We’re barely into the second half of Liverpool’s 2017/18 season, but the potential change of landscape in the middle of the mark makes next campaign an intriguing prospect. LFC Transfer Room’s Dan Swales (@Swaaales) gives his take on who should get the nod in Liverpool’s three-man midfield, and who might be worth bringing into the fold.
With an abundance of speculation surrounding a potential replacement for Philippe Coutinho, and the ever-present question of Emre Can’s allegiance, the midfield looks to be an area of Liverpool’s game in need of reinforcements.
Following such an admirable performance against Manchester City, whereby a trio of Can, Georginio Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were instrumental in the victory over the league leaders, it has been all too easy to fall into a false sense of security regarding the overall quality of the Reds’ midfield.
Look no further than Monday’s sobering performance at Swansea City.
As things stand, Liverpool’s midfield troops are far from capable of sustaining a title challenge, and as such it is time to question who should feature regularly as part of the Reds’ midfield next season.
Strongest midfield three at the moment
Currently, the aforementioned trio of Can, Wijnaldum and Oxlade-Chamberlain is arguably Jürgen Klopp’s strongest, first-choice midfielders. That being said, since the departure of Coutinho, it seems the heart of the side is crucially lacking a player capable of breaking down deep-lying, defensively minded teams.
And assuming Emre Can is set to leave Liverpool at the end of the season, seeing him end his four-year tenure with the club, there will be yet another vacancy in the squad in need of filling.
If the 24-year-old German does, in fact, see out his contract at Anfield, next season’s midfield will be pulled from a decidedly lacking pool, including the likes of Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Adam Lallana, Marko Grujic, and of course, Wijnaldum and Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The Keita factor
Naturally, the impending arrival of Naby Keita from RB Leipzig will ease the blow of potentially losing Can; however, whether the Guinean hits the ground running in the Premier League or takes some time to adapt could heavily influence the look of the first-choice midfield.
As things stand, Liverpool’s first-choice midfield for next season looks set to feature Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Keita, with much debate surrounding who should occupy the number 6 role.
Keita is capable of playing the number 6 role; however, his attacking attributes are crucially limited when utilised as a defensive midfielder, with the 22-year-old making only 2 goal contributions from 20 games as a defensive midfielder, as opposed to 56 from 109 appearances in a more advanced midfield role.
Need for more incomings?
Subsequently, it seems as though the Reds will need to foray into the transfer market to recruit some much-needed reinforcements in the midfield.
With Leon Goretzka having agreed to join Bayern Munich, Klopp has missed out on one of his main targets, leaving him to look elsewhere to bolster the position.
#Schalke04 fans greeting Leon #Goretzka at training yesterday after he confirmed his move to #FCBayern: "Take that kit off! Lucky there are kids here or I'd take you off the pitch myself." pic.twitter.com/861NXcfEEt
— Matt Ford (@matt_4d) January 21, 2018
Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has been linked with a move to Anfield before and would be an excellent second choice to Goretzka, while speculation surrounding AS Monaco’s Thomas Lemar continues to grow, with a summer move for the Frenchman looking the most likely outcome.
As well as the aforementioned duo, Liverpool should look to bring in a natural defensive midfielder, with Napoli’s Amadou Diawara looking to be a hot prospect for both club and country.
A fellow countryman of Keita’s, Diawara has been instrumental to Napoli’s fine form this campaign and would prove to be an excellent acquisition, should the Reds go in for him.
With the potential for new arrivals bolstering the current midfield, Klopp should be able to build a side capable of sustaining his fabled pressing style of play to break up opposition attacks, with enough attacking creativity to break down teams that are happy to sit back and play for the draw.
Should Liverpool make the signings they want and recruit in the right way for the upcoming 2018/19 season, their midfield might not be as good as the one that started this campaign with Emre Can and Philippe Coutinho — it could be even better.