Trent’s Midfield Shift: Klopp’s Decision Somewhat Inevitable

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Liverpool Squad Assessment – Dominant Displays Marred by Injury Concerns

Despite the most convincing, dominant, and emphatic away performance of Liverpool’s 2023/24 Premier League season thus far, there was one downside that occurred within the Sunday afternoon encounter at Vicarage Road. Amongst the brilliant displays of Diogo Jota, Darwin Núñez, Alexis Mac Allister, Virgil van Dijk, and Ibrahima Konaté (who I gave all a rating of nine out of ten), Curtis Jones seemed to pick up an injury that is yet undetermined his own showing was very good and allowed a control and consistency in vital areas of the pitch.

The hope is that Jürgen Klopp’s post-match words are proved correct, in that the academy graduate was merely taking preventative measures, in sitting down and calling to be withdrawn. In that moment, the scores were at an unassailable 0-3. Given the clock had ticked beyond the 80th minute, it would be the sensible choice, especially given the variation of injuries that the 23-year-old has sustained in the past.

Image: IMAGO

The Rise of Curtis Jones

If the injury does materialise into something medium to long term, this next week or so should be taken to plan and facilitate the loss of someone so important. The Liverpool number 17 has been brilliant for the better part of a year now, ever since he came into the tired first team of last season, to increase the energy and desire that had grown old and redundant. This season, a complete showing of midfield intelligence has been displayed, as the need to take responsibility in that middle ground has been taken on by the 2023 under-21 European Championships winner.

After enjoying an extended apprenticeship under the wing of Georginio Wijnaldum and then Thiago Alcântara, the intricacies of the LCM role have clearly been immersed within the footballing mindset of the Merseyside born player. Despite such a frenetic and rock & rock atmosphere which engulfs many of the red’s encounters, it is often the responsible operators who have enabled so much success (for others) during the fabled Klopp era. At the start of the campaign, I would have said it was too early to be pinning first team status onto the shirt of the 6ft 1inch asset, however, I now regard the standout midfielder as a first-choice starter and potentially a newly found managerial favourite.

Exploring Potential Midfield Solutions

The obvious and perhaps misguided choice would be to throw Ryan Gravenberch into the left sided birth, as an into the deep end sort of method. That sink or swim exercise is unfortunately something that is not possible right now, given the critical fixture list which lays ahead. The exceptional performance of Alexis Mac Allister on Sunday, was not just enabled due to the brilliance of the Argentina World Cup winner, but the combination and coverage offer by Jones.

Every holding midfielder that has played under Jürgen Klopp (whilst at Liverpool), has benefitted from that more reserved and methodical attitude displayed from the left. In this instance, the likes of Harvey Elliott or Ryan Gravenberch would lack the defensive acumen or physicality to fulfil the requirements of that role. This became apparent in the final two years of Jordan Hendersons Anfield tenure, as the increased workload placed on Thiago Alcântara (due to Hendo’s failings), finally broke the Spanish legend.

Photo: IMAGO

Trent Alexander-Arnold’s Potential Midfield Role

In essence, I would endorse the promotion of Trent Alexander Arnold into midfield (at least for this next period), even if it meant rescinding the use of the hybrid system. In either a double pivot (with Mac Allister) or with Trent tasked to the right, this would need Dominik Szoboszlai to shift over to the left or ahead of them into the ten positions.

In a 4-3-3 formation, I would have no issue in seeing Alexis embedded between those two elite level performers, who both possess the energy and desire to offer that much needed support in defensive transition. Each of these players (TAA & Dom) are currently injured, however, it does appear that both will return after the FA Cup tie against Norwich on Sunday. In that instance and if Curtis Jones were indeed out for a month or more, the interim period that continues to keep Wataru Endō at the Asia Cup, should see this endeavour undertaken.

Image: Imago

Assessing Defensive Options

The recent promotion of Conor Bradley and recall (from loan) of Owen Beck, means that the full back area has ample coverage, especially given that Andy Robertson and Kostas Tsimikas are due back soon. Nat Phillips has also been recalled from his respective loan spell; therefore, Joe Gomez should now start to bed in as the first team’s starting right back. My reservations on Ryan Gravenberch may be premature, yet the due to excellent output of Curtis Jones this past year, it means top tier assets are the only ones that can replace what he has given Liverpool v2.0.

My overall wish to see a system that includes Trent Alexander Arnold in a permanent midfield position, something that may now be enforced due to the circumstances at present.

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