A Midfield Reshuffle?
If the latter part of the summer transfer window had gone as planned, it would have seen Moisés Caicedo and André join Liverpool Football club, to add to Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai, as the perfect midfield rebuild. The moves for both those desired assets unfortunately fell away, forcing Jörg Schmadtke and Jürgen Klopp to shop from other vendors. The secondary defensive midfield option, Roméo Lavia, was also taken off the table (after a very long and frustrating bout of negotiations), as the controversial transfer struggle with Chelsea scuppered the reds hunt for that which was needed most. In the case of the Fluminense controller, André, his club’s participation in their hunt for silverware, saw them resist any all Fluminense overtures, as their run to Copa Libertadores glory proved correct. The alternative to that man was evidently the former Ajax prodigy, Ryan Gravenberch, who has since proved a solid signing, one who I believe will be better suited to the Premier League, than the 23-year-old, André.
How Was Fabinho Eventually Replaced….?
The Anfield recruitment team were forced to regroup (after the Chelsea debacle) to secure some form of holding midfield player, which ended with Wataru Endō arriving to offer much needed coverage. I am still hopeful that the Japan skipper can play a vital part in this season (and beyond), one which could swing in either direction in the next month. The former Stuttgart captain is that blunt instrument who is required to do the dirty work, that some of our high-profile players too often struggle with. In any elite footballing team, there must be that energetic presence in the middle ground, who can snuff out danger and carry out the ball winning and combative tasks that are imperative. Some supporters will have forgotten how long it took Fabinho to immerse himself into Jürgen Klopp’s first team plans, as the German manager continued to play his trusted leader, Jordan Henderson (in holding midfield), until the Brazilian enforcer was fully acclimatized. It took roughly three months of training and adaptation to create that which was needed, before the former Monaco ball winner was fully unleashed. That time frame is roundabout the period that our 30-year-old Japan international has been on Merseyside, which has me hoping for something similar in his pathway. Due to the one game suspension of our Argentina World Cup winner, Alexis Mac Allister, it should see our specialist destroyer starting against Brentford on Saturday, as the much-needed shield for this team in transition, with a continued position beckoning.
Klopp on Wataru Endo:
“He has another five years of top football in his legs.
He has a lot of potential and he never played on this level before but now consistently I am really happy with him.” pic.twitter.com/73dZl61UIR
— Anything Liverpool (@AnythingLFC_) November 4, 2023
What Next for Alexis…?
In failing to attract a high-level player for that problematic midfield position, it forced our former Dortmund manager to make a curious decision to counteract the neglect. In opting for his former Brighton playmaker (as the deepest player in a starting midfield three), it forced the 5ft 9inch creator of chances into an unfamiliar defensive role. With a mere eleven Premier League games undertaken thus far, the 24-year-old is now suspended due to a culmination of yellow cards. These cautions restricted his on field play for large periods of games, whilst pointing to his lack of experience in the role and subsequent failure to win the ball cleanly. By continuing to drop the classy operator into such a combative and restricted role, could undermine his play and damage his confidence in the long term. This very moment represents the perfect opportunity (enforced by suspension) to take him out of the firing line, before drafting him into a more attacking midfield position in the side. As an orchestrator in the advanced number eight role, Alexis could offer a Thiago-esque approach to our predictable patterns of play. Recent matches have proved that Ryan Gravenberch and Dominik Szoboszlai are too similar, with a desire will continually surge forward with the ball at their feet. In allowing Mac Allister to occupy a higher and less defensive position in the team (as the LCM) he could drift across the edge of the oppositions final third, allowing all his electric teammates to make strategic runs ahead of him. By enforcing the decision to relieve the former Argentinos Juniors player of his defensive burden, it could in turn offer the perfect balance in the lead up to the Christmas schedule.
Alexis Mac Allister looks more and more devoid of confidence with each game. He is just not suited to what he's being asked and expected to do
Tons of unnecessary touches; he is even starting to avoid doing the things he's actually good at. He hasn't been managed well so far.
— The Tactical Times (@Tactical_Times) November 5, 2023
What Comes Next…?
After the visit of Brentford (on the afternoon of Sunday 12th November), the international break inevitably ends with the dreaded 12.30 kick off time, on the 25th of this same month. Manchester City and the Etihad stadium await the reds on that day, which could make for the most influential game of the season so far. Liverpool have confirmed their qualification from the Europa Group stage, which means that domestic football is the only vital element that should be undertaken by the majority of their squad, until the knock out stages of European football begins. The remaining two games in Group E should be used to enable required minutes (for select squad pieces), as well as blooding the infectious and talented youth. Certain inexperienced prodigies will gain so much from those rare first team appearances, therefore, they should now take on the brunt of those final pair of games.
Who Should Occupy the Defensive Midfield Position for The Remainder of 2023…?
The turn of the year will see Wataru Endō head off for the Asia Cup, as leader of the Japan national side. Until that point, however, his place in the first team elite must be prominent. This endeavour would not just offer a much-needed safety net to the exposed defensive group, it would also give balance to the hybrid initiative. The reliability of Trent Alexander Arnold has once more been called into question, yet he is asked to carry out a key role without the required covering player beside him. More than that, the starting role of that energetic holding midfield specialist would release Alexis Mac Allister, so he might engineer and undertake the football that made Klopp so keen to sign him. The added knock-on effect of having a controlling player in the side (as an advanced midfielder) would enable the entire group of forward-thinking assets, to receive better service and coordination in their attacks.
The selection and correct implementation of just one player, Wataru Endō, would allow so much more freedom to those ahead, as well as assurance to those in behind. I hope the away game against Toulouse (tonight, as I write this) is the start of his extended run in the team, because this Liverpool 2.0 desperately needs that type of player in the side.