What a difference a season makes. Last year, the Premier League campaign was cut short at this time due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Liverpool were well on their way to winning the title.
Fast-forward to the present and Covid-19 is still around, but the all-conquering Reds side’s aura isn’t.
For the first time since the 2017-18 term, Jurgen Klopp’s squad ended a season without a trophy.
A season of great hope for Liverpool meant they ended the 2020-21 campaign without a trophy
With a top-four finish on the last day of the season, the Anfield team was dumped from the quarter-finals of the Champions League and into the fourth round of both the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup.
The decisive factor in this, however, was their crippling injury crisis during this campaign.
But now that the season is over, Klopp can plan his rebuild this summer as he looks to topple Manchester City and reclaim their crown as champions of England.
Sportsmail reviews the German’s options ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.
Boss Jurgen Klopp hopes to rebuild his squad this summer to compete for titles
The options for the Liverpool center-back have been decimated this season. First it was the imperious Virgil van Dijk, then Joe Gomez and Joel Matip who suffered seasonal injuries. Like dominoes, all three fell in long spells along the sidelines, depriving the Reds of their three main central ridges.
Fabinho and captain Jordan Henderson were used as stop-holes in the center until Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp searched the January transfer window.
The answer to his problems? Signing Ozan Kabak on loan from Schalke and Ben Davies permanently from Preston North End. The latter has yet to play for the club, while it is safe to say that his lease is unlikely to become final.
Joe Gomez (left) and Virgil van Dijk were two long-term injuries for the Reds this season
Loanee Ozan Kabak failed to fill the central defense void for deposed champions Liverpool
His roar at Leicester – with Alisson Becker also blamed for slapping Jamie Vardy into an empty net – is likely a perfect recap of his time for the Reds. With the 20-year-old Turkish center back on their team, Liverpool only won six, drew three and lost four.
He hasn’t played in their last five games and it’s no surprise that the ousted champions won all five – and three of them also came up with a clean slate.
Klopp then turned to the club’s graduates Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams to help them out of their mess – which the pair duly did. However, it is unlikely that these two will start regularly at the back next season.
Klopp has been quick to take action to address his problems with the center-back with the signing of RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate.
Nathaniel Phillips (left) and Rhys Williams have filled in admirably for the injured mid backs
The central defender, who turned 22 on Tuesday, is preparing in France for the quarterfinals of his country’s European U21 Championship against the Netherlands next week.
A great reader of the game, Konate thrives on intercepting the ball and initiating attacks for his team. It also has a presence in the air at a height of 1.8 meters.
Despite all his great qualities, however, an alarming problem is his injury record for the past two seasons. Klopp will be desperate not to let Konate suffer the same fate this season as Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip.
Ibrahima Konate (right) will join Liverpool after hitting his £ 40m buyout clause
Liverpool are not short of options in central midfield, but they look to be losing one of their integral players in this position this summer.
Georginio Wijnaldum had five successful seasons at Merseyside – winning the Premier League and Champions League in addition to the FIFA Club World Cup and the UEFA Super Cup.
However, the time of the Holland international at the club seems to be over. The 30-year-old will be a free agent this summer after failing to secure a new contract and it looks like he is leaving for pastures new to Barcelona.
Georginio Wijnaldum appears to be leaving Liverpool as a freelancer this summer to join Barcelona
Klopp can still rely on Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago Alcantara, James Milner, Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Curtis Jones in these roles – plenty of quality there.
Henderson, Fabinho and Thiago are likely to form the basis of Klopp’s midfield three for next season’s most important games, but he may still be tempted to dive into the market to replace Wijnaldum’s qualities.
Brighton’s Yves Bissouma has caught the attention of the Reds and they face competition from Arsenal.
The 24-year-old, whose contract expires in 2023, has impressed in his three seasons with the Amex since signing in July 2018 with his energy, anticipation and tenacity of play, winning many admirers in the Premier League.
Brighton’s Yves Bissouma (left) is reportedly on Liverpool’s radar as Wijnaldum’s replacement
The club has no intention of selling him, but are reportedly accepting that they may have to sell if there is a big offer – with the Mali international worth £ 40 million.
Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Florian Neuhaus is another name on Liverpool’s alleged radar. The 24-year-old has won high praise after an impressive breakthrough this season under Marco Rose.
The Germany international, who has a £ 23 million release clause, has reportedly sparked interest from several other European clubs such as Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Juventus – underscoring its appeal.
Liverpool fans will always point to the work Roberto Firmino is doing for the team, but it is increasingly clear that they need a goal.
Firmino’s selfless work in the ‘False 9’ position is announced, but his lack of goal-scoring performance is highlighted when Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mane – or sometimes both at the same time – go through a dry spot in front of goal.
Diogo Jota’s signing this season was a masterstroke from Klopp, with the former Wolves man pairing brilliantly with the Reds’ onslaught. In an injury-disrupted campaign, he scored 13 goals in 30 appearances in all competitions. Firmino, on the other hand, only scored nine goals in 48 appearances.
Head striker Roberto Firmino has scored just nine goals in 48 games for the club this season
Andre Silva (Eintracht Frankfurt) and Patson Daka (Red Bull Salzburg) are two names linked to a move to Anfield to bolster their frontline options.
Cult hero Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino are not the answers to challenge Firmino.
Liverpool are also dealing with the constant rumble about star player Salah’s future at the club.
Paris Saint-Germain is the latest European giant to be linked with a move for the 28-year-old who finished as the club’s top scorer for the fourth consecutive season.
Klopp will do everything he can to keep his prolific attacker, but if the unthinkable were to happen, the huge fee the club would generate for Salah could make a bold fee for PSG’s Kylian Mbappé. Now that would be a replacement.
Eintracht Frankfurt forward Andre Silva has been linked with a move to Anfield this summer
Regardless of Salah’s situation, Raphinha, the Leeds United wide man, is another who has reportedly caught the attention of both the club and Manchester United.
The Brazilian, who is also good friends with Firmino and Alisson, says he is flattered by the tires.
“It’s hard to define how I feel when I hear speculation about giant teams like Liverpool and Manchester United looking to sign me,” he told UOL Sport.
‘Man, I grew up watching these teams on television. I saw Rooney, Van Nistelrooy, Cristiano Ronaldo, but I also saw Gerrard, as well as others like Henry, Deco, Lampard.
Raphinha (right), Leeds United’s wide man, is flattered by the transfer links to Liverpool
‘And today I make people happy with my football. I’m not just talking about the other clubs, but also about Leeds, who bet on me.
‘They are all very happy, including the fans who seem to have a great affection for me.
“I have a contract for another four years and I don’t even think about leaving here for exactly this reason: I am happy and make others happy.”