Winning Substitutions Emphasises Need to Invest in the Summer

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Liverpool were hit with a number of crucial injuries ahead of their clash against Stoke City on Saturday afternoon and it almost proved costly.

Jurgen Klopp needed to call upon his Brazilian duo Phillipe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino to grab a tight victory at the Britannia Stadium, as the absence of Jordan Henderson, Sadio Mane and Adam Lallana in the squad meant there were rare Premier League starts for Ben Woodburn and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Coutinho and Firmino weren’t deemed fit enough to start either so it was a make-shift side which took to the field on Saturday. Klopp opted to use all three centre-backs Ragnar Klavan, Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren in a new-look formation, while James Milner, Georginio Wijnaldum and Emre Can were in¬†midfield.

There was plenty of strength and experience on the bench though, as Coutinho and Firmino lined up alongside Daniel Sturridge, Lucas Leiva and Alberto Moreno. That has not been the case often this season as Klopp has named plenty of youngsters in the match-day squad throughout 2016-17.

Ovie Ejaria, Loris Karius, Marko Grujic, Alexander-Arnold, Woodburn and Harry Wilson have all been involved at some point this season and while it has been encouraging to see so many talented youngsters in the mix, it has been concerning that Liverpool have not been able to call upon their substitutes to make an impact on enough occasions.

Divock Origi has often provided a threat up front when he has come on but only two of his 10 goals in all competitions this season have come as a substitute, with the majority of his goals coming from the starting line-up. Sturridge has also only contributed to just three goals from the bench and only one in the Premier League as a substitute, suggesting Liverpool have struggled to bring on impact players this season.

Woodburn is yet to open his account in the Premier League but at the age of just 17 it would be harsh to demand such things from him.

Against Stoke, Liverpool were crying out for someone to come on and make a difference and it was the two Brazilians who did so. Their introduction was crucial and it was important Liverpool had players of that stature and quality to call upon from the bench.

It was an important victory too as the Reds can’t afford to drop any more points in the race for a place in the top four.

The impact of the substitutions proved vital and it has emphasised Liverpool’s need to improve the squad depth in the summer. Prior to the two substitute goals from Coutinho and Firmino, not a single player has come on as a substitute for Liverpool and scored the winning goal in a victory. Origi came off the bench to help seal the 3-1 victory against Everton earlier this month and Woodburn also scored a late substitute goal in the EFL Cup quarter-final against Leeds but the Reds were already leading when they were both introduced.

While it has been great to see youngsters break into the first team squad, Liverpool need to bring in more experienced quality who can make an immediate impact.

Sturridge’s career looks to be over at Liverpool and even if he does stay this summer, Liverpool need to invest in a proven goal-scorer to replace Firmino in the centre-forward role. When the Brazilian is out of the side, Liverpool have lacked ruthlessness in front of goal and aside from Origi and Sturridge, there are no out-right strikers in the current squad.

There are also relatively few options to replace Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho on the wings as only Origi, Woodburn and Firmino have excelled out wide for Liverpool in the past.

If Liverpool want to compete among the best, the squad depth simply must improve. They need players available to come off the bench who are capable of becoming match winners like Coutinho and Firmino proved to be on Saturday afternoon.

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  1. Good topic. I don’t like seeing teenagers start. There should be a bench of 22 year olds waiting to take the next step. However, we forget the nearly season long injuries to Ings and Grujic have left gaps in the squad. Sad that Ejaria Moreno and Ojo haven’t staked a claim to the manager. This particular match shows the intent of Moreno being sold in summer and the likes of Ejaria, Ojo, and maybe Randall not being good enough and will be stagnant at the club. Klopp will become unstoppable if he opens his mind to getting 6 more players in and spending whatever is necessary. The club will struggle to find the line between promising prospect and money grabbing mercenary regardless of what they spend. And this summer’s money is going to be epic.

  2. The measure of squad depth is having at least 2 players for every position with the second being solid and dependable if not top drawer. By this measure, we are weak at centre back (unless Joe Gomez comes good quickly), both full back positions, on the wing and possibly in central midfield although we do have 6 or 7 options there while Lucas is still around.

    Our problem is less depth, and not even quality, but fitness. The players are clearly well trained, but we have far too many injury prone players. Matip, Lovren, Henderson, Lallana, Coutinho, Sturridge, Ings, Grujic all miss too many games – and that right there is the spine of your team plus a couple of bench options. There is always an element of bad luck with injuries but when it’s the same players always missing games you have to ask the question, are they right to take the club forward? Or, are the club’s training methods right?

  3. Despite the quality in the squad, has anyone noticed there are no direct replacements for our best players in d event of injury or being poached off our hands by the likes of Madrid n Barca.. the team immediately lacks creativity d moment phil is substituted or injured. lfc has only won a couple of matches sadio hasnt played in since his move from southampton. i think Alen halilovic n adama Traore might be very good options for decision makers at the club to consider.
    with proper coaching, i believe traore is an upgrade of sadio cos hes stronger, alot more skillful and just as quick. plus he has epl experience. we wont lack that drive and directness that sadio brings to our team in his absence. Leon bailey is good option as well.
    Alen Halilovic, is an incredible talent and hes just twenty. i think he has almost the same skill sets as coutinho so we need him.. please buy.. #BuyHalilovic #BuyTraore
    Personally, i would if i was klopp (sadly im not) buy the those two players, sell Daniel Sturridge and move sadio up as the main striker. He’s speed, strength, skill and directness will yield incredible Suarez/CR7-esque results for the team. Adding three natural wingers with emphasis on Adama Traore plus any of leon Bailey, Oxlade Chamberlain, Demarai Gray will gives us the need pace on the flanks.
    so: coutinho mane Traore
    Firmino Wijnaldum
    Kolasinac Van Dijk Matip Clyne

    subs: Karius, Lovren Milner, Can, Lallana, Origi….
    Brilliant squad.. too bad i not Klopp


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