Liverpool have overlooked position they need to revamp - but PSR transfer can't help them this time

Rayan Ait-Nouri of Wolverhampton Wanderers during a Wolverhampton Wanderers Training Session at The Sir Jack Hayward Training Ground
-Credit: (Image: Jack Thomas - WWFC/Wolves via Getty Images))

Having revamped both their attack and midfield over the past two and a half years, Liverpool’s succession planning within their squad is not yet complete.

It’s clear that the Reds will need long-term replacements for both Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk in the not too distant future, with the pair both out of contract next summer and the wrong side of 30. Beyond that, Arne Slot’s inherited squad could perhaps do with further reinforcement at number six, depending on Stefan Bajcetic’s development, with the 31-year-old Wataru Endo only a short-term, left-field replacement for Fabinho.

This summer there are expected to be changes in the club’s goalkeeping department, with Adrian currently set to leave at the end of his contract and Caoimhin Kelleher likely to pursue first team opportunities elsewhere. Alisson Becker will remain first-choice despite interest from Saudi Arabia, and with a further three years left on his contract, a long-term successor to the 31-year-old is instead a dilemma for the future.

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With Thiago Alcantara and Joel Matip also leaving the club when their contracts expire this month, there will be only one other player aged over 30 left standing alongside Van Dijk, Salah, Alisson and Endo in the Reds squad. While quietly overlooked at this time, it is another position where Liverpool will need to start plotting a succession plan.

Andy Robertson endured a challenging campaign for the Reds as he was limited to just 23 Premier League appearances (30 in all competitions) because of injury. Such totals were comfortably his lowest since his first season at Anfield in 2017/18, having had to bide his time for cementing his place as first-choice.

The 30-year-old will likely remain Liverpool’s first-choice left-back under Slot, but the jury is out regarding how long he will be able to retain the berth as an undisputed choice after a challenging campaign.

Dislocating his shoulder on international duty with Scotland in October, he didn’t return to action until late-January as he missed 21 Reds matches. He’d then suffer an ankle injury while away with the Tartan Army in March, and while he would only miss one Liverpool game as a result, he later admitted he carried the issue through the rest of the season. Having rarely been troubled by such setbacks before, it was enough to raise question marks in the fanbase about his availability going forward.

Meanwhile, with Jurgen Klopp switching to an inverted full-back set-up, Robertson’s suitability to such a system also came into question. Prior to injury, his form was not at its best, with his error leading to a Brighton & Hove Albion equaliser in a 2-2 draw in October, a notable lowpoint.

Consequently, with the arrival of Slot providing a clean slate, the left-back will head into the new season with a point to prove. And with Scotland suffering a group-stage exit at Euro 2024, he’ll be free to work on impressing Klopp’s successor for most of pre-season.

Of course, it’s not just the Scot where the future is uncertain at left-back. Having never nailed down a starting place at Anfield, Kostas Tsimikas will need to move on should the 28-year-old not be content with his back-up role. And in Owen Beck, Luke Chambers and Calum Scanlon, the Reds possess three talented youngsters who will be looking to force their way up the pecking order.

But there’s no escaping the fact that Robertson isn’t getting any younger. Sooner or later he will lose his starting berth and Liverpool will need a successor, it just comes down to how long he will be capable of hanging onto the shirt.

Meanwhile, the left-back’s current contract also expires in 2026. While outside attention might currently be on Van Dijk, Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold as they head into the final 12 months of their own deals, Robertson is about to provide a forgotten contract quandary of his own. Time will tell if they attempt to negotiate an extension, or if the left-back will become the latest high-profile Bosman exit at Anfield.

For the record, the Reds have regularly been linked with a successor in recent months as speculation continues regarding reported interest in Wolves’ Rayan Ait-Nouri. The 23-year-old has impressed during the last four seasons at Molineux, returning seven goals and eight assists from 116 appearances, and there have even been some suggestions overseas that Liverpool lead the race of his signature.

Whether the Reds plan to move for the Algeria international remains to be seen, but it seems inevitable that he will one day earn a move to a bigger club off the back of his showings for Wolves.

However, he won’t be available for a bargain and the West Midlands club’s hand won’t be forced to sell. While their name has regularly featured among the names of other sides who have to offload players to comply with the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules, Wolves have seemingly stayed on the right side of such regulations this year.

While they sold the likes of Ruben Neves to Al-Hilal for £47m, Matheus Nunes to Man City for £53m and Nathan Collins to Brentford for £23m last summer, there won’t be a similar fire sale at Molineux before the June 30 deadline with clubs unable to take advantage of their previous financial struggles.

As a result, Ait-Nouri’s own future won’t be forced into being settled quickly as speculation continues to link him with Liverpool and their rival Premier League giants.

But before the Reds decide whether to pursue such a move, they need to get their own house in order at left-back. While not a burning priority compared to other players, contracts and positions, Liverpool will be well-aware that Robertson and co’s futures also need to be resolved when they put the next stage of their squad revamp into practice.