Liverpool have made a scintillating start to the season. They are scoring freely and barring a few games, have terrorised opposition defences in all the games so far. Their midfield trio of Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson and Gigi Wijnaldum has had a big say on proceedings. Their pressing and willingness to run around all game has proved to be a boon for Jurgen Klopp. After 7 games into the season, Liverpool sits high in 4th place, tied on points with Arsenal.
On Matchday 8, Jurgen Klopp’s men face their fiercest rivals, Manchester United at Anfield and they will be buoyed by the fact that they can face Jose Mourinho’s team when they’re in such a rich vein of form. On the downside, injuries to Adam Lallana and Georginio Wijnaldum will keep them out of the fixture. That leaves Klopp with a very big dilemma on his hands. Lallana has perhaps been the most improved player under Klopp whereas Wijnaldum has performed exceptionally since making the move from Tyneside.
Liverpool are blessed with quite a few players who can thrive in the center of the park but none so like the trio of Lallana, Henderson and Wijnaldum. They show incredible industry and always present themselves for attacking forays into the opposition half. Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard was the master at making runs into the box deep from midfield and the current crop of Liverpool midfielders must emulate him in that sense and get their names on the scoresheet more often, which Henderson and Lallana have done this season.
So who should Klopp turn to in order to replace Lallana and Wijnaldum in the starting XI?
Combination 1 – Jordan Henderson, Emre Can and Phillipe Coutinho
Skipper Henderson will look to put his performance in England colors behind him. He had a forgettable game against Slovenia but has the ability to bounce back and Emre Can could be called back into the starting XI. The German midfielder sat out the initial few games of the season through an injury.
The form of the aforementioned trio of Lallana, Henderson and Wijnaldum has kept Can out and he has been restricted to appearances from the bench while the Brazilian midfielder Phillipe Coutinho could be given a central berth again. Coutinho started his Anfield career there but has drifted to wider positions off late in order to accommodate better- suited players. He will look to pull the strings from midfield and set counter attacks going. He is also capable of going for it from long distance by himself which is an added bonus for a midfielder.
Combination 2 – Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Lucas Leiva
Henderson with no doubt is a starter. James Milner has been deployed at left back this season due to Klopp not trusting Alberto Moreno enough. But if Klopp is looking for a more stable midfield, he will look to pick these players. James Milner will undoubtedly put a shift in, as he always does while Lucas Leiva if he plays, will keep things simple and ticking along in midfield. He is an astounding interceptor of the ball, which could come in handy against the likes of Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera.
Midfielders that Klopp may look to bring off the bench –
Marko Grujic; Serbian midfielder was chased by Liverpool for a long time before a deal was done in January this year, which allowed the player to be loaned back to his former club to finish the season there. He hasn’t integrated with Klopp’s system totally yet and that is why a starting berth could be too soon for him. He is a physical presence in midfield and if Klopp wants to try something new, he could bring him on.
Kevin Stewart; The English defensive midfielder has made 4 substitute appearances this season and has done enough to warrant a place in Klopp’s squad. He might be called upon due to Liverpool’s midfield crisis. Fans should expect nothing spectacular from Stewart as he is someone who likes to keep it simple with his passes and interceptions.
Whatever combination of players Liverpool end up using on the day against United, it has to be said that the game could be won or lost in midfield. United have Pogba, Herrera and Rooney potentially coming off the bench. The Liverpool midfielders must ensure they continue to play like they have previously done this season and not get overawed by Pogba’s presence around them. They must also ensure they don’t end up running rings around United’s midfielders.