ThisIsAnfield.com

Subscribe to ThisIsAnfield.com feed ThisIsAnfield.com
Liverpool FC News, Opinion, Transfer Rumours and Discussion
Updated: 6 hours 49 min ago

How Thiago signing can solve three key issues for Liverpool

Fri, 09/18/2020 - 19:00

Liverpool’s £25 million deal to sign Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich does not only add a world-class midfielder to the squad, but solves a host of other key issues too. 

Thiago‘s arrival from Bayern comes after a summer of speculation, with the Reds taking their time in pursuit of the Spaniard as they assessed their financial situation.

With Jurgen Klopp a keen admirer of the 29-year-old, though, Liverpool pushed ahead of a with a move that sees Thiago arrive for an initial £20 million, with a further £5 million negotiated in add-ons.

It is a bargain deal for a player of Thiago‘s calibre, regardless of him being in the final year of his contract at Bayern and turning 30 in April.

This is even more so because it addresses a number of other issues within Klopp’s squad, and not just in the middle of the park.

Gini, what now then?

 Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum during a preseason friendly match between FC Red Bull Salzburg and Liverpool FC at the Red Bull Arena. (Pic by Propaganda)

In the weeks leading up to Liverpool’s eventual approach for Thiago, it was widely mooted that his arrival would be contingent on the departure of another senior midfielder.

Namely, that would have been Gini Wijnaldum, who has attracted interest from Barcelona and, like Thiago at Bayern, is in the last 12 months of his contract.

The latest on Wijnaldum’s future is that the Dutchman now appears eager to stay on Merseyside following talks with Jurgen Klopp, but previous disagreements over the length and value of his next deal could put paid to that beyond 2021.

Effectively, signing Thiago solves the problem of replacing Wijnaldum before it arises; the Spaniard offers similar qualities to the No. 5, and then some, though claims he is a clear upgrade are disrespectful to one of Klopp’s lieutenants.

If Wijnaldum does leave in the next 12 months, the Reds already have his successor in their ranks, but on a more positive slant, the arrival of Thiago adds another top-level midfielder to the squad.

Thiago, Wijnaldum, Fabinho, Naby Keita, Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Curtis Jones, James Milner and perhaps Marko Grujic—few sides will have that degree of strength and diversity in the middle of the park.

It could even be that Thiago turns out replacing Milner, whose deal expires in 2022, or Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose injury problems have persisted into the new campaign, but either way, it is a pragmatic and pre-emptive solution.

Fab fourth?

 Liverpool’s Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' during the opening FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. Liverpool won 4-3. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

In some quarters, Thiago was seen as a luxury signing for the Reds; less imperative than bringing in a new fourth-choice centre-back or added depth to the attacking line.

But Dejan Lovren‘s exit is, in fact, catered for with the arrival of the player who has taken his No. 6 shirt.

At 5’9″, Thiago is not, and never will be, a centre-back, but in Fabinho, Klopp has a midfielder already earmarked as a “creative” option at the heart of defence.

The Brazilian is proven as more than capable in the role, having excelled alongside Joel Matip in a 0-0 draw with a Bayern side that included Thiago in the Champions League in 2018.

And while he is clearly at his best in the anchor role in midfield, signing Thiago allows Klopp to deploy Fabinho in emergency situations, when Matip and Joe Gomez are both out and neither Billy Koumetio nor Sepp van den Berg are trusted.

While not a bona fide defensive midfielder, Thiago‘s world-class ability can see him fill in at the base of the midfield, while both Wijnaldum and Henderson are available to step in for Fabinho if needed too.

Ultimately, it absolves the need to sign a new fourth-choice centre-back, which unless a Ragnar Klavan scenario presents itself is particularly difficult, as the player signed would need to be capable, but also content with much of a season spent on the fringes.

Liverpool could still bring in another centre-back, but the Thiago transfer certainly reduces the need to do so.

Staying on top

 ©UEFA)

On a more basic level, bringing Thiago to Liverpool addresses any concerns over complacency seeping into Klopp’s squad after winning the title.

The best Liverpool sides have always built from a position of strength—take Kenny Dalglish, Alan Hansen and Graeme Souness on the back of the club’s first-ever European Cup in 1977—and there were fears over whether the Reds could replicate their triumph without doing so.

Bringing in a new, elite-level midfielder can spur the squad on; Thiago is a winner, with seven Bundesliga titles, two La Liga titles and two Champions League wins to his name among many others, and his arrival will inspire his new team-mates.

Not only will it stir up competition in midfield, with the likes of Wijnaldum, Henderson and Keita not assured of their places, but it will reinvigorate those in defence and attack, too.

He will up the standard in training and in games, and will inject freshness into the dressing room, as regardless of how strong the bond is within any squad, it would be very rare for the same faces to not grow stale eventually.

In short, Thiago is a statement signing for Liverpool, the most high-profile player brought into the club in many, many years.

For £25 million, it was a deal too good for Klopp to turn down, as his new No. 6 solves a host of issues that could have arisen over the course of this season and beyond.

Let's block ads! (Why?)

Categories: LFC NEWS

“Love this player”, “Makes perfect sense” – Liverpool fans are delighted as Reds close in on Jota signing

Fri, 09/18/2020 - 18:58

Liverpool are reportedly ‘closing in’ on a big-money deal to sign Wolves attacker Diogo Jota, with supporters left overjoyed after an unforgettable day in the transfer window.

If the arrival of Thiago from Bayern Munich wasn’t enough, Jurgen Klopp has seemingly decided to add another top player to his squad.

According to the Times‘ Paul Joyce, the Reds are set to sign Jota in a £35million deal, acting as ideal competition to the front-three.

The 23-year-old has been an influential figure for Wolves, forging a menacing striker partnership with Raul Jimenez and scoring 16 times last season.

It has been a day to treasure for anyone of a Liverpool persuasion, as they make huge progress in the summer transfer market.

Needless to say, positivity has been the order of the day from Reds fans on Twitter and Facebook.

Signing Jota would cap off a brilliant window for #LFC. Cover at left-back & the front-three absolute necessities, especially with gruelling fixture list alongside sparkle of Thiago. 16G & 6A’s last season, can play across front three, experienced & yet still young at 23.

— Leanne Prescott (@_lfcleanne) September 18, 2020

Adding quality depth to the front three was an absolute necessity to address this window. Jota is ideal – can play wide left or through the middle, and at 23 has significant scope for further development. Helps with future AFCON issue as well. Makes so much sense.

— Joel Rabinowitz (@joel_archie) September 18, 2020

Thiago is better than any of our CM’s. Jota is better than any of our back up forwards.

— John O'Sullivan (@NotoriousJOS) September 18, 2020

“Love this player! Definitely a good choice to have” – Michael G Mbaya on Facebook.

#JotaSaturday

— Ste Hoare (@stehoare) September 18, 2020

jota got 6 goals in 8 games in the europa league last season

— Vik (@LFCVik2) September 18, 2020

Anyone else reckon someone told Michael Edwards we were still under lockdown and now they’ve just gone “do what you want lad”?

— Ross (@rossic89) September 18, 2020

“Him over Sarr all day long. This day rules. YNWA” – Nicholas Ryan on Facebook.

“FSG don’t spend enough” ? https://t.co/Dxqldopjvr

— LFC Raleigh ? (@LFCRaleigh) September 18, 2020

Jota a bit like Mane at Southampton. A player that stands out but you’d never say he’d be able to play at a level befitting of Real Madrid. Yet, he just makes perfect sense and Klopp will turn him into a world beater, as happened with Salah too.

— Chris Winterburn (@cmwinterburn) September 18, 2020

Jota makes it 10/10 man hes perfect for us. Pedro type player who gets you 10 goals minimum from wide with both feet

— Sean (@SeanDOlfc) September 18, 2020

“Great player and addition to the squad!” – Christian Hablch on Facebook.

Have always liked him ..will bring pace work rate to an already deadly attack. Welcome to @lfc Jota ?? https://t.co/NTfkQmn55J

— Grizz* (@GrizzKhan) September 18, 2020

PL 19/20
Successful Dribbles p90
Jota – 2.6
Keita – 2.5
Mane – 2.3
Firmino – 1.6
Salah – 1.6

— Dinesh Kumar (@DHardayal) September 18, 2020

Me with all this LFC content… pic.twitter.com/siK1GSdbEq

— Rory Greenfield (@RoryGreenfield) September 18, 2020

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

Let's block ads! (Why?)

Categories: LFC NEWS

Liverpool close to £35m deal for winger Diogo Jota

Fri, 09/18/2020 - 18:30

Liverpool are closing in on a deal for Wolves winger Diogo Jota, for a fee of more than £35 million.

On the same day that midfielder Thiago Alcantara was unveiled as the Reds’ new No.6, reports began over interest in Portuguese attacker Jota.

And within hours those have quickly escalated to a deal being close to agreed with Wolves for the 23-year-old.

Jota is expected to head to Merseyside, while teenage defender Ki-Jana Hoever goes the opposite way to the Midlands in a separate transfer for around £10 million.

The deal for the versatile attacker, who plays predominantly on the left of a front three but can also play as an attacking midfielder or as a forward, could even be completed this weekend.

Jota was not in the Wolves squad for their League Cup tie in the week, with manager Nuno Espirito Santo saying he was unavailable and that “these are decisions that we have to make.”

Several well sourced Merseyside journalists, including The Independent‘s Melissa Reddy and The Times‘ Paul Joyce have now reported the £35-million-plus fee for Jota.

Jurgen Klopp is said to be “an admirer of the versatility and work rate of the Portugal international.”

Jota, who has been at Wolves for three seasons, quickly became Liverpool’s priority after Watford‘s price tag for winger Ismalia Sarr became prohibitive.

 Darren Staples/Sportimage/PA Images)

He scored 16 goals and made six assists in 48 appearances last season, and made his debut for the Portugal national team last November.

Jota’s arrival would be Liverpool’s third of the summer, with a centre-back then the only potential incoming left for Klopp’s side.

Adding quality depth to Liverpool’s attacking options has been a priority in the eyes of most supporters this summer, especially with the condensed season ahead meaning more rotation will be required.

Attention will next turn to departures, with Hoever set to be followed by the exits of Harry Wilson, Rhian Brewster, Divock Origi, Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Grujic – all of which are available for a permanent transfer at the right price.

Let's block ads! (Why?)

Categories: LFC NEWS

Watch Jurgen Klopp’s pre-match press conference – Chelsea vs. Liverpool

Fri, 09/18/2020 - 13:12

Jurgen Klopp may have had said little about the imminent arrival of Thiago but his body language spoke volumes as he faced the press ahead of the trip to Chelsea.

[embedded content]

Liverpool supporters were kept in suspense for much of Friday awaiting confirmation of Thiago’s arrival, and the boss only added to the torturous wait having remained relatively tight-lipped on the Spaniard.

It was, of course, the first question of the day and while his body language was screaming elation, his words remained coy as he refused to be the one to officially unveil his new signing – even adding “if it happens” to the mix.

“Nothing really to say,” Klopp told reporters with a smile. “How I learned it, it’s not official until it’s announced!

“I’m not an announcer so I don’t know what I can say but it looks quite promising…but it might be useful to have a look at a few Liverpool channels over the day and we will see whatever happens!”

But he was clear that the arrival of the 29-year-old would not signal the departure of an existing player as has been widely touted throughout the summer – allaying fears that Gini Wijnaldum could leave.

“It has no impact on anybody’s future in a negative way,” he added. “Somebody has to leave because somebody has come in, no. No impact.”

 Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp and Chelsea's manager Frank Lampard embrace after the FA Cup 5th Round match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

He was eager, however, to discuss the upcoming clash against Chelsea which presents another stern test for his side on matchday two.

“Last season we played them pretty often and it was really difficult, first and foremost,” he continued.

“[Their] first game against Brighton was how it looks when you play them, we all suffer against Brighton and you have to be decisive in the key moments and that was the story of the game pretty much.

“We have no idea who Frank will lineup, they have so many different options. We don’t know a lot about Chelsea in the moment, so we focus on ourselves.

“We’ve had a really intense training week, working on decisive stuff. A lot of things were good in the first game, some were not but it was the first game, we work with it and use it as one [piece of] information.”

The boss also confirmed that there are no new injury concerns and touched on his non-rivalry with Frank Lampard.

Let's block ads! (Why?)

Categories: LFC NEWS

Thiago signing does not mean other players must leave, insists Jurgen Klopp

Fri, 09/18/2020 - 12:20

Jurgen Klopp all but confirmed Thiago’s Liverpool arrival and was quick to insist the Spaniard’s place in the squad will not come at the detriment of existing players at the club.

The Spaniard’s arrival is set to be officially confirmed over the coming hours after the Reds agreed to a four-year deal with their new No. 6.

Tongues are rightly wagging at Thiago’s Anfield arrival, with the world-class operator set to provide tactical versatility to the side and shed some of the burden on the full-backs to create.

And while Thiago penned a heartfelt goodbye message to Bayern Munich, who he spent seven years with, earlier on Friday morning confirmation of his place within Liverpool’s squad has yet to be announced, leaving Klopp to act coy in his pre-Chelsea press conference.

The boss was clearly in a good mood when the first question thrown at him was in relation to Thiago, grinning in delight as he looked to dodge an official declaration that his signature is imminent.

“Nothing really to say,” Klopp said with a wry smile. “How I learned it, it’s not official until it’s announced!

[embedded content]

“I’m not an announcer so I don’t know what I can say but it looks quite promising. My hands are tied pretty much but it might be useful to have a look at a few Liverpool channels over the day and we will see whatever happens!

“Nothing is announced, that’s all I can say. I can answer after something is announced…or not,” he added with a laugh.

A myriad of reports throughout the summer as Liverpool chased Thiago was in the context that the Reds would need to see players leave before a deal could be done, with Gini Wijnaldum widely touted as the man to depart.

It has since been claimed that positive talks have taken place with the Dutchman who is expected to remain in place this season, and the boss was eager to insist that Thiago’s arrival will not signal the departure of one of his existing players.

That’s “if it happens”, as Klopp continued to act coy.

“If it happens, it has no impact on anybody’s future in a negative way,” he continued. “Somebody has to leave because somebody has come in, no. No impact.

“It’s about timing, sometimes you buy before you sell and sometimes you sell before you buy. There are different scenarios and sometimes you earn the money back in a different way.

 Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp celebrates with Georginio Wijnaldum after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 3-2. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“What is always true for us is that what we earn with football we spend with football, that’s the club. A pretty short summary of our philosophy but it’s one of the key points and we cannot just say we need this and that and cannot afford it.

“I would not insist on it but we work constantly on improvement, sometimes people like it and sometimes they like it later, that’s fact.

“The window itself leaves the window open, so that’s normal and I cannot promise we will do something and I cannot say it’s 100 percent sure we don’t do anything – it’s the situation.

“It’s a developing situation, everything could happen. A player could come to me and say I want to go, I don’t expect that, but it could happen and we have to react – all these things can happen.”

Let's block ads! (Why?)

Categories: LFC NEWS

Liverpool make Ousmane Dembele loan bid, claim Spanish report

Fri, 09/18/2020 - 11:25

Liverpool are “keen on taking” Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele on a season-long loan deal, according to a Spanish paper, with a forward seemingly next on the agenda for the Reds.

The Reds had been relatively quiet in the transfer window until earlier this week, with Kostas Tsimikas the only arrival amid widespread reports suggesting outgoings must be made before incomings.

Then, a breakthrough in a deal for Thiago which is set to be announced on Friday and further ties to forwards as the Reds’ next target area becomes apparent.

Watford‘s Ismalia Sarr has been regularly touted, with the Mail‘s Dominic King reporting that the club have made an enquiry into the availability of the winger, but no bid has been made.

The 22-year-old is viewed as a candidate to provide cover for both Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, and now Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele has been added to the mix by Spanish outlet Sport.

The Frenchman has long been known as a favourite of Klopp’s and they claim the club “have made contact” with Barcelona “about the possibility of taking the France international on loan.”

 France's Ousmane DembÈlÈ in action against England during an international friendly match at the Stade de France. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The deal would reportedly see the Reds “take on his salary and pay a small fee for a one year loan,” but the Catalan side have “not responded” and would be resistant to agreeing to a loan deal.

Dembele’s talent is undeniable, with his pace and skill having led to his €105 million transfer to Camp Nou in the summer of 2017, but a series of injuries has denied him the chance to justify his hefty fee.

He has made a total of 74 appearances for Barcelona in three seasons, returning 19 goals and 17 assists, but he has not made a competitive appearance since November last year due to a troublesome hamstring injury.

It would not be out of the realm of possibility that Liverpool would pursue such a move, with the outlay for a permanent signing, regardless of Dembele’s current output, beyond the Reds’ reach.

And a loan spell would make him only the second player Klopp has signed on a temporary basis at Anfield – with Steven Caulker the first back in 2016.

A new attacking option is undoubtedly a need for Liverpool this season and Dembele can play on either flank, the question is if he can get his body back on track after being besieged by injury at the age of just 23.

Let's block ads! (Why?)

Categories: LFC NEWS

Do Liverpool have the squad depth to win back-to-back Premier League titles?

Thu, 09/17/2020 - 19:00

With the transfer window bringing inevitable talk of new signings at Liverpool, and all quiet at Anfield so far, Andy Campbell assesses the Reds’ squad depth and title hopes.

Soak it up, savour it. Breathe it in.

Every last intoxicating trail of smoke from the celebratory fireworks. Each and every angle of Klopp’s dazzling dance moves. Every precious, tantrum-induced, salty tear stain from rival supporters.

For the first time in 30 years, Liverpool took to the field as league champions as the season kicked off. The trophy lift will feature in every opening segment of Match of the Day, the infamous shuffle in all its HD glory for the entirety of 2020/21.

Martin Tyler can no longer drone on about the long wait, whether it’s on Sky Sports or infuriatingly every single game of FIFA featuring the Reds. Alan Smith will still ramble on about ’89 at Anfield mind!

For a significant section of the fanbase, this is uncharted terrain. And that’s putting aside the post-apocalyptic young-adult fiction vibe COVID-19 brings.

Previously, the standard summer cycle typically involved varying degrees of squad overhaul, new management and squabbles over who would be this year’s final piece of the jigsaw.

That those arguments are now largely played out across social-media platforms with strangers of unspecified age, knowledge and motive reflects the insanity of modern dialogue on…well, everything really.

Is it really worth arguing over Liverpool’s fiscal position and consequent transfer options with an eight-year-old on their lunch break in Valparaiso, Chile, who it turns out was a Porotos Granados-munching Everton fan on the windup all along? Le faltan palos para el Puente!!

 Liverpool’s manager Jürgen Klopp (L) and assistant manager Peter Krawietz celebrate on the podium during the trophy presentation as the Reds are crowned Champions after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I naively thought Jurgen Klopp had rather ruined our traditions by winning the Premier League. A summer of bliss, unity and well-placed optimism beckoned.

A supremely talented squad, that has already delivered success, is still in its peak years in terms of age profile and has no glaring long-term injury issues surely only needs tweaking.

Instead, Twitter user @LFCDavidSilvaSuperFanNudes, who may or may not be a bot, explained the glaring holes in the team and why they’ll be lucky to finish above Norwich.

To suggest a schism in the fanbase is probably a step too far but there’s certainly differing opinions on what’s needed in this season’s squad.

Mind the Gap

 Liverpool’s players in anthem jackets before the opening FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The current Reds team have an outstanding and well-established starting XI. There’s strength in depth, exemplified by players coming off the bench to impact games across the 2019/20 title win.

So where are the gaps? Are there areas that can be improved?

Goalkeeper?

 Liverpool’s goalkeeper Alisson Becker during the opening FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. Liverpool won 4-3. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Alisson is, perhaps, the best goalkeeper in world football. The undisputed No. 1 at Liverpool. He’s a majestically handsome bastard to boot!

Injuries restricted Alisson to just 37 appearances but Adrian offers more than adequate backup.

Yes, he cost Liverpool with expensive errors in the Champions League against Atletico Madrid and yes, he cost me personally.

That exclusive Karl Thyer mug was irreplaceable frankly, let alone the cost of replacing my TV that evidently isn’t shatterproof. So much for the lavender-scented zen calming candles.

Yet overall, Adrian’s contribution was positive.

On a more practical level, it’s simply not feasible to go out and waste a restricted transfer budget on someone who’s unlikely to match Adrian’s 11 appearances of last season.

VERDICT: All good here, but time for Karius to move on.

Centre-back?

 Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk during the opening FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Virgil van Dijk has proven his quality time and again. Factor in his durability, contentment with life on Merseyside and an increasingly reliable partner in Joe Gomez.

This is a first-choice pairing even peak Mourinho would have looked at with snide, envious glances. Respect.

Gomez’s 43 appearances last term suggest a young player overcoming earlier serious injury concerns, but beyond the first-choice pairing, problems are evident.

Matip is a first-rate performer and when fully fit would compete fiercely with Gomez for a starting slot. Unfortunately, he’s injury prone and has been throughout his career.

Lovren is gone, no need to debate his merits anymore.

All told, the Reds are short in this department. That’s not to say there aren’t options. Fabinho is excellent when required to step back into defence but he’s a big loss from the middle of the park.

The youngsters Koumetio, Van den Berg and Hoever all represent promising and varying degrees of unknown talent, and it would be a significant gamble, and show of trust, asking any of the kids to step in as fourth-choice centre-back.

VERDICT: I’d like to see game time afforded to the young players, so have no issue with any of them (likely Koumetio) filling the fourth-choice slot.

The problem is the sadly excellent but rarely fit Joel Matip. For that reason, another centre-back is an essential purchase.

Full-backs?

 Liverpool’s Andy Robertson (L) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (R) before the opening FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Complementing the best centre-back pairing in European football are two of the finest full-backs around.

Trent’s solid defensive abilities continue to improve, while his creative output puts him up there with the best playmakers…and no he doesn’t need to move into midfield!

On the other side, Robertson is almost as prolific. Albeit in a more traditional fashion.

These two are critical to Liverpool. Not simply for their play down the flanks but crucially for their ability to quickly and accurately switch play, exposing opposition vulnerabilities.

Kostas Tsimikas offers welcome cover at left-back, affording Robertson much-needed relief from his previous workload.

Whether Neco Williams is comparable with Alexander-Arnold is, to an extent, irrelevant at this stage. He falls into the ‘raw but promising’ category and will get game time to develop.

VERDICT: Two elite full-backs and two adequate backups. Gomez and Milner able to cover in an absolute worst-case scenario. The Reds have got this covered.

Midfield?

 Liverpool’s captain Jordan Henderson during the opening FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. Liverpool won 4-3. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

This is proving the most contentious department for obvious reasons. Across much of Klopp’s tenure, there’s been an almost wilful ignorance demonstrated about how the unit functions.

I’ve touched on it before but a first-choice trio of Fabinho, Henderson and Wijnaldum is the fulcrum of the side.

They offer a perfect balance of tactical awareness, selfless defensive instincts and the ability to chip in with a few key goals or assists. It’s not their primary purpose but don’t mistake that for an inability to deliver.

That said, Jurgen Klopp and Pep Lijnders are more aware than anyone that teams are trying to solve the puzzle of closing down the full-backs without exposing a soft underbelly to Liverpool’s lethal front three.

Allowing for the slight post-lockdown dip, it doesn’t really appear anyone is close to solving the conundrum.

Arsenal have certainly posed questions in the last two meetings, yet for all Arteta’s obvious tactical acumen it’s largely been based on an ultra-defensive approach that even Roy Hodgson might’ve blushed at, along with uncharacteristic defensive errors and pre-season fatigue.

Klopp has hinted at a tactical shift over the summer to combat such scenarios.

It’s not really about the myth of Liverpool struggling to break the low block. Rather it’s when they encounter games against higher quality opposition using stifling tactics. Again, think Arsenal, Spurs or even Man United.

 Liverpool’s Naby Keita shakes hands with manager Jürgen Klopp as he is substituted during the opening FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. Liverpool won 4-3. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

A fully fit Naby Keita has been a frustratingly, flitting illusion in his time at the club but he remains an enticing prospect. A very different profile from the rest of the midfield, there’s a sense he could yet offer increased creativity without sacrificing defensive solidity.

Oxlade-Chamberlain’s problems with injury are a worry but he continues to be a more-than-useful line-breaking option.

Curtis Jones is the wildcard here. Only 19 years old but already established as a first-team squad option. Eye-catching technique, confidence and he’s starting to find an end product.

He’s nowhere near his physical peak at this point, which could drastically alter the kind of player he’ll become. His development will be fascinating over the next couple of seasons.

VERDICT: Did someone mention Thiago? I heard a rumour James Pearce caused a Kardashian-esque stir today on the internet, some breaking news around him apparently…Thiago that is, not James Pearce!

There’s been more than enough impressive insights written on This is Anfield around his merits already, so there’s little to add there.

He will offer the additional tactical flexibility that Jurgen desires and arguably needs. Indeed, his press resistance could well have afforded Liverpool increased control over the game against Leeds last weekend.

My only caveat being I wouldn’t want to lose Gini or hinder Curtis Jones’ exciting development by bringing him in.

Regardless, he’s a ‘here and now’ signing. A genuinely thrilling addition, who you suspect will delight fans with his ability and leave opposition players fearful of yet another attacking threat in the Reds’ armoury.

Forwards?

 Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring the fourth goal, his hat-trick, from a penalty-kick to make the score 4-3 during the opening FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

This will be a bigger question in the next couple of years. Not this season, though. Salah, Firmino and Mane are peerless as a front three and still in their peak years.

Support from the bench is a bigger question. Minamino looks a clever and promising alternative, as does Brewster.

I sometimes wonder if Origi’s complete unpredictability is what makes him an asset to Klopp. Even Divock seems uncertain of what he wants to do at times, let alone the opposition. The problem is he doesn’t frequently enough impact games.

Shaqiri? The quiff alone is worth keeping him as an option, if he’s content grabbing minutes from the bench.

VERDICT: As much as I adore him, it’s time to seek a more reliable option than Origi.

Brewster might not be far from usurping him as the go-to option from the bench anyways and if Edwards can pull off his usual magic-man routine, then the funds from Origi’s sale would be welcome—funds that should also be boosted by the sale of Harry Wilson.

Can this team win it TWICE?!!

 Manchester City's head coach Pep Guardiola reacts during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Cover at full back has been secured, which was vital. Thiago looks to have been sealed, so there’s now a surplus of options in midfield.

Perhaps in this intense, compacted season that will prove a sensible approach giving Klopp an array of fresh options and legs rather than prompting sales. They now need to find a centre-back as a priority.

Funds remain tight, a sentiment only heightened by the collapse of the Premier League’s deal with Chinese streaming service PPTV.

However, a replacement for Origi or Brewster could provide further freshness and, ideally, a different threat from the bench, one that puts pressure on our fabled forwards as well as the opposition.

This will only happen if a buyer is found for the cult Belgian, I suspect.

Chelsea and Man United look better placed with the business done so far but it shouldn’t be understated how abysmal their respective points tallies were last season and bedding in new players isn’t always a straight line to success.

Improvement should be a given, but it’ll have to be considerable to mount a challenge.

This Liverpool squad has the right age profile, know-how and, more importantly, talent to deliver back-to-back titles for the Reds’ faithful.

 Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (C) celebrates after scoring the first goal from a penalty-kick during the opening FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Desire and consistency could be their biggest obstacles rather than City.

After two seasons of outstanding achievement, going again is a big ask and an understandable dip will be difficult to avoid.

But Klopp, Edwards and dare I say FSG have surely earned our trust to deliver a 20th title back to Anfield.

* This is a guest article for This Is Anfield. If you’d like to contribute a piece for consideration please see this page. Follow Andy on Twitter, @AndyC1874.

Let's block ads! (Why?)

Categories: LFC NEWS

Liverpool enquire about Watford winger Ismalia Sarr

Thu, 09/17/2020 - 17:57

Liverpool have made an enquiry into the availability of Watford winger Ismaila Sarr, as their summer business finally picks up in the final month of the window.

Sarr has long been known as a target for the Reds this summer, with Jurgen Klopp eager to add depth to his attacking ranks following the collapse of a move for Timo Werner.

The Senegalese was part of the Watford side to suffer relegation to the Championship last season, but is yet to feature in their matchday squad this time out amid claims of an injury.

After a breakthrough in the pursuit of Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara, Liverpool have now made an approach for Sarr.

That is according to the Mail‘s Dominic King, who reports that the Reds have enquired about a possible deal for the 22-year-old, who became Watford‘s record signing upon his £30 million switch in 2019.

King claims the Reds have “discussed his situation,” but as of yet “no bid has been made.”

However, he adds that the winger is “seriously considered as a backup option for the front three,” though any move would likely need the Hornets to reduce their asking price of around £36 million.

 Watford's Ismaïla Sarr during the FA Premier League match between Watford FC and Liverpool FC at Vicarage Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Sarr largely operated on the right flank for Watford last season, but is also comfortable on the left and up front, which would provide ideal cover for Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and, at a push, Roberto Firmino.

Already a Senegal international, Sarr has a strong relationship with Mane, which could aid his transition if he does swap Vicarage Road for Anfield.

There have been times over the past two seasons in which Liverpool have looked short in attack, with concerns over how injury to any of Klopp’s established front three would impact the side moving forward.

Signing Sarr would give another versatile option along with the likes of Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi, though his arrival would likely be contingent on the sale of Harry Wilson, and possibly even Xherdan Shaqiri and Rhian Brewster.

Earlier in the window, claims of an enquiry would have been met with pessimism, but with Thiago now close to joining Liverpool, a move for Sarr seems increasingly likely.

Let's block ads! (Why?)

Categories: LFC NEWS

Watford set price for Sarr & Reds focus on retaining title – Liverpool FC Roundup

Thu, 09/17/2020 - 17:49

Liverpool are closing in on Thiago Alcantara as a second signing of the summer…but there’s other news of a non-Thiago variety, too!

Full focus on a difficult retention challenge

The Reds fulfilled the dreams of many when they won the title last season – but in true Ronnie Moran spirit, that was last season.

Now it’s all about 2020/21, when another league title is up for grabs and we’ve got to be just as good to earn the trophy again.

The squad concur, and as difficult as they know it’ll be, they are fully focused on being up to the task.

Virgil van Dijk says it’s consistency which is key, being a defining trait of the team from last season and even beforehand, which they’ll need to replicate this year for further success.

And the boss says that the Reds are fully committed to self-improvement, saying it’s our desire to get better which pushes us to improve in training and transfers, rather than teams around us spending to catch up.

It all bodes well for another year of the mighty relentless Reds.

Watford “set price” for Ismaila Sarr – and Reds are in for him

 Watford's Ismaïla Sarr (R) gets away from Liverpool's Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' during the FA Premier League match between Watford FC and Liverpool FC at Vicarage Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Last season’s destroyer of Reds’ hopes and dreams of going an entire league season unbeaten, Ismaila Sarr, has been rather heavily linked with a move to Liverpool.

It’s an on-again, off-again sort of rumour rather than a daily update of developments type, as Thiago has been, but there’s solid reasoning behind the interest.

He’s young, improving, has just had a first season of reasonably good impact in the Premier League – but there’s far more to come.

Sarr is also a good mate of Sadio Mane‘s, fills a couple of positions the Reds could do with depth in and has the pace and goalscoring potential to be a decent acquisition over the longer term.

The downside then? £40 million, say the Mirror, is the asking price.

It’s an amount we’d expect only to shell out if there are departures this summer, particularly concerning Origi or Wilson, as they’d fill similar squad spots as well as raise that type of funding if sold.

“No bid or formal contact” at this point, says the report in the Mirror – but Dominic King of the Mail says the Reds have enquired and are “seriously considering” him as a back-up option for the forward line. He also notes a slightly reduced asking price for the winger.

Transfer pace is picking up!

Countdown to Thiago…!

 Guido Kirchner/dpa

OK, ok…we’ll give you what you came for! Here’s all the latest on Thiago to Liverpool…

Quickfire LFC news

 Liverpool’s Andy Robertson during the opening FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. Liverpool won 4-3. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

  • Andy Robbo says Felipe Luis called him the ‘best left-back in the world’, which we agree with wholeheartedly (Goal)
  • Trent says retaining the title will be the Reds’ “toughest challenge yet” after a trophy-laden couple of seasons (PL)
  • New U23 coach Gary O’Neil is already having a positive impact on the club’s youngsters due to the recent senior experience he brings (LFC)
Around the Prem

 Real Madrid's Gareth Bale looks dejected after missing a chance against Manchester City during the UEFA Champions League Semi-Final 1st Leg match at the City of Manchester Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

  • Gareth Bale is flying in on Friday to seal his probable loan to Spurs, which should help the club’s so-called push for ‘young’ signings for the ‘future’ (BBC)
  • Leicester are close to signing Roma winger Cengiz Under, who has a reputation almost as big as his waistline but who has achieved little thus far (Telegraph)
  • Gareth Southgate is now allowed back into Prem stadiums on ‘scouting’ missions for England, so maybe he’ll see a left-back or two for the next squad (Mail)
  • And ex-Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino says he only watched 25 minutes of the Spurs Amazon documentary, which is about the same length of time until they were no longer in title contention under him last season (Independent)
Stupid decision of the day

Leeds came under fire for making Kiko Casilla captain in midweek, with the goalkeeper being banned for racist abuse last season and having not apologised for it.

Marcelo Bielsa defended the decision by saying the squad “think he deserved to be” skipper – so, instead of a single player thinking racial abuse is fine, they apparently have an entire group of them.

Tweet of the day

Thiago Keita and Fabinho at Liverpool next season pic.twitter.com/U30IZgRCPZ

— 19 Times (@LFCLiverbird96) September 17, 2020

What we’re reading

Can Van de Beek play alongside Pogba and Fernandes? Mark Critchley asks the question for the Independent.

And if you’ve been considering more of an interest in the growing world of women’s football, this year’s a good time for it after a slew of elite signings joined the WSL this summer. BBC Sport investigates which new arrival will make the biggest impact.

Worth watching tonight

We’re not going to actively tell you not to watch the Europa League qualifiers, but the best match on offer is Shamrock Rovers vs AC Milan at 7pm. Take it as you will.

Let's block ads! (Why?)

Categories: LFC NEWS

Thiago’s fee, Liverpool FC shirt number, contract length and wages revealed

Thu, 09/17/2020 - 10:54

Ahead of Thiago Alcantara’s move to Liverpool from Bayern Munich, further details have emerged over the deal, including the Spaniard’s new shirt number at Anfield.

Thiago is set to complete his long-awaited switch to Merseyside in the coming days, with news breaking on Thursday morning that the two clubs had a agreed a fee.

This comes after months of speculation, with the first reports claiming Liverpool were interested in the 29-year-old surfacing back in June, and going back and forth ever since.

Now, Thiago is due to join Liverpool regardless of any potential sales, and will sign a four-year contract with the Reds.

The Times‘ Paul Joyce reports that Thiago will put pen to paper on a deal that will tie him down until 2024, which is in line with the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson and Jurgen Klopp himself.

He adds that the midfielder will wear the No. 6 shirt recently vacated by Dejan Lovren, worn by the likes of Luis Alberto, Fabio Aurelio, Andrea Dossena and John Arne Riise in recent years.

While the deal was initially reported to be worth around £27 million, Joyce claims that Liverpool will pay a guaranteed £20 million, with a further £5 million due in various bonuses.

The Independent‘s Melissa Reddy adds that this £5 million is based on winning the Premier League and Champions League, and progression in Europe “as long as the player is integral to success.”

"He brings something a little different… I think Thiago's a Liverpool player…"

? @KeithCostigan on This Is Anfield Weekly earlier this week.

? Watch more: https://t.co/qdNvX6JFNs pic.twitter.com/OaDY5wiGaj

— This Is Anfield (@thisisanfield) September 17, 2020

Previously, The Athletic‘s James Pearce suggested Thiago would command a wage of around £200,000 a week, which would put him in line with the club’s highest earner, Mohamed Salah.

It is a sensational deal for Liverpool, and a real statement in the wake of their first-ever Premier League title win.

Thiago is arguably the most high-profile player brought into the club, and can propel the Reds towards another triumph in the English top flight in 2020/21, with more success in years to come.

Let's block ads! (Why?)

Categories: LFC NEWS

“Highest profile player we’ve ever signed” – Liverpool fans react as Reds agree Thiago fee

Thu, 09/17/2020 - 10:33

Liverpool have agreed a fee with Bayern Munich for superstar midfielder Thiago, breaking the internet and sending Reds fans into ecstasy.

The Spaniard has been linked with a move to Anfield throughout the summer, although the constant stories surrounding the transfer had quietened in recent times.

Out of the blue on Thursday, however, reliable Merseyside-based journalists such as Paul Joyce and James Pearce confirmed that Liverpool are on the verge of signing Thiago, agreeing a £27million with Bayern.

Considering the 29-year-old’s status as one of the leading midfielders of his generation, it is an understandably huge story involving the Reds.

Here’s how Liverpool supporters reacted to the news on Twitter and Facebook.

This is genuinely the highest profile player we've ever signed isn't it? Granted, before it was probably Balotelli but still.

— Phil Blundell (@PhilBlundell) September 17, 2020

TEARS IN MY EYES. https://t.co/d4zFNCJcGa

— Red (@TaintlessRed) September 17, 2020

FSG out

— John O'Sullivan (@NotoriousJOS) September 17, 2020

I’m very, very very, excited to see Naby Keïta and Thiago in the same midfield.

— Danny Gallagher (@Danny7Gallagher) September 17, 2020

Thiago, Keita, Gini, AOC, Henderson, Fabinho, with Curtis Jones/Milner filling in as required. That’s superb quality & depth.

— Tom McMahon (@tomjpmac) September 17, 2020

“We are retraining the trophy” – Kamau Njoroge on Facebook.

What a signing Thiago will be for #LFC.

— Si Steers (@sisteers) September 17, 2020

With his former manager Pep Guardiola sat on his pile of riches at Man City, Thiago Alcantara still wanted to come to Liverpool Football Club to play for Jurgen Klopp.

— Red (@TaintlessRed) September 17, 2020

Thiago an established, world-class player who will add extra quality to Liverpool’s midfield. Another string to the bow, creative in possession & always on front foot. Crucially gives opponents another threat to contend with through the middle as teams target Trent & Robertson.

— Leanne Prescott (@_lfcleanne) September 17, 2020

Town. Pop world. Venga Boys. Now https://t.co/TIp9HnGY4d

— Paul (Maych) Machin (@ThePaulMachin) September 17, 2020

If, as now seems excitingly likely, Thiago completes his move to Liverpool I think we'll see Fabinho effectively become fourth choice centre-half – instead of Lovren being replaced – with Koumetio and Hoever next in line #LFC #Thiago

— Chris Mac (@chrismackop) September 17, 2020

The Thiago deal is exactly why Michael Edwards is the best Sporting Director in world at this moment. The structure of the deal works perfectly for #LFC and he has played hardball with Bayern. Shit hot negotiator. Expect to see at least one more in – Sarr would be my bet.

— Si Steers (@sisteers) September 17, 2020

The one thing this phenomenal LFC side has lacked is a world-class ball-playing midfielder.

The current midfield has been exceptional and deserves all the praise it gets, but there are occasions when it's one-dimensional.

Thiago changes everything, plus he works his socks off.

— Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87) September 17, 2020

Thiago to Liverpool has melted The Athletic’s servers, who says journalism is dead?

— Chris Williams (@Chris78Williams) September 17, 2020

This will be the most high profile signing Liverpool have ever made. Probably the first time we've ever bought a player who pretty much everyone on the planet agrees is genuinely an established world class player. Alisson the only other I think was even close.

— Ste Hoare (@stehoare) September 17, 2020

What a day to be alive. Game changer. https://t.co/BlC12VkcQD

— Jamie Holme (@JamieHolme) September 17, 2020

Back in 2017 Klopp said Keita & Thiago were the two best players in the Bundesliga. He's got them both now.

— Red (@TaintlessRed) September 17, 2020

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

Let's block ads! (Why?)

Categories: LFC NEWS

Liverpool agree fee for Thiago as Reds close on £27m deal

Thu, 09/17/2020 - 09:43

Liverpool are finally set to seal a £27 million deal for Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara, with the Merseyside press confirming the news on Thursday.

The Reds have long been linked with a move for Thiago, who is in the final year of his contract at Bayern and has expressed his desire to leave in pursuit of a new challenge.

Earlier in the summer it was claimed that personal terms had already been agreed with the 29-year-old, but there had been no progress with regards to a deal with the Bundesliga champions.

It was claimed that Liverpool would first need to sell in order to bring Thiago to Anfield, with Gini Wijnaldum widely expected to be the player to move on.

But now, the Merseyside press have confirmed that the Reds are pushing ahead with a move regardless of any further sales.

The Athletic‘s Simon Hughes ran an exclusive reporting that a deal worth around £27 million was close, with this soon followed up by the TimesPaul Joyce and the Evening Standard‘s David Lynch, among others.

Lynch writes that the deal is “picking up pace,” with the Mail‘s Dom King describing this as the club’s “first move” for the Spain international.

Thiago Alcantara, Spain (Photo by Mutsu Kawamori/AFLO)

The Independent‘s Melissa Reddy adds that “negotiations [are] progressing well,” with Goal’s Neil Jones writing that it “looks likely to happen.”

Speaking last week, Jurgen Klopp said: “I cannot end speculation as long as the transfer window is open, so that’s all I can really say about that.

“Did I mention that Thiago Alcantara is a really good player? [I did] long ago already!

“It’s nice that we are linked with him, but that’s pretty much all, really. It’s because he’s a good player, Liverpool’s a big club, so that’s nice.

“But apart from that, really nothing to say about that. And maybe good for you, I cannot end the speculation!”

[embedded content]

Back in 2017, Klopp said that Naby Keita was tied with Thiago as the best player in the Bundesliga.

“He’s the player of the league, that’s how it is,” he said of Keita. “Last year together with Thiago Alcantara, who played outstanding for Bayern, he was the flier.”

Thiago would be the second first-team signing at Anfield this summer, following the £11.75 million arrival of Kostas Tsimikas, but will be significantly higher-profile.

A world-class midfielder, Thiago will command a first-choice role in Klopp’s starting lineup, and should cement them firmly as title favourites once again in the Premier League.

Let's block ads! (Why?)

Categories: LFC NEWS

Leeds pull out of Wilson deal & Klopp could extend Reds stay – Liverpool FC Roundup

Wed, 09/16/2020 - 16:32

More than another four years of Jurgen Klopp? Yes please. The Reds boss has left a future extension open, amid today’s rumour mill.

Leeds wanted Wilson…but pulled out of deal

Leeds “had started work” on a deal for Harry Wilson, says David Ornstein of the Athletic, but a bid never materialised.

According to the report that’s due to Marcelo Bielsa, who “decided he wasn’t the right player for him”.

The Liverpool winger showed last year with Bournemouth he can be an effective player at Premier League level, though he arguably also showed he won’t be near the Reds’ first team.

But Leeds have opted against, in the end, and so far there have been no other offers that have come to light – and certainly not for the amounts the Reds are hoping for.

It has been oft-reported that Liverpool want around £20m for Wilson.

Klopp says he could stay on beyond 2024

 Liverpool’s manager Jürgen Klopp is interviewed by LFC.TV after the opening FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. Liverpool won 4-3. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

We all know Jurgen loves to stay a long time, but if he does see out his deal to 2024 – and there’s no reason to think he won’t right now – it’ll mark almost nine years at the helm, basically an eternity in football terms.

Klopp rightly doesn’t want to look too far ahead, but when asked about a potential extension to stay even longer at Anfield, he certainly wasn’t shutting down the possibility.

“I know that I won’t, after four more years at Liverpool, stop and then start somewhere else the next day,” he said.

“That will definitely not happen regardless.”

Klopp said he would “think about” extending his deal, with circumstances at the time likely to decide his eventual choice.

Full-back news and Europe

 Liverpool's Kostas Tsimikas during the pre-match warm-up before a preseason friendly match between FC Red Bull Salzburg and Liverpool FC at the Red Bull Arena. (Pic by Propaganda)

Both sides of defence get the headlines today, though not the usual duo you’d expect to hear about.

Quickfire LFC news

 Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker during a preseason friendly match between FC Red Bull Salzburg and Liverpool FC at the Red Bull Arena. (Pic by Propaganda)

  • Timo Werner says he picked Chelsea over the Reds due to their style and talks with Lampard (ES)
  • The Reds and Arsenal are being linked with Sporting left-back Nuno Mendes…again…still doesn’t seem likely (A Bola)
  • Muriel says brother Alisson has likely played a role in the Reds signing Brazilian goalkeeper Marcelo Pitaluga from Fluminense (UOL)
Around the Prem

 Tottenham Hotspur's Dele Alli looks dejected at the final whistle during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

  • Spurs will offer Dele Alli in part exchange for Gareth Bale, which is nice of them considering Real Madrid don’t play a No. 10 and in any case have Eden Hazard, Marco Asensio, Isco and Martin Odegaard, all who can play the role and are many times better than the out-of-form Tottenham man (Mail)
  • Everton will listen to offers for Bernard, Sigurdsson, Iwobi and Kean, which says a lot about how bad last year’s summer shopping was (Mirror)
  • West Ham are battling Inter Milan for Chelsea left-back Emerson Palmieri and we honestly don’t know who to judge most harshly in this rumour (Independent)
  • And Aston Villa have signed Emi Martinez for £17m, who would probably have been about 10 per cent of that fee all of four months ago (BBC)
Good news of the day

Not Premier League-related, but hopefully something to have a knock-on effect at our level down the line.

Nine games from the Football League have been selected to have 1,000 fans present this weekend, a trial run across the Championship, League One and League Two.

Fingers crossed all goes well and the numbers can be bumped up in future – at 1,000 capacity attendances, Premier League clubs won’t get involved as they’ll run at a loss for those games.

Tweet of the day

Ole trying to get Regulion, Sancho, Belingham, Bale, Haaland, Thiago, Gabriel and Jack Grealish pic.twitter.com/APnigBMwK8

— Sandro (@Sandro_GLC18) September 15, 2020

What we’re reading

A tactical look at Timo Werner’s debut for Chelsea, on the Athletic.

And in the Guardian, an explanation of how football as a whole has lost an estimated £11 billion to coronavirus.

Worth watching tonight

PSG vs Metz at 8pm. Champions League final three weeks ago, two league defeats since the restart. Oh and seven players positive for the ‘rona, three sent-off in midweek, Neymar in trouble for apparent homophobic comments, Di Maria spitting at people…it’s going well.

Let's block ads! (Why?)

Categories: LFC NEWS

Why Sheffield United could be ideal club if Rhian Brewster leaves Liverpool on loan

Wed, 09/16/2020 - 15:01

Liverpool are yet to decide on their next move with Rhian Brewster, but if talks with Sheffield United result in a loan, they could have landed the ideal club for their No. 24. 

After an impressive half-season with Swansea which continued into pre-season with the Reds, Brewster looked primed for a first-team role at Anfield in 2020/21.

But Jurgen Klopp has explained that it is a complicated situation with the 20-year-old, whose prodigious talent may require more minutes than are available in a backup role at Liverpool in order to be nurtured properly.

“We want to use Rhian, but we want to help Rhian as well, so that’s why we have to make these decisions. But not now, obviously,” he said at the end of August.

“He looks really promising, I know goals are the most important thing in the football world, so if he can score goals that’s good.

“And all the rest, we will see. He’s still a young boy, and especially on this No. 9 position, experience helps a lot.

“We have see how we can give him the experience. Is it here? Is it somewhere else? It’s not decided yet, why should we?”

Jurgen Klopp, Rhian Brewster, Harvey Elliott. (Pic by Propaganda)

Brewster was not included in the matchday squad for the Premier League opener against Leeds, but was involved a day later as Liverpool’s fringe players were held to a 1-1 friendly draw by Huddersfield B.

Meanwhile, talks were ongoing with Sheffield United over a possible season-long loan, with Chris Wilder said to have presented a “detailed development plan” to convince Klopp the right place for Brewster would be Bramall Lane.

There is still a chance the striker departs on a permanent deal, with a £25 million fee mooted provided a buy-back clause is also agreed, but ideally, if he is to leave, it would only be temporarily.

United are not the only side interested in Brewster, of course, with Aston Villa, Newcastle, Burnley, Brighton, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Norwich, Bournemouth, Watford and Swansea all having contacted Liverpool at some stage this summer.

Many of those could now have pulled out, namely Villa and Newcastle, who have since sanctioned big-money moves for other strikers, but the competition is clearly fierce.

This makes any decision more difficult for Liverpool, but Wilder is correct: Sheffield is the perfect next step for Brewster.

Wilder’s style & Brewster the solution

 Sheffield United's manager Chris Wilder during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Sheffield United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The most obvious plus-point is, in fact, Wilder himself, who has proved one of the most progressive managers in English football in leading United to the Premier League and, last season, a ninth-placed finish.

Operating with a squad of low-profile talents, the 52-year-old has instilled a high-intensity, diverse approach involving overlapping centre-backs and a variety of systems in attack.

It is a style that has earned the admiration of Klopp, who said in February that “you can’t have anything but respect” for the way he has coaxed such a humble squad of players to the level they are now operating.

The feeling is mutual, with Wilder admitting after United’s 2-0 loss at Anfield in January that he “loves everything about” Liverpool.

“The way they go about [the game], tactical and technical players, but the top bit, the physical and mental part of it, is amazing,” he told BT Sport.

“And if that’s good enough for them, it’s certainly good enough for anyone else.”

This “physical and mental” aspect is an area which Klopp is looking to improve in Brewster, explaining in pre-season that “we want more in the game when he is on the pitch.”

While Brewster certainly puts himself about, as evidenced by the seven yellow cards to go along with his 11 goals in 22 games for Swansea, the Liverpool manager clearly believes he must offer a lot more if he is to fill in for Roberto Firmino.

 Sheffield United's Lys Mousset (L) celebrates scoring the second goal with team-mate Oliver McBurnie during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Sheffield United FC at Goodison Park. Sheffield United won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Tellingly, two of Wilder’s forwards finished in the top five for average tackles per 90 minutes across the Premier League last season.

No striker averaged more than David McGoldrick (1.9), while only three averaged more than Oli McBurnie (1.4); when it came to interceptions, McBurnie topped the league with 0.5 per 90.

To hone this area of his game in Sheffield, while also continuing to provide the cutting edge that has made him such a coveted young striker, could give him the platform to break into the Reds squad in the future.

And there is an opening in Wilder’s squad up front, as he conceded this month that he is “definitely looking to improve and get one at the top of the pitch to give us that quality.”

United currently call upon McBurnie, McGoldrick, Lys Mousset and Billy Sharp as their primary options, with McBurnie and Sharp starting in their 2-0 loss to Wolves at the start of the new Premier League campaign.

Mousset is sidelined with an injury and McGoldrick is short of fitness, and with McBurnie and Sharp failing to fire in the season opener, a clear flaw in Wilder’s setup was highlighted.

Last season, the quartet shared out the minutes, with no striker playing more than 2,200 in the league; McBurnie (2,118) was most frequently used, but McGoldrick (1,824), Mousset (1,232) and Sharp (1,047) were not too far behind.

 Sheffield United's Lys Mousset during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Sheffield United FC at Goodison Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

By way of comparison, Firmino clocked 3,004 minutes, or the equivalent of nearly 10 full games more than any of Wilder’s options up front.

As a result, no United player netted more than six goals in all competitions last season, with McBurnie and Mousset joint-top scorers, while their next-highest contributors were midfielders John Lundstram and John Fleck, with five.

While a rotational system in attack has its benefits, it is clear that there is a lack of goals in Wilder’s side—they finished last season with a goal difference of zero, with only Norwich (26), Crystal Palace (31), Watford (36) and Newcastle (38) scoring fewer than their 39.

With goals at a premium and Brewster having proven himself as a prolific striker, there is no surprise United are desperate to bring him in for the campaign.

Woodburn’s precautionary tale

 Wales' Ben Woodburn looks dejected after the final whistle in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying Group D match between Wales and Republic of Ireland at the Cardiff City Stadium. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

A possible red flag in negotiations with Liverpool could be the neglect of Ben Woodburn during the Welshman’s loan spell at Bramall Lane in 2018.

Woodburn arrived in Sheffield as an alternative to Kieran Dowell and it showed, with Wilder affording him just eight appearances across the Championship and League Cup, amounting to a paltry 244 minutes before his deal was terminated mid-season.

But Wilder has shown he is not averse to appointing loanees to high-profile roles in his side if they deserve them, as displayed with Dean Henderson’s place as No. 1 on loan from Man United over the past two seasons.

Given the precarious situation of the market this summer, short-term deals are likely to be favoured by a number of sides, though Liverpool will no doubt negotiate a substantial loan fee if Brewster is to head to Sheffield.

There, he should be guaranteed a leading role, battling with McBurnie as the primary option at centre-forward, for a club with aspirations of another top-half finish or, perhaps, even breaking into Europe.

 Sheffield United's manager Chris Wilder during the FA Premier League match between Sheffield United FC and Everton FC at Bramall Lane. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

He may not find that elsewhere, with Palace, who are still said to be in talks with the Reds, having already signed Michy Batshuayi on loan, while Newcastle and Villa have brought in Callum Wilson and Ollie Watkins for big-money fees.

Brighton is another sensible option, as their inability to convert chances on the way to a 3-1 loss to Chelsea at the start of their campaign proved, but United remains the most desirable location.

The ideal breeding ground

 Liverpool's Rhian Brewster celebrates scoring the second goal during a preseason friendly match between FC Red Bull Salzburg and Liverpool FC at the Red Bull Arena. (Pic by Propaganda)

This is, as it should be, primarily due to the opportunity to develop Brewster’s game as an all-round, pressing centre-forward, rather than the poacher he was relied upon as at Swansea.

It is in attaining this quality, and mindset, that holds the secret to a long-term future at Liverpool, as though many fans are already sold on the ability of the Reds’ No. 24, Klopp is clearly yet to be fully convinced.

A season under Wilder at United would certainly not hurt his value either way, and the hope would be that he would return from Bramall Lane a more fully formed striker, finally able to adequately cover for one of world football’s most unique forwards in Firmino.

Let's block ads! (Why?)

Categories: LFC NEWS

Lincoln boss savouring chance to go toe-to-toe with “best manager in the world” Jurgen Klopp

Wed, 09/16/2020 - 14:43

Lincoln manager Michael Appleton is savouring the opportunity to come up against “the best manager in the world” in Jurgen Klopp in the next round of the League Cup.

Lincoln booked their place in the third round of the competition by dismantling Bradford to the tune of 5-0 on Tuesday night, setting up a meeting with the Premier League champions next week.

It will be the first time Appleton has managed a team against Liverpool and, of course, stood in the opposing dugout to Klopp.

The Imps will play hosts for the tie at Sincil Bank and if selected for TV will receive a much-needed financial boost, as the League One side continue to be hit by matches played behind-closed-doors.

And while the Reds are set to field a much-changed side from the one to feature against Chelsea on Sunday, claims of facing a ‘weakened’ lineup have been dismissed by the Lincoln manager after witnessing Liverpool’s fringe and youth players in cup action last season.

“The reality is they’re Premier League champions. If you look at the teams they put out in the FA Cup last season – and got a bit of stick for – they were still decent sides,” Appleton said, via Lincolnshire Live.

 Liverpool players before the FA Cup 4th Round match between Shrewsbury Town FC and Liverpool FC at the New Meadow. Dejan Lovren, goalkeeper Adrián San Miguel del Castillo, Joel Matip, Neco Williams, Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho', Pedro Chirivella, Yasser Larouci, Takumi Minamino, Curtis Jones, Divock Origi, Harvey Elliott. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“It’s going to be a great occasion for everybody at the club. They’re full of talent. Even their second team is a side you wouldn’t mind looking after every week. We’ll give it our best shot.”

It is a far cry from the reaction served up by Shrewsbury in the FA Cup, who labelled Klopp and the club “disrespectful” for holding back their first-team players during the replay earlier this year.

This time around Liverpool will field the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Takumi Minamino, Adrian, Joel Matip and Rhian Brewster, with the tie sandwiched between league clashes against Chelsea and Arsenal.

It will be the second successive season the Reds have faced League One opposition in the third round following on from their 2-0 win over MK Dons last season, and there’s no doubt they will be put through their paces against a side out to topple the best team in the country.

 Liverpool’s manager Jürgen Klopp (R) and Sadio Mané during the pre-match warm-up before the opening FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Appleton, a boyhood Man United fan once on their books, has respect in abundance for his opposing manager and is relishing the chance to test his side against the very best.

“I’m saying this as Manchester United fan, the work he’s done at that football club is outstanding,” the Lincoln boss added.

“People talk about Pep and Klopp and Mourinho. In my eyes, we’ll be coming up against the best manager in the world.

“It’s going to be a test, but one I’m looking forward to. It’s an opportunity for the players to test themselves against the best in the country.”

Let's block ads! (Why?)

Categories: LFC NEWS

Kostas Tsimikas returns to Liverpool training after COVID-19 concern

Wed, 09/16/2020 - 13:33

Kostas Tsimikas was back in Liverpool training on Wednesday morning, having been sidelined for the past week-and-a-half following reports of a positive test for COVID-19.

Tsimikas was forced to miss both of Greece’s UEFA Nations League clashes in the September international break, with the Greek FA confirming two players had returned positive COVID-19 tests.

The left-back subsequently flew back to Merseyside and was not seen in the buildup to the Reds’ Premier League opener against Leeds, with neither Jurgen Klopp nor the club commenting on rumours of his illness.

Now, though, Tsimikas is back working with the first team at Melwood, taking part in a spirited session on Wednesday morning as Liverpool prepare for their visit to Chelsea.

Klopp’s side visit Stamford Bridge on Sunday, with this week providing the very rare luxury of a full six days of training prior to the clash.

It is unlikely Tsimikas will feature against the Blues, but his return is encouraging ahead of the League Cup third-round tie at Lincoln City next week, which could see the 24-year-old make his competitive debut.

Neco Williams was also involved in training, having missed a session after reporting back from Wales duty, while Harry Wilson and Rhian Brewster were both pictured amid speculation over their futures.

 Liverpools Xherdan Shaqiri during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Everton FC, the 234th Merseyside Derby, at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The rest of the senior squad took part, including Xherdan Shaqiri after his first minutes since July in a 1-1 friendly draw with Huddersfield B on Sunday.

Youngsters Billy Koumetio, Ki-Jana Hoever, Sepp van den Berg and Harvey Elliott were all included, with Koumetio sporting a new fully bald haircut.

The clash with Lincoln is likely to see Klopp make wholesale changes, with Shaqiri, Koumetio, Elliott, Tsimikas, Williams, Brewster, Adrian, Divock Origi, Curtis Jones, James Milner, Joel Matip and Takumi Minamino all in contention.

Before then, though, is the small matter of a trip to west London, which could see Liverpool make an early statement against a side boosted by heavy spending this summer.

The Premier League confirmed on Monday evening that of 2,131 tested in the latest round of COVID-19 tests, four have returned positive and will enter a 10-day period of self-isolation.

Let's block ads! (Why?)

Categories: LFC NEWS

Liverpool now know the five biggest sides they could face in Champions League group stage

Wed, 09/16/2020 - 12:26

Liverpool have learned the five biggest sides they can draw in the group stage of this season’s Champions League, as the four pots for the upcoming draw become clearer.

The Reds will enter the Champions League group stage draw in Pot 1, after winning the Premier League for the first time last season.

They are joined by fellow title-winners Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Zenit St Petersburg and Porto, along with the winners of last season’s Europa League, Sevilla.

Liverpool can, therefore, not be drawn against any of those sides in the group stage, with one from each of Pots 2, 3 and 4 to be their opponents for the rest of the year.

Tuesday night saw Benfica lose their third qualifying round clash with PAOK, which relinquished the final spot in Pot 2 to Ajax.

With the Reds unable to meet fellow English sides in the group stage, that leaves just five sides from Pot 2 that they can be drawn against.

Along with Ajax, those are Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Shakhtar Donetsk, with Man City, Man United and Chelsea all ruled out.

These five present a mix of interesting clashes for Liverpool, including the side who knocked them out of last season’s tournament, Atletico, and the one they famously humiliated in the semi-finals in 2019, Barca.

 Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp before the UEFA Europa League Quarter-Final 1st Leg match against Borussia Dortmund at Westfalenstadion. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Dortmund would be a romantic draw for Jurgen Klopp, while Ajax would be a rare opponent for the Reds, with the two sides having only met twice before in competitive games, both being in 1966.

Shakhtar would be the most difficult in terms of travel, but would also ensure a first-time meeting.

RB Leipzig, Inter Milan, Lazio and Atalanta are already confirmed for Pot 3, and are most likely to be joined by Dynamo Kyiv, Salzburg, Olympiakos and Krasnodar.

Pot 4 includes Borussia Monchengladbach, Rennes and Istanbul Basaksehir, with the likes of Lokomotiv Moscow, Marseille and Club Brugge qualified and potentially included too.

The draw for the Champions League group stage will be held at 5pm (BST) on Thursday, October 1, with the final pots to be determined by September 30, when the playoffs are concluded.

Champions League Group Stage Pots (So Far)

 ©UEFA)

Pot 1: Bayern, Sevilla, Real Madrid, LIVERPOOL, Juventus, PSG, Zenit, Porto

Pot 2: Barcelona, Atletico, Man City, Man United, Shakhtar, Dortmund, Chelsea, Ajax

Pot 3: RB Leipzig, Inter Milan, Lazio, Atalanta

Pot 4: Borussia Monchengladbach, Istanbul Basaksehir, Rennes

Pot 3 or 4: Lokomotiv Moscow, Marseille, Club Brugge

Yet to qualify:

Slavia Prague or Midtjylland/Young Boys
Maccabi Tel Aviv/Dynamo Brest or Salzburg
Olympiakos or Omonia/Red Star
Qarabag/Molde or Ferencvaros/Dinamo Zagreb
Krasnodar or PAOK
Gent or Dynamo Kyiv

Let's block ads! (Why?)

Categories: LFC NEWS

Neco Williams recognised for prestigious award along with Sancho, Haaland & Co.

Wed, 09/16/2020 - 10:17

Neco Williams has been included in the final 40-man shortlist for the European Golden Boy award for 2020, following his unexpected rise to the Liverpool first team.

Williams has emerged from the Reds’ academy to take up an important role in Jurgen Klopp‘s squad, currently serving as backup to Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back.

The 19-year-old has made 12 appearances for the club so far, and earlier this month marked his first outings for the Wales national team with a stoppage-time winner against Bulgaria.

Interestingly, he was not included in the initial list of 100 nominees for the European Golden Boy, which is organised by Italian publication Tuttosport, with Curtis Jones, Sepp van den Berg and Ki-Jana Hoever all named.

But he is now the only Liverpool player to feature in the final 40-man shortlist, with Jones surprisingly cut.

The Reds’ No. 76 is one of seven representatives from the Premier League, along with Fabio Silva (Wolves), Phil Foden (Man City), Mason Greenwood (Man United), Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) and Ferran Torres (Man City).

He comes up against a number of high-profile youngsters including Borussia Dortmund duo Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland, Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies, Barcelona’s Ansu Fati and Rennes’ Eduardo Camavinga.

 Liverpool's Rafael Camacho during the UEFA Youth League Group C match between S.S.C. Napoli and Liverpool FC at Stadio Comunale di Frattamaggiore. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Ex-Liverpool youngster Rafa Camacho is also included, along with the likes of Ozan Kabak (Schalke) and Dominik Szoboszlai (Salzburg), who have both been linked with moves to Anfield of late.

The competition for the award, which is voted for by 40 journalists across Europe, makes it unlikely Williams is given the top prize, but his inclusion is recognition enough.

The Welshman is considered one of the most exciting young talents on the continent, and if he did win would become only the second Liverpool player to do so, following Raheem Sterling in 2014.

Joao Felix was given last year’s award, while at time of writing Davies and Szoboszlai are leading the Tuttosport readers’ poll on who should be honoured this time around.

European Golden Boy Nominees, 2020

Jadon Sancho of Borussia Dortmund during the 1. Bundesliga match between Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Dortmund at the Commerzbank Arena on September 22, 2019 in Frankfurt, Germany. (Photo by Peter Niedung/NurPhoto)

Marley Ake (Marseille), Adil Aouchiche (St Etienne), Benoit Badiashile (Monaco), Mitchel Bakker (PSG), Myron Boadu (AZ Alkmaar), Dennis Borkowski (RB Leipzig), Eduardo Camavinga (Rennes), Marco Carnesecchi (Atalanta), Rayan Cherki (Lyon), Jonathan David (Lille), Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich), Sergino Dest (Ajax), Sebastiano Esposito (Inter Milan), Fabio Silva (Wolves), Ansu Fati (Barcelona), Phil Foden (Man City), Amine Gouiri (Nice), Ryan Gravenberch (Ajax), Mason Greenwood (Man United), Erling Braut Haaland (Dortmund), Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea), Mohamed Ihattaren (PSV), Ozan Kabak (Schalke), Michal Karbownik (Legia Warsaw), Tanguy Nianzou (Bayern Munich), Dejan Kulusevski (Juventus), Marcos Antonio (Shakhtar), Rafa Camacho (Sporting CP), Rodrygo (Real Madrid), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Jadon Sancho (Dortmund), Vladyslav Supriaha (Dynamo Kyiv), Dominik Szoboszlai (Salzburg), Tomas Esteves (Porto), Tomas Tavares (Benfica), Sandro Tonali (AC Milan), Ferran Torres (Man City), Christos Tzolis (PAOK), Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid), Neco Williams (Liverpool)

Let's block ads! (Why?)

Categories: LFC NEWS

Liverpool confirmed to play Lincoln in League Cup third round

Tue, 09/15/2020 - 20:56

Liverpool will play Lincoln City in the third round of the League Cup, after the League One side beat Bradford on Tuesday night.

The Reds will visit Sincil Bank next week, kicking off their League Cup campaign at the home of Lincoln on September 22/23.

Jurgen Klopp‘s side were drawn as the away side in the third round, with the Imps booking their clash against the champions of England with a victory over Bradford.

Played soon after a Premier League clash at Chelsea, this tie is likely to see Klopp ring the changes, with the likes of Adrian, James Milner, Joel Matip, Xherdan Shaqiri, Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi all expected to start.

It could also see youngsters such as Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott given a focal role, along with players whose futures remain up in the air like Marko Grujic, Harry Wilson and Rhian Brewster.

This would give the Reds a strong chance of progressing to the fourth round, which is also set to played later this month, with the fixtures scheduled for September 29/30.

[embedded content]

Liverpool have played Lincoln 23 times before in their history, with the last meeting coming in 1961, when Bill Shankly’s side earned a 2-0 win in the Second Division.

The two sides also met in a friendly in 2006, arranged as part of Jack Hobbs’ move to Liverpool, with reserve manager Gary Ablett taking charge as Mark Gonzalez and the late Besian Idrizaj scored in a 2-1 win.

After the clash with Chelsea, the Reds will also take on Arsenal in the Premier League before the end of September, meaning if they reach the fourth round of the League Cup, they will play five times in a month that also brought an international break.

This ensures rotation in the cups is essential, and facing Lincoln could be a big opportunity for Klopp’s fringe players to impress.

Let's block ads! (Why?)

Categories: LFC NEWS

Xherdan Shaqiri could give Jurgen Klopp ace up his sleeve in proven Liverpool role

Tue, 09/15/2020 - 19:00

Xherdan Shaqiri is widely expected to be leaving Liverpool this summer, but eager to stay and replicate his 2018/19 form, Jason Hughes believes he could be a useful option.

Last week saw Xherdan Shaqiri return to first-team training at Melwood with a hairline so impressive it will feel like a new signing.

Having missed out on much of Liverpool’s truncated pre-season following an injury-ravaged year, the Swiss international has become a forgotten man at Anfield.

However, a fully fit Shaqiri could offer Jurgen Klopp an interesting rotation option with the Reds currently struggling to upgrade on their current fringe players.

Surplus to requirements?

 Liverpool's Xherdan Shaqiri during a training session at Melwood Training Ground ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group E match between FC Salzburg and Liverpool FC. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Persistent fitness problems hampered Shaqiri throughout the 2019/20 season, with Klopp admitting that Liverpool were yet to find the “solution” to the 28-year-old’s recurring muscle injuries.

These issues saw Shaqiri miss a number of cup games he would have otherwise expected to feature in, exacerbating his struggle for playing time as he was reduced to a virtual spectator, playing just 182 minutes of Liverpool’s league campaign.

Shaqiri’s failure to find fitness or the favour of his manager has led many to believe that he would depart the club this summer, with members of the Merseyside press reporting in January that the Swiss would be allowed to leave for around €30 million.

However, while the transfer window remains open, such a move has so far failed to materialise, with Shaqiri among a number of fringe figures the Reds have struggled to move on in their attempts to fund incoming transfers.

Buying clubs are seemingly unwilling to meet their valuations in a volatile financial landscape.

A return to 2018/19 importance?

 Liverpool's Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates scoring the third goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

While Liverpool’s No. 23 may still be sold should a suitor meet his valuation, Shaqiri himself has spoken of his excitement at the opportunity to “play like the first season,” as he seeks to re-establish himself as an important member of Klopp’s squad.

With the club feeling the effects of COVID-19 on their finances, a fully fit Shaqiri could prove to once again have a telling impact on the season as Klopp seeks in-house solutions.

Despite his struggles last term, the 2018/19 season saw Shaqiri feature 24 times in the Reds’ 97-point league campaign, racking up 1,059 minutes on the pitch.

While not a key player, he offered a viable option for rotation and made a crucial impact in a number of important games.

That season saw the Swiss international notch six league goals, including a memorable double to sink Man United at Anfield.

Shaqiri’s tally was bettered only by the front three that season, and interestingly would’ve made him the Reds’ fourth-highest scorer in the league again last season, despite Klopp’s side romping to the title.

Gini Wijnaldum, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Divock Origi were joint-fourth, with four each.

 Liverpool's Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Fulham FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Shaqiri’s impressive ratio of a league goal every 176 minutes in 2018/19 demonstrates his ability to make a decisive impact during his limited playing time, an attribute that was arguably lacking among Liverpool’s squad players last season.

He also contributed five assists in all competitions, the most notable of which was the pinpoint cross for Wijnaldum to wipe out Barcelona’s lead in the Champions League semi-final, once again highlighting the diminutive winger’s knack of making telling contributions in the final third when it matters most.

Questions remain over his long-term future, as well as his ability to stay fit, however in 2018/19, Shaqiri provided vital contributions and proved himself to be an effective option for Klopp.

If he can replicate the fitness and form of that first season, he undoubtedly possesses the ability to make a tangible impact on the Reds’ season once again.

Klopp’s ace in the 4-2-3-1?

 Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp prepares to bring on substitute Xherdan Shaqiri during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Cardiff City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Much has been made of Klopp’s flirtation with a switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation during pre-season, with the system seemingly ideal for getting the best out of players like Takumi Minamino who prefer to drop deep in order to find pockets of space.

If this tactical switch is to become a regular feature for Liverpool this season then it may offer a route back into the side for Shaqiri, whose lack of pace makes him ill-suited to the wide positions in Klopp’s 4-3-3.

He is arguably more suited to the right-hand side of a 4-2-3-1 formation than many of the Reds’ other attacking options, with his technical ability and creativity allowing him to link the play from deep.

In fact, Shaqiri started on the right in seven of the 11 games in which Klopp deployed a 4-2-3-1 during the 2018/19 league campaign, with the Reds boasting an unbeaten record in those games.

The 28-year-old’s creativity from a slightly deeper wide position added another dimension to Klopp’s side, with the Swiss able to cut inside and exchange intricate passes with his fellow attackers.

Shaqiri’s progressive passing saw him play 1.7 key passes per 90 in the league that season (fourth of players with 500+ minutes), while his range of passing also allowed him to quickly switch the play when required, averaging three accurate long balls per 90 (more than any other attacker).

 Liverpool's Xherdan Shaqiri during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Everton FC, the 234th Merseyside Derby, at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

A change in formation could therefore benefit Shaqiri, with his technical proficiency making him a viable creative outlet for Klopp on the right of a 4-2-3-1.

If not for a global pandemic Xherdan Shaqiri would probably no longer be a Liverpool player, and Klopp will no doubt seek an upgrade long-term.

However, in a climate of financial uncertainty, the Reds’ need for in-house solutions to an intense fixture list may offer Shaqiri a chance to revive his Liverpool career.

* This is a guest article for This Is Anfield. If you’d like to contribute a piece for consideration please see this page. Follow Jason on Twitter, @Jason_Hughes66.

Let's block ads! (Why?)

Categories: LFC NEWS

Pages