On the 13th June 2021, I released an article DOES THE LIVERPOOL SQUAD NEED A BIG REBUILD OR SOME MINOR TWEAKS? – BY PETER – Touchline Media Group (touchlinefracas.co.uk) suggesting Liverpool needed to make some adjustments and start the rebuild of a new iteration of the team. After a tumultuous season last year, it was evident additions had to be made to this aging squad. The devastating injuries to all three senior centre backs, Thiago Alcantara and Diogo Jota at key points of the season highlighted the Reds’ weaknesses, as they succumbed to no major trophies and a top-four finish.
Naturally, fans and pundits alike assumed the summer of 2021 would be a big one for Liverpool in terms of transfers however, it was an underwhelming window. Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig was the only signing the Reds made. Whilst the Konate transfer was a positive one, the narrative around the squad was that it needed more depth, especially in attacking areas. When Jota was out injured after a blistering start to his Liverpool career, it proved costly as the likes of Mane and Firmino seemingly looked drained and out of form. The midfield was another area of concern as the Reds let Gini Wijnaldum go, and a lot of the remaining midfield options have been injury-prone throughout their Liverpool careers such as Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. It seemed a gamble to rely on such midfielders.
Purchasing a centre back was a necessity for the Reds with Van Dijk, Gomez, and Matip all coming back from long term injuries. A fourth option was almost mandatory to stop another crisis from happening. Reports suggested that Liverpool wanted to sign Konate in January 2021 however, Leipzig was unwilling to sell due to their ongoing Champions League campaign. So, in typical FSG fashion, the club was willing to wait for him to become available. 6’3, quick, powerful with Champions league experience is probably the reason why Michael Edwards and the recruitment team decided to wait to obtain him. The 22-year old’s ability to make recovery runs and dominate physically makes him an easy fit for Liverpool’s high line. Konate being in the 71% for progressive carries for Centre Backs (according to FBref) makes him a very natural replacement for Joel Matip, who is also adequate at carrying the ball. The Frenchman has a high ceiling whilst also being ready to make an impact now as seen this season. Konate is a potential building block for many years to come.
A superstar I did not foresee emerging this campaign was Harvey Elliot. Whilst many were bemoaning the lack of signings, Klopp and his team were looking for an inhouse solution. It was hard to see Elliot playing a big role as a right winger with the great Mohammed Salah playing there. Klopp moved the 18-year-old from the wing to an advanced central midfielder position, the right sided number 8 in Liverpool’s 4-3-3. The switch proved to be a fruitful one with Elliot impressing at the beginning of the season before dislocating his ankle in September. Playing Elliot in midfield gives the Reds incisiveness and a playmaking ability they don’t necessarily have. This will allow Klopp to centralise build up play with more attack minded midfielders rather than workhorses. The new version of this Liverpool team plays more progressive midfielders such as Elliot, Jones, and Thiago giving opposition teams another weapon to think about. For many years the full backs were the only playmakers however, the Reds can evolve with such talents in central midfield. In my opinion, Elliot can interpret the role in the same way Bernardo Sliva does for Manchester City and Angel Di Maria did for Real Madrid, being a link between the midfield and attack but also working tenaciously.
Talking about working tenaciously it would be an injustice not to mention the Columbian sensation, Luis Diaz. The 25-year-old has taken like a duck to water since arriving at Anfield for £37.5 million from Porto. Diaz has entertained fans with his silky dribbling, rapid pace, and industry when it comes to pressing. The left winger has all the traits of a Liverpool forward and is a testament to the recruitment team and their good work. This season for Porto, Diaz scored 16 goals and 6 assists showing he is a goal orientated attacker just like Mane, Salah and Jota. Whilst being goal hungry, according to (FBref) Diaz is in the 93% of dribbles completed by attackers per 90 in the top 5 leagues. He brings unpredictability to the front line and injects some ingenuity into it. Diaz is an electric forward with a lot of speed to get in behind defenders, a very natural replacement for Sadio Mane. I believe Liverpool has two of their future front three attackers in Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota. They will be part of the Red’s forward line for many years to come, whilst being under the learning tree of Mane and Salah currently. The succession planning is starting to take form and you can already see how it may work.
Liverpool was also very close to securing 19-year-old Fabio Carvalho from Fulham in the January transfer window but for some late paperwork. A signing that now looks likely for the summer is definitely one for the future. The teenager has 7 goals 6 assists in the Championship this season and has been a key cog in the Cottagers’ quest for Promotion. The Englishman is another versatile forward who can play across the front line and would be an exciting proposition for Klopp to get his hands on. Carvalho could be a direct replacement for Firmino or an attacking option in the midfield area.
Whilst we look at all these exciting new transfers it’s important to remember some of the Reds players who are still young with a lot to offer. The likes of Trent, Jones, and Gomez are all first teamers but under the age of 25. Not to mention Kaide Gordon and Tyler Morton who are youngsters with bright futures from the academy. I believe this new iteration of the Liverpool team is forming right in front of our very eyes. Whilst this current squad is achieving great things, the next phase is also taking place.
Maybe Klopp and the team did read my article after all.