In the run up to equaling the Premier League record for biggest win of all time, Jurgen Klopp had admitted his public stance on not having to solve Liverpool’s midfield problems in the market for transfers was incorrect.
While Bournemouth’s 9-0 annihilation was welcome, underscoring professional pride and struggle in his side’s reaction to a difficult start to the season, accommodating opponents won’t influence the fact that the Merseysiders need to strengthen in this department.
Liverpool are measured when it comes to recruitment, and just as they don’t allow defeat or injury to change the course of their thinking, neither will a win – no matter how gigantic.
Even Klopp’s admission that buying a midfielder is the smart move is unresponsive, it had been the original plan before it was scrapped as the main targets were out of reach.
Real Madrid have ensnared Aurelien Tchouameni in a €100m deal which was financially impractical for Liverpool, before considering personal terms.
Bayern Munich closed in on Ryan Gravenberch, getting reassurances from him – as they did with Sadio Mane – long before the rest of Europe’s top flight got going.
Liverpool have been watching Enzo Fernandez, who swapped River Plate for Benfica to continue his development and if Jude Bellingham was on the market this summer they would have been at the center of talk.
Nicolo Barella is under contract with Inter until 2026 and would cost ‘stupid money’.
Frenkie de Jong ideally doesn’t want to leave Barcelona, his contract dispute drags on and his salary range is out of bounds.
So it’s not that the club’s recruitment team haven’t been looking for long-term remedies, just the pool of players seen as the ‘right fit’ for a team to compete for domestic and European honours. deep.
As Klopp himself explained: “You can imagine that we are constantly working on this stuff. We talked about why sometimes it doesn’t happen, sometimes too expensive, sometimes not the right player. The situations change, but one thing is still important, it has to be the right player.”
Liverpool are in a situation, given their lack of adjustment options and their setback a few days before the deadline, where they have to consider whether it is worth choosing an option close enough to be correct rather than nailed. In this sphere are Manu Kone, Moises Caicedo and, to a lesser extent, Konrad Laimer.
Youri Tielemans is shaping up well and available, but there’s clearly not enough credibility in what he offers and how to fit it into specific midfield features.
If the main targets aren’t available – and there’s no guarantee on them next summer either – then a short-term solution that has the tools to develop into a long-term solution can work in this scenario. .
Klopp’s midfield, and indeed the system itself, are heavily dependent on pedigreed, press-resistant passman Thiago. There is no control without it or the ability to progress the ball as well or with as much variation.
It’s a great plan – but for his availability, which was no secret when he was signed from Bayern Munich. When Liverpool cannot match Thiago and Fabinho, their attacking protection, construction and transitions suffer. The midfielder acts as a catalyst for full-backs and forwards – a source of steel, stability, cover.
Naby Keita is another who is rarely available but brings rare progressive qualities. Liverpool are trying to find a mix of what Thiago – Vitinha had the most similar profile but moved to Paris Saint-Germain – and the Guinea international providing ball retention and carrying.
If there were fewer bodies in midfield – an inflated nine – the club would sign two for the job.
Ultimately, an overhaul must take place not only in terms of necessary attributes, contract expirations and availability, but also the age profile of the department, including James Milner (36), Jordan Henderson (32 ) and Thiago (31).
Harvey Elliott and Fabio Carvalho – both 19 – are hugely gifted but can’t handle the responsibility of pushing Liverpool’s midfield forward. Bellingham is different in this respect given his breadth of experience.
The scouting service is aware that it lacks a middle ground: its specialty of signing players aged 21 to 26 – think Mane, Andy Robertson, Roberto Firmino – who are ready to take a career step and train the core of a long-term approach.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s contract expires next summer, as does Keita’s, and the latter’s side have spoken out against committing to an extension at this time. Although both provided dynamism and doses of their quality, neither managed to start half of Liverpool’s league games in a season.
Curtis Jones, even when fully fit, has not been given consistent outings in the top 11 and so the reality of a bloated department is many bodies with little reliability of selection and contribution to show for it.
After successfully refreshing their forward line, midfield surgery must take priority.
It is obvious that all of Liverpool’s ills in the center of the park cannot be cured before the deadline and operating in the final days of a window is never from a position of strength.
However, a recruiting team rightfully considered one of the best in the industry must surely have a solution to a series of predicted problems.