The Talent Klopp Is Working With – An Assessment of the Liverpool Squad
Lots of positives, but complex situation making lots of good players look bad
Clearly this season has gone very wrong so far – albeit not in the Champions League – and my mantra has been since the earliest draws and defeats to get through the injury crisis and regroup during the World Cup. It’s been a brutal 2022 for a lot of these players.
Big decisions need to be made about the team, albeit those will be easier and clearer come mid-November, when many of the players who may still feel overworked after last season can have a brief holiday to decompress, before harsh training camps; while everyone on the coaching and analytics side assesses what's gone wrong. Leeds not only covered much more distance (which is not so important if you're controlling a game), but they made more than twice as many sprints as Liverpool. It showed. When Liverpool needed to run, they couldn’t.
Jürgen Klopp knew at the end of the transfer window that things had gone wrong. The money had been there (albeit not an unlimited pot), but no one could agree on midfielders the club needed once the two big-money targets could not be landed. Now is the time to agree on the midfielders the club needs. I heard that there were clear-the-air talks after the window ended, and plans to sort that, so something should be lined up.
While Liverpool don't have Man City's money, it only took a short while for City's ageing team circa 2020 to be overhauled, and didn't require lots of new signings (while they also wasted some money in the process). A couple of smart ones for Liverpool, with younger players also improving in the coming months (and others returning from injury), would be enough.
The talent is still there in the squad – they almost won the best quadruple in football history – but there are clear fitness issues, but also, age-profile/balance issues. It's been a season of injured players; half-fit players; players trying (or being rested) to avoid injuries; and others playing too much as a result. As Klopp said, the returning ones have to be rushed back if there's no one else, while others get over-played if there’s no one else. There are clearly tensions as to the whole red-zone issue, as Klopp seems unhappy about what the medical advice is regarding selections. Injuries can be freakish, of course. However, a full medical assessment is required, when there’s time to analyse things (i.e. soon).
It feels like a lot of players will shine again when the team is functioning better, but once levels dip for half the team (for varying reasons), the other half get dragged down.
The squad is big enough, but the injuries, as in 2020/21 – when six home league games in a row were lost – have made it so much more complicated. Back then, it needed the injury crisis to lessen (if not totally abate), and the same is true now. It’s not just the number of injuries but how they can unbalance selections.
Right now, the team lacks energy. The reasons why can be assessed in detail in the midseason break.
There are elite older players, some in form, some not. But too many are being used, and repeating games looks tougher for them. I noted on The Main Hub before the Leeds game that normally I'd expect the Reds to tear into them, but it was on the back of another Wednesday night game, itself on the back of playing every 3/4 games for ages. Leeds are not who you want to face if you're leggy, albeit the game swung on their keeper's saves followed by a late winner (but Leeds earned their luck).
The best, most energetic mid-range-age players are (or have been) mostly injured (Luis Díaz, Diogo Jota, Ibrahima Konaté, Andy Robertson, Naby Keïta, albeit the latter is often crocked); or mostly woefully out of form, like Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez; or adapting to the style of play, like Darwin Núñez. The youngsters coming in are doing very well for their age, but are not yet consistent (a typical trend). They're learning.
So anyway, I thought I'd list the positives in the squad in some detail, and all the players to build around. (While also pointing out where they can improve.)
It's still a great squad, with so much to work with, but the trick is getting the XI balanced from it; and also, some power-running midfielders are required, either from within the squad or elsewhere. The team needs to press again.
So, I'll put this detailed piece on here for ZenDen subscribers only now, analysing each member of the squad below, and then publish it on The Main Hub later in the week.
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