Liverpool pleased with draw at Stamford Bridge
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Liverpool are beginning to lose their grip on the tails of Manchester City. The finger could be pointed of numerous issues amongst the Reds squad, but the bottom line remains that their midfield hasn’t been performing to the standard of title contenders recently.
Against Chelsea at the weekend, the Reds’ midfield of James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho were torn apart by N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic.
Although they aren’t Klopp’s first choice trio, the problem didn’t come emerge just a few days ago, it has been a matter of months. And those waiting in the wings are yet to set the Premier League alight – with Thiago Alcantara finding some form before his injury it must be added.
But instead of potentially recruiting another central player, the Reds have been linked with several wingers instead.
Reports have suggested that Raphinha of Leeds, Villarreal’s Arnaut Danjuma and Adama Traore are all of interest to Klopp and may make a move to Anfield. But are they needed?
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Instead, Liverpool must prioritise finding a player to gel the team and provide a smooth transition from midfield to attack, and Klopp should look no further than no.9 Roberto Firmino.
The Brazilian has always been praised for his build-up play and willingness to drop deep in order to create opportunities and space for Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, and now may be the time to move the 30-year-old into a no.10 role and play Diogo Jota as the out and out striker.
Speaking to Liverpool’s official site in 2019, Fabinho commented on the versatility of the forward, saying: “Firmino is a player who is really good at adapting to different positions. He is a No.9 but he helps a lot in build-up play.
“He is very important to the team in many stages of the game; he plays as if in the No.10 role or a No.8 role, he is a really smart guy who adapts to what the team needs.
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“He is great at playing with his back to goal and…in build-up play and starting attacks. He helps a lot in general teamwork as well as being a top finisher. So, yes, he is a really important player for us.”
Firmino is an intelligent playmaker who has an outstanding work rate off of the ball, he can press high to retrieve the ball deep in the oppositions half but has also shown his ability to sit deeper previously when his team are under the cosh.
And the former Hoffenheim man could solve another issue in midfield too, the lack of goals coming from that area of the pitch.
Of all the midfielders in the Liverpool squad, between them, they have scored a grand total of six goals so far this season, which is no surprise given that they aren’t pushing forward to get in dangerous positions.
There no longer appears to be a connection between the midfield and attack which proved so lethal in previous years – potentially due to the absence of box to box playmaker Georginio Wijnaldum – and instead, overlapping fullbacks Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold are relied upon to gel the areas of the pitch.
Having Firmino in the no.10 role would allow him to arrive late into the penalty area and provide goals from this area of the pitch, taking some of the weight off of the shoulders of the forwards.
Klopp could also look to return to a somewhat tried and tested plan from earlier this season, deploying Harvey Elliott as a no.10 with two holding midfielders.
The Englishman picked up an ankle injury against Leeds in the opening few weeks of the season but was flourishing in the position, and according to The Athletic he will return to full training soon, and thus also provide cover out wide for the second-half of the campaign.
Due to the African Cup of Nations, which means that Salah and Mane are absent for the coming weeks, there is little chance of Firmino not playing in his favoured position, but if Klopp wants to bring the Premier League trophy back to Merseyside then he must get his priorities straight. His wide options aren’t the issue.
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