As injuries plague Liverpool’s midfield, fans are holding onto hope that the Nabil Fekir deal is still alive. Are the Reds in dire need of a new Number 10, or could Xherdan Shaqiri fit the bill?
Although the transfer season is only two months away, it’s unsurprising that there’s already rumours about Liverpool reigniting their interest in Nabil Fekir.
Fans are adamant the squad is still lacking a traditional ‘Number 10’ player and signing one is the key to glory this season.
Jürgen Klopp has shown that he has no problem dipping into the premium January transfer market when required. The record signing of Virgil van Dijk last season is proof of that.
Is there a need to do the same this season for an attacking midfielder?
Despite a fantastic start to this campaign, there has been widespread criticism about Liverpool’s midfield and attacking form.
There has been observations that there is a missing link between the midfield and the forwards.
The attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino looks fairly disjointed from rest of the team. It’s evident that Liverpool are missing the drive and ball-carrying ability of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The most popular option is for Liverpool to splash the cash on a proven attacking midfielder in January. Hopes are high that the Fekir deal is still brewing behind closed doors.
A preferred choice for some, however, is Xherdan Shaqiri.
How this could work
A variation of the midfield featuring Shaqiri could be seen in the fixtures against Huddersfield and Red Star Belgrade. The Swiss was given a free-roaming role to add creativity and provide support for the attacking triumvirate.
One major weakness of this however was the massive amount of space for the opposition to counter-attack. Shaqiri’s attacking nature is a big change from Klopp’s traditional holding midfield choices.
Despite a good passing range, Jordan Henderson is not a specialist defensive midfielder and is not suited to cut down channels to stop counter attacks.
Luckily the signing of Fabinho filled the space of a typical and established DM. The Reds also have an ideal ball-playing midfielder in the form of Georgino Wijnaldum.
The midfield trio of Fabinho, Wijnaldum and Shaqiri was seen in the second half against Huddersfield and in the first 70 minutes against Red Star Belgrade.
This midfield supplied a good attack:defence ratio — ensuring the front three had creative support but not allowing too much room for the opposition.
One noteable weakness in this approach is the lack of pressing by Shaqiri. Klopp’s system has a high emphasis on defending from the front and winning the ball within seconds of losing it.
Shaqiri’s pressing has been fairly mediocre throughout his career but this could be due to the fact he has played in teams that have had lesser emphasis on a high-tempo attack.
Oxlade-Chamberlain had some of the best pressing numbers in the Liverpool squad before his injury, which played a large part in becoming a Klopp favourite.
A relentless playmaker like Chamberlain is crucial in a Klopp-style team. But with his injury history, how many games is he expected to start following his return?
Are matters urgent?
The situation around attacking midfield is a lot less concerning with Shaqiri in the roster. The Number 23 has performed well whenever he has started and has noticeably added pace and creativity to the squads.
Liverpool are also yet to see the best of Naby Keïta who has returned to training at Melwood.
Adam Lallana can also provide adequate cover for this attacking midfield position. The Englishman had a few opportunities missed during his last two appearances, but his long absence from the game may be the cause of his rustiness.
Liverpool look fairly crowded in the attacking midfield department, with four potential contenders lined up.
The Reds will soon have a plethora of options once again, but is a new signing still vital?
As a football fan it’s always exciting to see new players arrive, but a new signing may not be Liverpool’s only solution.
Every Liverpool player hopes to make the first-team — it would be disappointing if a talent like Shaqiri doesn’t get a enough game-time.
Chamberlain’s return will be a head-scratcher for Klopp. More than likely seeing a frequent attacking rotation between him, Shaqiri and Keïta.
From a tactical perspective, it appears that Klopp is fielding a workhorse midfield rather than a creative one. Energy preservation is key for a title fight.
The rotational options on Liverpool’s bench will be hugely beneficial for their title challenge. Shaqiri has slotted into the team with ease and has helped reintroduce the Reds’ unstoppable attack.
The Swiss man could potentially be Liverpool’s answer to their missing midfield cog.