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Liverpool's Midfield

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There's lot of goals to be scored against this Napoli team, if only Salah was back on the pitch and not his double. Another unfortunate is that there's lot of goals to be scored against us too.

Make 4 subs at half time Kloppo.

Solomon Grundy:

--- Quote from: stoj on September  7, 2022, 08:39:13 pm ---Tough boy hey? It's bloody obvious from watching tonight, we are getting shredded. Milner should be off before he gets sent off

--- End quote ---

Its not obvious at all. Just because our current form is poor it doesn't mean we aren't winning anything this season. There is still a long way to go and lots can change.

Defensive issues aside, our attack looked better for a brief period with Salah up top, Trent actually had room to overlap and Elliot was able to make runs in behind and get at players.

Elliot isn't a midfielder he's a forward, when we play him and Salah on the right they just stand on each others toes and congest that area of the pitch. With some midfielders coming back I hope we can go back to a more orthodox three and hopefully see that right side start to function properly again.

Not sure if this deserves its own thread, if not feel free to merge with the relevant topic.

We as a team have struggled this season after unrelenting march of the previous seasons where we have won it all. It would seem all and sundry have voiced their opinion on what’s gone wrong at the club
Looking at how our midfield functions and how we have operated in the transfer market over Jurgens tenure to meet the needs of his midfield throws up quite a few surprises.

Firstly, we look at the typical Klopp midfield, first and foremost its functional, his gegenpressing system relies on winning the ball back early up the field which relies on physicality and tenacity. Being a technical player is not so important as catching a team in transition as they open themselves up to attack should have any Liverpool level midfielder able to exploit the space available to them on a turnover. Its been the core trait of Klopps Liverpool since he's been here and only being up against a sports washing Guardiola City side has he not won double what he has already.
You would think knowing what we do about what is required of our midfield we would over the past seven years prioritised a certain type of midfielder, a dynamic midfield general in the mould of Keane/Viera/Kante/Makelele, or a hybrid of Alonso/Mascherano if you want to stay closer to home.

The stats however seem to show something entirely different. In Jurgens first season before a player could be signed the first team players at his disposal that I would consider midfield controllers were Henderson, Milner, Allen, Lucas, and Can.
Over the summers of 2016/17/18 we lose the services of Allen, Lucas, and Can respectively. That leaves Henderson and Milner, who are still at the club now, as our controlling midfielders. You would think considering the way we play would focus our recruitment on replacing those we have lost like for like [taking into consideration an increase in quality of course], but looking over the entirety of Klopps reign how many players do you think we have signed over the past seven years who could be classified as a midfield controller? For me its TWO…just two, and one of those is a converted winger in Wijnaldum, with the other being Fabinho.

The majority of our midfield signings have been more of the playmaker, creative type which belies the notion that all Jurgen expects of his midfield is to be functional. From his first season he utilised the likes of Lallana and Coutinho in central positions to link the midfield with the attack and in transfer windows since that time he has added midfielders that drive forward and be creative [yes I paint with a broad brush here] in the likes of Chamberlain, Keita, Shaqiri, Elliot, Minamino, Thiago, and Carvalho.

There are those in that list who can put there foot in and dictate play, I just think they are more the playmaker than the midfield general type, I’m sure many will have their own opinion.
Our current options in midfield by type look overloaded towards the more attacking variety of midfielder with the few controllers we have looking like they are past their best. We only have three in my opinion, after Wijnaldum left and two of them were already at the club when Jurgen arrived. Milner at 37 should only be an emergency back up/early round cup player to guide the kids through. Henderson at 32 has played a hell of a lot of football under Jorgen’s very demanding tactics, and it looks like the cracks are starting to show. This leaves Fabinho at 29 the youngest of the three but still on the cusp of his thirties. For me he was never the quickest, a Hamann as opposed to a Mascherano but this season he looks to have lost a yard of pace he never had in the first place, hopefully not permanently, time will tell.

There are those who could point to a change of style from the early years heavy metal football to a more controlled possession based system as the reason our transfers for the midfield have focused more on the creative midfield type the last few years.
Regardless of this shift in style both systems need the ball to be won for us to use it, whether that be more directly in the gegenpressing system or more patiently in the possession based system. Lets not forget that yes winning the ball back in midfield sets you up to attack, it also prevents you from being attacked, so a failure of your midfield to perform that ball winning function will indeed blunt your offence, it also shows through as your defence being exposed to midfield runners again and again.
Is this not the exact issue we have seen this season as we have looked overwhelmed and lacking control, which is a core tenet of Jurgen’s style, however it is tweaked.
I know I am not the first to point this out and I won’t be the last but it would seem we have persevered to long with players who are just not physically up to the task anymore, compounded with a lack of like for like players to rotate them in and out of the team.

We looked to have identified this issue with the targeting of Tchouaméni in the summer only for him to choose Madrid. Hey It happens, there are plenty of players who have come in rumoured not to have been first choice who have gone on to become club legends. It’s the lack of second and third choice options that have everyone up in arms, and rightly so when an issue has been identified but you limit yourself to one player who could easily decide to go elsewhere, as they did. Jude Bellingham by all accounts is someone we seem to have put a lot of effort into pursuing but it seems to be a thing where we monitor players to the point we are outmatched financially in obtaining them, as could be the case with Enzo Fernandez.
Even then Bellingham for the great player he is seems to be more of a driver through the midfield who creates and scores, although a player like that would be fantastic would he really solve the issues we have?
For me all the issues highlighted here are maybe not the cause of all our woes this season, they are most certainly an aspect of them.

We hear of resignations of our nerds and statisticians who identify players, and next season looks like we’ll have our third director of football in as many seasons. There looks to be some turmoil behind the scenes at the club, with the entirety of the club more than likely up for sale as well meaning the foundation of the club looks fragile. I hope these issues can be worked through and more legs added to the midfield, if that happens I would be more than hopeful our fortunes would change, if the players we need are added and nothing changes then I’d really start to worry.


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