Do Liverpool Need a Recognised Striker?

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LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29: (THE SUN OUT THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT) Roberto Firmino of Liverpool during training at Melwood Training Ground on September 29, 2017 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

In Liverpool’s last six games, they have scored six goals – despite having 121 shots and dominating throughout many of those games. Whilst the Reds’ attack remains fluid and balanced, the squad seems to be lacking cutting edge in front of goal without a recognised striker.

During the latest Champions League fixture against Russian Champions Spartak Moscow, the difference in quality seemed monumental. However, Jürgen Klopp’s side only came away with a 1-1 draw. 16 shots off 64% possession wasn’t enough, despite creating a multitude of major goal scoring opportunities. Whilst Liverpool’s attacking unit continues to flow as a whole, this begs the question to whether an out-and-out goal scorer is required, as well as defensive reinforcements.

Do Liverpool Need a Recognised Striker?

Great Going Forward

Despite the current goal scoring drought, it remains clear that Klopp’s system works. The German’s high press, high tempo style has helped create more than enough chances to put multiple teams to bed early on – it’s just the end product that is currently lacking.

A lot of this is down to the personnel already at his disposal in the side. Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah are all 25-years-old, with some of their best years still ahead of them.

Tuesday night was the first time the four of them played together; expect them to have a considerable impact once they fully gel together. Liverpool have four game changers on their hands.

Coutinho has returned following his transfer fiasco, and has made an immediate impact, scoring two goals in his last two games. The return of his creativity and exquisite vision to the Liverpool midfield should bring another boost to the attacking unit. Meanwhile, Salah already has five goals and one assist. Finishing is the area of his game that he needs to work on, yet he has still been hugely productive. The pace he offers on the right hand side adds another dimension to the Reds’ offensive play when transitioning from defence to attack.

Mané, despite his three game suspension, has three goals and an assist this season already, whilst Firmino has still netted three goals and clocked up two assists in all competitions. The Brazilian forward may not be a striker, but his footballing IQ and technical ability has helped him play an excellent role in the side from the false-nine role.

With all of this taken into account, ultimately this attacking unit definitely has the capability to overcome the goal scoring rut that they’re currently facing.

 

Are Liverpool Clinical Enough?

The argument against Liverpool’s attack being strong enough as it is is that a centre-forward that fits Klopp’s system would be of greater benefit to the side. In the last six games, the Anfield Side have averaged 20.6 shots a game, but only one goal a game. Whilst Firmino remains an underrated player, the presence of a clinical striker in these matches may have been of significant value, supplying the much-needed end product.

Liverpool have struggled against Leicester in the League Cup and against Sevilla and now Spartak Moscow in the Champions League. They failed to get wins in any of these games as a result – despite dominating for much of all three matches. Additionally, in the 2017/18 Premier League season so far, the Reds only have a 38% shot accuracy. With clear defensive inconsistencies and worries, the conversion rate must increase. They need to capitalise on the multitude of chances created, in what is an important season, competing both domestically and in the top tier of European Competition.

 

Finding Alternatives

In a hypothetical situation, if Klopp was to bring in a striker, it would have to be one that offers similar attributes to Firmino in the front three. Pace, footballing IQ and interchangeability with Mané and Salah would be imperative.

Antoine Griezmann is a totally unrealistic option for a variety of reasons, but it’s that sort of mould of player that would strengthen Liverpool’s goal scoring situation. The 26-year-old is a proven finisher, with skill and versatility. He has scored two goals and made a further assist in four La Liga games so far this campaign.

An aspirational target is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang; the Gabon International that played under Klopp at Borussia Dortmund. As another proven finisher, and someone that evidently fits Klopp’s style of play, the 28-year-old is a dream possibility. Aubameyang has already netted 13 goals for Dortmund in all competitions this season – an alarming goal return.

Finally, a cheaper, more realistic option if Liverpool were to make a move for a striker is Timo Werner. The 21-year-old is a promising talent, offering a similar speed through the centre. The German forward already has seven goals in the 2017/18 season for RB Leipzig, and contributed greatly to Leipzig’s quite incredible 2016/17 Bundesliga Campaign with 21 goals and five assists.

 

The Last Word

A clinical striker that fits in the front three, that presses high, that has great technical ability and that ultimately gets goals consistently would take this Liverpool side to another level. However, ultimately, this team should have more than enough in offensive situations to dispatch teams. Once Coutinho, Salah, Firmino and Mané fully click, we should be seeing increasing end product. The defence should remain the greatest position of need if the squad is to be upgraded in any way, with the signing of a new striker not expected to be high on Klopp’s agenda.

The team now travel to Tyneside on Sunday to face Rafa Benitez and Newcastle United, in what’s often a high scoring league fixture. The attacking unit will be looking to prove some of the growing doubters wrong by helping Liverpool over the line in what would be another big win.

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