ANALYSING LIVERPOOL’S MIDFIELD PROBLEM
With the January transfer window officially opening today, it’s time to try and make sense of the tepid display at Anfield a few days ago and assess the glaring midfield issue. This team has put in one too many of those performances this season for it to be glossed over by the result.
They played well enough at Villa and said all the right things pre-match about looking forward to playing at Anfield under the lights for the first time in a while. Then barely four minutes into the match and Dewsbury-Hall is breaking through from midfield unchallenged, to slot past Alisson.
It marked the 13th time the Reds have conceded the first goal in a game this season and we’ve only played 24 matches! It also marked the 9th time we’ve conceded in the opening twenty minutes of a game this season.
It’s hard to fathom why this side is starting games half asleep. They’re better than that. All that before you come to the crux of the issue, a midfield that has frankly been left to rot. I saw Leicester’s lineup the other day and feared for our midfield.
Not because Ndidi, Soumare and Dewsbury-Hall were better than our lot, but simply because they would outrun us. I’ve seen teams do that to us so many times this season. The Liverpool midfield doesn’t have the same intensity/bite/energy it used to.
Part of it is by design as well, with Jürgen Klopp opting for more control through midfielders who possessed technical attributes. The arrival of Thiago and the conversion of Harvey Elliott kick-started that transition.
The departure of the workhorse that was Gini Wijnaldum also allowed for this new tweak to the engine room. At our best last season (as we chased the quadruple), there was a perfect balance/blend of intensity, aggression and control. It worked a treat.
The preferred trio of Fabinho, Henderson and Thiago offered you that in abundance. For whatever reason (age, fatigue, injuries, decline etc), that balance seems to no longer be there. Too many teams are now able to play through our midfield and create chances at will.
How many times has Alisson had to face a one on one this season? On the flip side, the Reds aren’t able to exert any real level of control on games. The World Cup break was supposed to be a reset to help get back to basics, but the three fixtures since have been chaotic, end to end affairs.
The woeful finishing by the attackers and the defensive mistakes at the back can’t be overlooked but the most glaring issue is a midfield that has been allowed to age. A side that was previously known for its relentless press is now meek out of possession.
It’s bordering on gross negligence that it’s been allowed to get so bad. The manager’s quip in pre-season about not needing a new midfielder looks embarrassing by the game. He’s having to overplay young Harvey Elliott who is still working out the kinks in his game and figuring himself out in a new position.
The youngster could well grow into the kind of player Jürgen Klopp needs him to be but as of this moment, it’s too much to ask. He’s not offering enough in possession to make up for the defensive deficiencies that are a part of his game (he came through as a winger so it’s understandable).
The manager is also having to rely on Jordan Henderson (who turns 33 this summer) to go again every three days. The skipper no longer has that engine that made him tailor-made for this system, and he endured a dreadful evening against Leicester.
Thiago is a cultured talent that requires two runners alongside him to make his job easier. If anything he’s having to do more running currently because there isn’t enough of it going own. Fabinho has had his own issues with form and a lack of support around him.
Curtis Jones was supposed to step up in his development this season to aid the midfield woes but has only made two starts this season (owing largely to injuries). It’s alarming how many injuries he’s begun to pick up over the past 18 months.
He’s joined Thiago, Naby Keita, Oxlade-Chamberlain and deadline day panic signing Arthur Melo in the injury prone midfielders category it seems. The veteranIt’s a shame. These are a whole load of names but a whole load of asterisks.
The club’s need for a midfielder is apparent, and selling clubs will use it to their advantage. Benfica and Brighton for example are quoting ridiculous figures for Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo (two rumoured targets).
The club won’t want to pay those astronomical fees and you can’t blame them. What would it say for the top four hopes though if they refuse to add a midfielder this window? Would it make more sense to gamble some of next summer’s budget in this window to try and secure a lucrative UCL place.
If not, then will the manager lower his standards ever so slightly to consider players he may otherwise not have wanted long term? Surely there are young midfielders out there who can run for days and would be able to provide this side with an injection of energy.
Does the short term gain/boost make it worth it even if said player will have to be moved on in 2-3 years when the midfield rebuilding is complete and first choice targets are signed? Or is the club just not set up to take such risks? There is a lot for the manager and the powers that be to ponder.
Until fresh legs are brought in (or by some miracle the incumbent find a burst of energy from some hidden reserves), we are going to struggle to win as many games as we need to. We have the quality to hurt opponents so we will get by, but to really thrive, that midfield needs to be revamped, and fast.
4 thoughts on “ANALYSING LIVERPOOL’S MIDFIELD PROBLEM”
No truer words have been said. Without reinforcements in the midfield our hope for top 4 is hanging by a thread and Lord knows what’s going to happen when the champions league returns and the F.A cup.
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