Do Liverpool need an attacker?
All of the focus has been on whether or not Liverpool need midfield reinforcements over recent weeks. The attack has been somewhat neglected.
It is one of those areas for the Reds that, on paper, looks well stocked. In reality, though, it is a little light. At surface level, Jurgen Klopp has five senior attackers at his disposal in Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota, Luis Diaz, Roberto Firmino and Darwn Nunez. He also possesses Fabio Carvalho and Harvey Elliott could play there at a push.
However, it is a similar situation to the one in midfield whereby the numbers are there but certain profiles are lacking.
What I mean by that is, when you break it down, Liverpool have three centre-forwards, one right-winger and one left-winger amongst their senior players. Whenever this is mentioned, the retort is always along the lines of ‘Jota or Darwin can play on the left is Diaz is injured and Diaz can play on the right if Salah isn’t available’.
The solution cannot be to move a starter from one position to another. Why would you rejig two thirds of your attack because one player isn’t available? They aren’t even similar players either.
Jota and Darwin do not do the same things as Diaz does on the left hand side. Both have played there – the Uruguayn for Benfica and the former Wolves man for Liverpool – and neither operated as a touchline winger in the same way the No23 does. They weren’t seeing anywhere near as much of the ball as Diaz does, so you’d be exposing some weaknesses if you tasked either with playing that role, even in the short-term.
Then there is Carvalho.
He initially profiled like a traditional left-sided forward for the Reds – he was a goal threat with an xG90 of 0.32 for Fulham and he loved to cut inside into high-value areas. But the Reds seem to be using their wide forwards as wingers this season and Carvalho doesn’t possess the blistering pace you ideally need for that role.
Klopp could change the system to suit the players available to hit at the time but he has never really been a reactive manager. He tends to stick with a system, even when things aren’t going well and the personnel don’t seem suited to it. He does this so the team get used to what he is after. Klopp wants it to be their go-to system, they need to know it can get them out of trouble even when things aren’t going well. If he switches, it plants a seed of doubt.
I realise Salah the goalscorer is a tricky one to find an understudy for but finding a replacement for Salah the creator is not impossible. Elliott has a decent opportunity of being that guy but, like Carvalho, the pace isn’t there. There is enough of an argument to bring in someone with a closer profile to Salah to allow Elliott to remain in midfield.
Liverpool seem to get into a habit of having numbers but not necessarily the right profiles. So they end up having to shoehorn players into positions when there is an injury and things, inevitably, look off. This isn’t to say the Reds should spend for the sake of it but the wide areas are looking a little light in terms of depth right now. Those returning from injury don’t change that either.
Obviously, a midfielder is a priority but an attacker should not be far behind on that list.