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Football News: The Liverpool Midfield Conundrum

The Liverpool Midfield Conundrum
Image from: hypanthium.deviantart.com

Ever since Wijinaldum left on a free transfer there has been a clamour by many, myself included, for Liverpool to sign a midfielder (or 2) to compensate. Names like Yves Bissouma and Florian Neuhaus have been bandied about but this article is not concerned about who we may sign, rather analyzing and determining whether or not concerns are justified, and understanding just how good (or not) our midfield is currently.

Firstly, let's start with naming the midfielders on our books who have played/ are likely to get some form of game time. I will list these in ascending order from youngest to oldest as I think age is an important factor for both our midfield and our entire squad:

Harvey Elliott (18)
Tyler Morton (18)
Curtis Jones (20)
Elijah Dixon-Bonner (21)
Naby Keita (26)
Fabinho (28)
Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain (28)
Thiago (30)
Jordan Henderson (31)
James Milner (36)

So there we have it, 10 central midfield players, a significant number and you would expect enough for us to manage. However, that volume of players may be misleading. I am going to analyze each player, list any potential issues, and say what I think would be best for the club to do. Three things will determine this judgement: ability, injury record, and future potential. These will be rated from A-F and will hopefully be interesting to read and stimulate debate.


I want to start with two complete non-starters that I occasionally see suggested by some fans and they are Trent Alexander-Arnold and Roberto Firmino.

Trent Alexander-Arnold

Arguably the best right-back in the world (although Southgate can't see it) and a consistently important performer for us. If you move him to center midfield you lose a world-class right-back and, at best, gain a competent midfield player. A bad idea in my opinion.

Roberto Firmino:

He is already 30 and, from what I see, already drops deep enough into midfield, perhaps too much at times. His link up with play in the final third is crucial, and what sets him apart from Jota. If you play him deeper you will lose that interplay and, from what I have seen, he wouldn't be particularly exceptional in a central midfield role. Add to that his age - is it really time to be trying to wedge him into a new role?

Now that's out of the way we'll start with the actual, bona fide central midfielders we have at the club.


Harvey Elliott


Ability: B+
Injury record: C
Future potential: A+

The injury he suffered was serious, and a big setback given how well he was playing until that moment. How he recovers and what sort of effect it will have long term, if any, will determine how important he may be to our current and future squads.

Issues: the recovery from a serious injury is never 100% certain so, until we see him back in action, we cannot say for certain he is our future. He should be though all things being well.

Tyler Morton

Ability: D
Injury record: N/ A
Future potential: C (? )

He is well liked by those at the club and, ultimately, they know more than me. I'm somewhat on the fence but he is young enough to continue to get better and improve. Will he be good enough for a starting berth in future? Time will tell, but at the very least he looks technically competent already and that gives him a good platform to build off.

Issues: unknown future potential, if he doesn't live up to the expectations he'll be another forgotten player.


Curtis Jones

Ability: B+
Injury Record: C+
Future Potential: A

Though not universally loved by Liverpool fans I am, personally, a big fan of his. Technically superb, good work rate, clearly listens to the coaches, I think he can be a huge player for us. Right now he needs to stay fit and get a continuous run of games as this will push him on further.

Issues: his injury record isn't great and, when a player is young and has such problems, it does make you worry about whether they'll improve. Hopefully they'll subside as he matures - if he can stay fit I see him playing many games and really improving as a player.


Elijah Dixon-Bonner

Injury Record:?
Future potential:?

Except for yesterday I've never seen him play. I thought he did OK and he probably should've scored. Maybe he could be an option, I'm not sure, needs testing against higher level opposition.

Issues: completely unknown quantity.


Naby Keita

Ability: D-
Injury Record: E-
Future potential: F

Easily the most disappointing signing under Klopp and one that has really not worked out at all. His injuries have been nonstop but, when he has played, he has underwhelmed and only ever shown glimpses of his promise. Deep down the ability is there but the attitude and mentality is just too poor for him to ever become a top player.

Issues: A dreadful injury record combined with a dreadful attitude, it is time he left the club.



Ability: A
Injury Record: B+
Future Potential: C

I want to clarify that I have rated his future potential 'C', not because I expect him to improve, but because I expect him to maintain his current ability and performances for another 3-4 years at least. He is our only real specialist defensive midfielder and, when he doesn't play, we often seem to struggle. Key player.

Issues: none really, except for the fact that in a few seasons we will have to start looking for a replacement (unless Morton steps up) .


Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain

Ability: D
Injury Record: F
Future potential: F

The horror injury he suffered against Roma a few years ago has completely changed who he is as a player. He has lost the burst of pace, the raw power, and as a result he cannot effect the games the way he was before. I feel very sorry for him because his attitude has been exemplary but his Liverpool career has been wrecked by that injury and, at 28, it is hard to see him having a future with us.

Issues: career changing injury has meant he is sadly not good enough for us anymore. Unlike others though (Keita looking at you) his attitude has been very good.



Ability: A
Injury Record: F
Future potential: E

When he plays he is absolute class, a silky, technically world class player who would be an asset to any team. When he plays. If he plays. His injury record cannot be overlooked and, as nice as it is having a world class player, it is utterly pointless when they are so rarely available.

Issues: dreadful injury record + high salary. It is everything we feared when we signed him. This will be looked upon in retrospect as another blunder by Klopp.


Jordan Henderson

Ability: B-
Injury Record: C-
Future potential: D

He has been a supremely important player for us but now, at the age of 31, his powers are dwindling. Add to this that he seems to be getting injured more frequently and I think it is fair to say that he probably won't play such a starring role for us moving forward. In terms of attitude and leadership he is still a hugely important presence, but his influence is starting to diminish.

Issues: father time and niggling injuries are impacting his performance levels. If he can stay fit he could, if he wanted, fulfil the James Milner role in the coming seasons.


James Milner

Ability: C-
Injury Record: B
Future potential: F

We know he is coming to the end of his career but he is a model professional and it is why he still plays for us. He was heavily criticized in the Chelsea game but I thought he was working harder than anyone. His time may be up but senior players like him are an invaluable part of the squad make up, his influence and effect on the younger players shouldn't be underestimated.

Issues: past his best and close to retirement, the time is probably right for him to move on but, if he stays one more year, wouldn't be the end of the world.


So at the end of this what are the conclusions about our midfield situation? It is clear some players, for whatever reason, should probably be moved on. Injury proneness is a big influence on the midfield and consistent absentees need to be considered for sale. I do not think it is unreasonable to state that we need a midfield addition, but I would add that, had Elliott and Jones been fitter for longer, that we probably wouldn't have such a gloomy appraisal of our midfield.


Imagine you were Klopp, what would you do?

Most important, in my opinion, is to integrate and play as much as possible the younger players. Their potential is very high and they will improve if given games. I include Morton in this too they need game time in order to reach their potential and, if that happens, the incomings will be far less dramatic. I think it is clear that some players have to be sold irrespective of price and i would expect Oxkaide-Chamberiain, Keita, Milner, and even Thiago to make way at some point. I do think we will need to make an addition in summer, especially if we do trim the squad in the manner I think we need, but who we should sign i do not know. Bissouma seems like the most natural upgrade on the departed Wijinaldum but funds and other factors may get in the way. One thing is for sure, we need to avoid transfers of the likes of Keita and Thiago (expensive, injury prone, poor quality), and try to engineer more moves like Fabinho (good price, superb quality) . In terms of our squad and it's future we are entering a pivotal time and the next few seasons will go a long way to determining our successes (or lack thereof) in the next decade.

Written by Seano_ January 11 2022 20:13:08


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