Liverpool’s Midfield: From Despair to Dynasty?

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It’s hard to believe it was coming up three months ago now when Liverpool Twitter went into a very Liverpool Twitter meltdown. The FSG out crew were out in force begging for a takeover from the Middle East, whilst some were even questioning if Klopp had lost his touch as one of the finest managers in the game. Everyone knows the day I’m talking about, the day when some of the more level-headed of us would have actually paid Elon Musk to implement the “rate limit exceeded” function that day just to stop having to endure the somewhat primal rage being displayed by some.

That day was of course in early April when many of the more reliable Liverpool Football Club-related journalists confirmed what many had been predicting for some time, that Liverpool Football Club had ended their interest in Jude Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund. I’ll be honest, I had pretty much given up on signing Jude several months earlier, and in truthfulness, I wasn’t too downbeat about it. This wasn’t to say I didn’t rate Jude as an exceptionally talented midfielder who was undoubtedly good enough to come in and make an immediate impact, but the performances of Liverpool in the 2022/2023 season were so bad that I knew Jude was not the answer. 

Don’t get me wrong, could Jude have come in and taken the right-sided 8 roles to a whole new level? Of course, he could. He would have been a significant upgrade on an aging Jordan Henderson, who in all honesty should have been reduced to a squad player two years prior. I wasn’t even massively put off by the fee when you consider his age and the fact he would have been a key component in Liverpool’s midfield for over a decade or that he would have been sold in 4-5 years for at least an extra £50m. No, my concern was that Liverpool had fallen off so badly, their midfield was in such a horrendous place that Jude would not solve the issues and would take such a portion of the transfer and wage budget. 

Had what I believe the original plan come to fruition, whereby Liverpool signed Aurelien Tchouameni last summer and Jude Bellingham this summer this would have likely been a very different article. However, Tchouameni did not sign, Henderson regressed even further, Fabinho’s legs went completely, Naby continued to spend more time in the physio room with Ox and all Arthur managed was to shake a smug Pep Guardiola’s hand when a poorly structured Liverpool were easily carved open at the Etihad. It was clear a total rebuild was needed in Liverpool’s midfield and arguably to an even greater degree once it was clear that Jurgen was going to press ahead with this new 3-4-3 system in possession moving forwards. 

As always, the transfer rumour season started early and Liverpool were the centre of it. Everyone in the world of football, the new Liverpool would be on the hunt for midfielders. Liverpool Twitter was in full force again, with various names being banded about from genuinely excellent players like Moises Caicedo to Match of the Day pundit ‘top players’ like James Ward-Prowse being mentioned. I’ll be honest, I was slightly concerned with some of the names being mentioned. Were the doom and gloomers right? Had Jurgen seized all power in the transfer department and was listening to Pep too much with players like Gravenberch being linked almost daily? 

Amongst some of the more concerning names being mentioned, there were some tentative links to some real top-drawer players and prospects. Kephren Thuram was the main name being linked, Manu Kone was also heavily rumoured and there were reports Liverpool had spoken with Southampton about Lavia on the final day of the season. These were all promising links and I’d have been delighted to sign all 3 of these players. 

Then suddenly the links to Alexis Mac Allister surfaced, a player instrumental in Argentina’s World Cup victory and one of the most complete midfielders in the Premier League. In a display more like the Liverpool transfer tales of the 2018-2020 time, by the time the local journalists had any idea what was going on the music artist Sash was begging for his song to be played over the infamous Anfield tannoy. Mac Allister was over the line and for an absolute bargain of around £35m. What a start to the transfer season. 

Then again, in true Liverpool Twitter style as things went a little quiet in the days following the announcement the meltdowns began again. “Why haven’t we signed Thuram yet?” “Why are we just watching Arsenal and City battle it out for Declan Rice?”. The gloom was back and I once again debated deactivating my Twitter. People were once again incapable of using any rational thought with the fact that Thuram and Kone were at the U21s and maybe, just maybe Liverpool were being very active behind the scenes but also allowing Jorg Schmadtke to get his feet under the table now that Julian Ward had finalised the Mac Allister deal. 

Then out of the blue, the unthinkable happened. I’m a very opportunistic fan, I sit somewhere in the middle with “FSG Out” to they’ve been excellent owners but even I couldn’t believe the article which had appeared before my eyes on my feed. David Ornstein confirmed that Liverpool were exploring a deal for the Hungarian hunk, Dominik Szoboszlai. This was from Ornstein, a journalist who on the whole does not tweet unless there is real substance, unlike a certain spoofer who gets rather upset on phone calls. I’m now sitting here 5 days later trying to stop a) my stupid grin and b) my fiance wanting to see more pics of him. Dominik Szoboszlai was a red and for a very very reasonable fee (in today’s market) of £60m. 

I wanted Liverpool to sign him at the time he went to RB Leipzig and I thought we had missed our chance. An outrageously good ball striker who can dribble in a manner that reminds me of Suarez and who can pick passes like De Bruyne. A truly special talent who will take Liverpool’s new-look midfield to a whole new level, Dominik Szoboszlai is the most exciting signing Liverpool have made since Luis Suarez.  

Yes that’s right, Liverpool have signed World Cup winner Mac Allister and one of the most gifted young attacking midfielders on the planet for less than Arsenal are set to pay for Declan Rice. Don’t get me wrong, Rice is a very good player and has the potential to be excellent in a proper B2B role next to a true 6 but he is not this transformative player some claim him to be. I’ll tell you something, I’m far happier with Alexis and Dominik signing than I would have been if we had spent £100m on Rice. 

You know what the best thing is? It clearly seems Liverpool are not done yet. Prior to the window, I was expecting two starting midfielders to come in and maybe a third as a squad option. I assumed the third would likely be somewhat of an unknown, maybe a young player from South America but certainly not a ‘well-known’ player. However, there are now rather concrete reports that Lavia and Thuram are still very much on Liverpool’s hit list for this summer. 

I would imagine if we were to sign both this would mean another midfielder is leaving and sadly, this would likely be the magical Thiago Alcantara. I love Thiago. He’s the most gifted midfielder I’ve seen at Liverpool in my lifetime. Stevie was never a proper centre midfielder and Thiago plays the game with such grace that he makes Xabi Alonso, one of my all-time favourite players, look somewhat mundane. If selling Thiago means we sign both Lavia and Thuram, Liverpool have to do it. This thing of allowing players to leave on free transfers needs to stop, as does rely entire campaigns on injury-prone players. 

If the option is there Liverpool need to do it. Sign Lavia. Sign Thuram. It would, should they add a capable LCB as well, resulting in one of the greatest transfer windows of all time. The midfield would be pretty much set for at least 5-7 years and stocked with some of the finest talents around for each role. I went into this summer expecting Liverpool to sign some good players, I did not expect Liverpool to come out the other side with a bunch of midfielders at their disposal that would form the basis for a new Klopp Dynasty but it appears that may very well end up the case.

The dream may well have been Bellingham, Tchouameni, and Caicedo but the reality of Mac Allister, Szoboszlai, Thuram and Lavia could well be the dream come true. Smile Reds, Klopp Liverpool MkII is taking shape and it may well end up better than the first. 

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