Wednesday 21 March 2018

John Aldridge - Is it time for Jurgen Klopp to bring Mamadou Sakho back in from the cold?

Read John Aldridge's exclusive column every week in The Herald

John Aldridge believes Mamadou Sakho could benefit Liverpool this season
John Aldridge believes Mamadou Sakho could benefit Liverpool this season

John Aldridge

Liverpool's sparkling attacking play covered up some glaring holes in their defence as they took a giant step towards the Champions League group stages on Tuesday night – but I have serious concerns over Jurgen Klopp’s renewed faith in full-back Alberto Moreno.

The 2-1 win against Hoffenheim was a vital result, but we can all see there are problems in this Liverpool team.

Klopp made a decision to use James Milner as a full-back last season after some pretty disastrous performances from Moreno. I was surprised and a little concerned when the manager declared he would reverse that decision for this season.

Moreno is a great lad and I’m sure he is working hard to improve the glaring flaws in his game, but I just don’t see an improvement to justify his return to the fold.

He lacks concentration at key moments, switches off when you least expect it and bursts forward at times to leave the rest of the defence exposed.

There was a moment against Hoffenheim when he went storming forward to support Sadio Mane, but the ball was lost and Liverpool were basically open down one side of their defence. This is nothing new from Moreno and I wonder whether Klopp can now change direction again and bring Milner back in the left-back role.

When you are playing for a top club that looks set to return to the Champions League group stages this season, you have to be able to focus for longer than we see from Moreno and I can’t see him cutting it in the Liverpool team in the long run.

From the evidence of the first two games of this season, Milner is Liverpool’s best player in that position and if Klopp persists with Moreno, hoping he might come good one day, I suspect he will be found out.

Despite the negatives from the opening two games of the season, there has been much to admire in aspects of Liverpool’s play.

Going forward, Liverpool look fantastic – pace, power and invention. At times against Hoffenheim, they looked like they could score at will.

Mane is looking like a world-beater but it frustrates me that we don’t have a top quality centre-forward to finish off chances created. If I was 30 years younger, I’d love to play in this team because there are goals to be had for any decent striker.

That’s why I have been calling for Klopp and Liverpool to go after a proper striker all summer because even if Daniel Sturridge showed some encouraging signs in the pre-season games, we all know he is going to be injured for most of this season once again.

The other big area that needs strengthening is at the back and a little like the situation with Milner and Moreno, I wonder whether Klopp will be forced to go back on his word and reintegrate another of his outcasts back into the first team.

It doesn’t look like Liverpool will be able to sign Virgil van Dijk from Southampton, so numbers are needed to bolster the squad and it may be that Klopp will consider getting one more year out of Mamadou Sakho. The Liverpool boss clearly decided he wanted Sakho out after his failed drug test and a few other problems behind the scenes, but the guy is a decent defender and he is still at the club after failing to get a move.

Maybe he could be a better option at the heart of the defence than Dejan Lovren? If it is right for the team, then get Sakho back in, as he may be the most realistic addition to the defensive line.

It’s for this reason that I believe Philippe Coutinho will also still be a Liverpool player at the end of the transfer window. Klopp will be telling the board that he just cannot afford to lose key players at a time when his squad is already lacking any kind of depth.

The signings Liverpool fans were expecting this summer have not materialised and now the old problems have resurfaced once again.

Champions League football may be on the agenda this season, but Liverpool have plenty of issues to resolve in the next few weeks if this season is going to be a success.

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