yet Klopp and the decision makers at Anfield must be wary of standing still to admire the view from the top for too long. That’s what City did and they have been made to pay the price this season. Liverpool must continue to evolve as a soccer team to ensure their place at the top for years to come.
The January signing of Takumi Minamoto suggests Liverpool already acknowledge this. The Japanese international, who cost just £7.25 million, will give Klopp another option both in midfield and attack with the 25-year-old’s versatility already coming handy in recent weeks. Minamoto will surely grow in stature as he acclimatizes to his new surroundings and the demands of his new manager.
Minamino is a good start, but higher caliber talents must also be targeted.
Timo Werner has consistently been linked with a switch to Anfield and there’s good reason to believe the RB Leipzig striker would lift Liverpool’s standard even higher. At present, there’s no real competition for Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah’s places. The addition of Werner would certainly change that.
Jadon Sancho is another believed to be on the Reds’ radar and he too would keep the club’s current attackers sharp.
The signing of such high-caliber players would also protect Liverpool in the case of any of their current stars leaving. Mane and Salah have after all been linked with a move to Spain at various points.
Of course, the danger that comes with adding to a winning team is dilution. Klopp has quite clearly put a great focus on fostering the right environment at Anfield, waiting until his players are well versed in his ideas and methods before throwing them in at the deep end — look at how both Fabinho and Andy Robertson were held back from the first team somewhat until a few months after their signing.
A load of new signings made all at once, or even one ill-fitting signing, could be something of a risk. Look at how Zlatan Ibrahimovic was a misfit from the moment he walked through the Camp Nou door as a Barcelona player, causing a ripple effect that affected the Catalans as a whole for the one season the Swede was at the club.
It’s not that Liverpool should go on a shopping spree this summer, it’s that there must be a continuation of the strategy that saw them spend big on smart targets like Alisson Becker and Virgil Van Dijk. They must respond to the evolution of the game as a whole. Right now, Klopp’s system might be in line with the zeitgeist, but there’s no guarantee that will be the case a few years from now.
They can never allow themselves to feel a sense of mission accomplished, even if the urge is irresistible when that long awaited Premier League title is clinched, because it’s at that point complacency can set in. That is the only thing that could potentially stop Klopp’s Liverpool just as it did Guardiola’s Man City.