Single word yields best result

Football News: Liverpool FC's Lack of Steel

Liverpool FC's Lack of Steel
Image from: liverpoolecho.co.uk

It is just gone 4:00pm on a Sunday, and Harry Kane strolls in behind Liverpool's defence (again), as Lovren completely misses a header. In one moment Tottenham Hotspur suddenly find themselves in a two vs one situation. When that one is Matip, well then you are just asking for it. In true Matip-fashion, he lazily positions himself just far enough away from Kane that he can't affect his cross, and just far enough away from Son Heung-min that he can't challenge him for the cross that is so obviously about to come in.

Matip knows this is already going down as Lovren's mistake on Match of the Day, so he can cumbersomely labour back into position as Mignolet picks the ball out of the net like clock work, both shaking their heads, attempting to compound everyone's view that this goal was made solely in Croatia. They of course, played no part in this one. Honestly.

Forget the hapless centre backs for one minute though. Forget the goal keeper who couldn't stop a shot from his own son, let alone Tottenham's Son. Forget even Joe Gomez who tried to get back but never really stood a chance in a foot race once he let Son get goal side. Let's look further up field. Let's look at James Milner, Emre Can and Jordan Henderson. The three of them watching on, completely ignoring their responsibilities. "What if Mignolet saves it and we need to be there to stop a rebound?" They ponder, and then do nothing. Three midfielders.

One who wants to play a more expansive role elsewhere, and two who started out as right wingers. Barely a defensive bone between them. Everyone wants to get forward just in case a chance to score falls to them, but nobody wants to get back just in case a chance to clear falls to them. It is unfortunately a mindset that is difficult to change. The broadcasters ready themselves to flick the scoreboard to '2-0' before Kane even takes a touch, and the obvious unfolds. Nobody in a Liverpool shirt was up for a fight that day.

 

A rather forlorn looking Jurgen Klopp, stands arms crossed, wondering what he can do as his team roll over and expose their soft under-belly. Well, he could have replaced Lucas Leiva.

I digress, because this is not a Klopp bashing. He is an excellent coach, and a good manager. He has however, dropped an absolute clanger by failing to sign a defensive midfielder. Something I myself refused to admit until today (in blind faith that Klopp knew what he was doing). Alas, he seemingly did not.

There are three types of defensive midfielder though, so which should he have signed? Liverpool once had all three breeds on their books.

Xabi Alonso. A defensive midfielder, but not quite that simple. As effective offensively as he is defensively. With the intelligence to still win the ball without necessarily being a brute, but the craft to launch an attack in the blink of an eye. One of the beautiful architects of the game; a deep lying playmaker.

Javier Mascherano. A bulldog who doesn't care if he takes both legs with the ball, and will happily see red before he sees the ball in the back of his teams net. Almost non existent in possession, but that is not his job. He is a destroyer.

Mohamed Sissoko. The defensive midfielder who would win the ball back, and look to power forward should a safe opportunity present itself. These players are the real powerhouses of the modern midfield battle, but surprisingly the best decision makers on the pitch as they pick and choose their moments to go forward ever so carefully. Sissoko was robbed of a much better career than he had by an horrific eye injury sadly. He was becoming a modern midfield general.

 

 

So how has the current Liverpool team got into a position where they have none of the above? Emre Can, being the closest to any of the roles, but still not quite the midfield general he threatens to be at times. It is almost saddening to see a team that was once so hard to beat just a decade ago, now looking so soft centred.

I am a big believer that anybody can simply point out a problem though. Unless you are prepared to offer up a solution, you are simply a mindless moaner. So i will now put forward three recommendations for each role, who are potentially realistic signings in my opinion. It is all too easy to put forward players already at top clubs like Casemiro, Eric Dier or Julian Weigl. Chasing pipe dreams is not a productive way to spend your time. Though this whole article will be a pipe dream if Klopp doesn't agree!

In the destroyer category, first comes Tomas Rincon. A bullish Venezuelan who joined Juventus last season, but now finds himself on loan at Torino. He is a ball winner, and impossible to knock off the ball whilst he fights to give it to a more creative team mate. At 29 he is perhaps at the wrong end of his career, but maybe experience is what Liverpool lack? Or there is the Spanish enigma that is Ignacio Camacho.

He is in his prime, and has shown he will stand up to any midfield battle he finds himself in. Again, lacking in craft, but lacking in steel? I dare you to level that accusation at him. My final suggestion he is Oriol Romeu. Ironically a Saint, he is actually a demon on the pitch. He exists only to win back possession. He will block every shot, take the ball (or the man), and throw himself at every pass. I know, perhaps it is wise Southampton are left alone for a while. Yet, there is a potential solution standing in the middle of Liverpool's favourite hunting ground.

If though, you are lover of a deep lying playmaker, you may prefer something a little more 'pretty'. Christoph Kramer, possibly? As gifted as any in the art of interception and able to 'ping' a 60 yard diagonal that most players didn't even see. The heart of the Borussia Monchengladbach midfield, would not come cheap though.

Then there is Steven N'Zonzi. Possibly the most complete holding midfielder going right now, but still unfairly seen by some as a product of Tony Pulis's anti-football campaign. An assumption that couldn't be more wrong. He is a little more physical than your average deep lying playmaker, but his range of passing is to be underestimated at your own peril. Capable of putting the ball on a sixpence from the edge of his own box, this is one player that the Premier league let 'get away'. My final suggestion here is the little known Leander Dendoncker. A wild card pick maybe, as he still plays his football in Belgium for Anderlecht. However at 22, he is threatening to become one of the best at what he does and may just need a platform to prove himself. His tackling is precise, and his passing calculated. Could Liverpool be the team to take the chance?

 

Finally, we come to the midfield generals. These players can wear down even the toughest midfields with their sheer power, both in terms of strength and stamina. Surprisingly, there are two hidden gems right under Liverpool's nose. Wilfred Ndidi of Leicester, and Pedro Obiang of West Ham. These players are solid in any challenge both aerially and on the ground, and can effortlessly breeze through tackles until, normally, they have to be cynically scythed down. Capable of hitting a shot from distance, but with the passion, steel and awareness to get back in position instantaneously when possession is lost. These players are the real deal despite their respective clubs being less so right now. My last suggestion here is perhaps the most unrealistic of all those listed. It is of course, the wonderful Fabinho. Almost cruelly ignored when discussing the talents of last seasons spectacular Monaco, it is hard not to be impressed by Fabinho once you realise he is there. This is a player who does everything Ndidi or Obiang do, but taken to a different level. Possibly the best of his kind who isn't already playing for one of the European powerhouses, Fabinho would be a statement and a game changer for Liverpool. He is, if you excuse the cliché, a special talent.

So there are my nine suggestions. Three contrasting styles, and three players flying each flag. All are capable of giving Liverpool something they don't have, but desperately need. Whichever breed of defensive midfielder you would like them to sign, is an opinion worth listening to. For those who like me, refused to accept the need for one though, i ask you now; do any of Liverpool's current midfielders fit the descriptions above? If the answer is no, then deep down you know things must change. Without any midfield balance, Liverpool cannot even hope to challenge for the title.

Written by Adam Jones.

Written by Tris Burke October 26 2017 09:03:52