Personally, I love a hypothetical within the realms of football. They allow one to examine the possibilities and justify why their selection would be viable. Of course, these hypotheticals can border on the edges of insanity, almost irrelevance i.e. Which footballer would be able to the most kick-ups with a live chicken? (probably Leo Messi). However, some are cause for intrigue.
Recently I was posed with a rather thought-provoking hypothetical, the answer to which would have been utterly disparate had I been asked after that night in Kiev: Which rival player would you bring in to your team?
Prior to the summer’s spending, midfield upgrades would have been the easy answer, a tough choice between Kevin de Bruyne and Christian Eriksen. Either of the two feeding the front three is a truly mouth-watering prospect. The chaos that would ensue with Keita and Kante is extremely enticing also. However, with the incomings of Fabinho and Naby Keita in midfield alongside James Milner, demonstrating form which makes him undroppable, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain still to return to the fold, the dearth of midfield options – particularly those well versed in the gegenpress – directs attention elsewhere.
The same could be alleged of the defence. A lot has been said of the importance of Virgil van Dijk to Liverpool’s change in fortune at the back. Whilst the Dutchman is justifying his price tag, it cannot be understated the value of the rise in prominence of the Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander Arnold. Joe Gomez is fulfilling his potential as the heir apparent to partner the Dutchman at the heart of the defence with stellar showings in the season’s early fixtures. Perhaps Jan Vertonghen or Toby Alderweireld could be an option, although having Dejan Lovren, a world cup finalist, as a backup shows our squad depth. Having just formed a formidable four at the back, it would take a brave manager to upset the new-found cohesion.
The financial outlay on Alisson and his subsequent performances have vindicated Klopp’s faith that he is the right man to guard the posts at Anfield. Stealing David De Gea away from Manchester United may be an upgrade in terms of pure shot stopping but the real ulterior motive would be to deprive the red devils of him, having just produced one of the single greatest individual seasons by a goalkeeper.
It would be on the cusp of blasphemy to suggest a separation of the front three. Alas, this is where we have arrived. The rival player who I would bring to Liverpool is Eden Hazard.
After the 3-1 loss to Real Madrid, it was clear that Liverpool’s reliance on Mohamed Salah was a major pitfall. Whilst the Egyptian was on the pitch Liverpool mustered 9 shots in the first half. After he was taken off, Liverpool managed none. The dependence on Salah was an afterthought. Hazards introduction would certainly dispose of that.
The newly knighted winger has been in scintillating form this season for club and country, finally given the license to truly express himself in the final third. No longer shackled by defence first managers, the 2014/15 PFA player of the year is the early front-runner to reclaim the accolade with Maurizio Sarri suggesting a 40-goal season could be on the cards.
Who would he replace though? The Belgians relationship working alongside Olivier Giroud would suggest that a connection with Roberto Firmino would quickly blossom. Following Mohammed Salah’s opening season heroics, the Kop would not take his non-selection too lightly.
This is not to detract from the appreciation I have for Sadio Mane. The former Southampton man has been the brightest spark in our attack thus far, looking comfortable in his new number 10 shirt. However, playing Hazard on his preferred left-hand side under Jurgen Klopp? Is there anything more a Liverpool fan could want more?
What are your thoughts on the topic? Is there a player who would improve us more in the Premier league? Leave a comment below and we can discuss.