Liverpool’s squad depth could be x-factor in top four hunt…

Strength and depth are buzzwords surrounding squads in modern day football. Gone is the era in which players wore shirts with 1 to 11 on the back, with teams now in need of at least 20 to 25 stars to get them through a campaign, with multiple choices in every position.

Although much of Liverpool’s summer has centred around those heading out of the exit door – the Merseysiders actually made a PROFIT across the window just gone – the Reds still have options to call upon all over the pitch, which shows how they’ve come on since the 2013/14 campaign, in which Iago Aspas was the pick of their bench players.

But just how well-equipped are Liverpool for the 2016/17 season? Well, we decided to look at each position to assess the quality and depth available to Klopp… and the German is sure to crack his trademark smile when he sits down and thinks about it all..

Goalkeeper

goalies

Loris Karius – The German was signed over the summer and featured heavily in pre-season until breaking his hand. It’s hard to determine whether of not he’s Klopp’s No.1 given that Simon Mignolet was late back from EURO 2016, but with the Belgian having been erratic last season, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Karius has been drafted in to be the main man.

Simon Mignolet – No.1 or the man to profit from some good fortune? We’ll find out over the coming weeks when Karius returns from his hand injury, but Mignolet has started the season well. However, it’s hard not to feel that the pressure is on the Belgian, with the smallest error set to trigger all manner of criticism from an Anfield crowd that’s grown weary of his mistakes.

Alex Manninger – Arguably Liverpool’s surprise summer signing, 39-year-old Austrian Manninger. It’s hard to envisage the former Premier League winner getting much, if any, game time in divisional action, with his chances likely to come in League Cup and FA Cup games.

Right-back

right-back

Nathaniel Clyne – Mr Reliable, Clyne is a manager’s dream in that he’s rarely injured and hardly ever turns in a performance below 7/10. The England international has effectively made the right-back berth his own and is one of the first names on Klopp’s team-sheet nowadays, while he appears to have worked on the attacking side of his game in recent months, as illustrated by his performance in the win at Arsenal.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – Beyond Clyne there are few options open to Klopp, but judging by pre-season, youngster Alexander-Arnold is the next in line. The teenager has spent much of his youth career in a midfield role, but his versatility and physicality seem to have made the right-back berth his route into the first-team set-up.

Connor Randall – Local boys are few and far between at Anfield in the here and now, but Randall is one, and he’s liked among the supporters. However, he seems to be behind Alexander-Arnold in the pecking order despite featuring on a few occasions last term in league and cup action, so, barring an injury crisis, his chances of playing are slim.

Centre-back

Centre-back

Dejan Lovren – Revived under Klopp, Lovren seems to be the main centre-back at Anfield nowadays. Since the arrival of the charismatic tactician, the Croatian’s game has improved tenfold, with his responsibilities seemingly having been simplified. No longer do we see Lovren strolling into midfield or looking to win every first ball, and that has coincided with his rebirth.

Joel Matip – Already looking on course to be one of the bargains of the summer, the Cameroonian arrived on a free transfer after a stellar season in Bundesliga action with Schalke and looked excellent against Spurs. Missing for the opening two league matches of the season, Matip cannot be blamed for the five goals shipped, and it’s surely no coincidence that Liverpool looked much more effective defensively with him alongside Lovren. With pace, power and technical prowess, the African star has a promising Anfield future.

Ragnar Klavan – Just behind Manninger in ‘surprise signing’ category we have Klavan. The Estonian captain – who has over 100 caps to his name – seems to be an ‘old school’ option at the back for Klopp, who may have been alarmed by his side’s inability to cope with set-pieces last term. Klavan is very much a safety-first defender and looked good against Arsenal on the opening weekend. Expect him to feature regularly across the campaign.

Mamadou Sakho – Having angered Klopp by refusing to leave the club on loan on Deadline Day, it’s hard to see a way back for Sakho at Anfield. The Frenchman is a cult hero among the fans given his infectious character and committed playing style, but the doping saga – of which he’s been cleared – and his pre-season training camp behaviour – from which he was sent home early – appear to have driven his relationship with his manager to breaking point.

Joe Gomez – An ACL injury early into Klopp’s reign means that Gomez is yet to play under the German. Initially, it was widely mooted that the Kop chief was a huge fan of the young Englishman, who starred for Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers, yet it’s hard to say how his knee problems have affected his development.

Tiago Ilori – Unlikely to play at all, the Portuguese centre-back was brought back in mid-way through last season after a forgettable few months at Aston Villa on loan and struggled for game time even though injuries reduced Klopp to the point where he was surely considering dusting his own boots off!

Left-back

left-back

James Milner – Just what position does James Milner play in? Well, the latest spin of that wheel has settled on left-back, with the recently returned England international seemingly ahead of Alberto Moreno. Although not a full-back and not left-footed, Milner is a dependable option and was decent away Spurs – netting from the penalty spot.

Alberto Moreno – Where do we start with Moreno? The Spaniard has all the tools to be a top modern day full-back, but he offsets his pace, explosiveness and stamina with routine errors. The Spaniard is now behind Milner in the pecking order in his own position after sliding behind youngster Joe Gomez at the same stage of the season 12 months ago.

Joe Gomez – Having started the season at left-back last season, Gomez clearly has the versatility to function in the role and could be a Milner/Moreno hybrid for Klopp to consider…

Central midfield

centre-mid

Emre Can – Seemingly Klopp’s lieutenant on the pitch, Can has been a vital player for the German since his arrival. The Merseyside boss quickly planted the ex-Bayer Leverkusen man in his favoured central midfield role after his utility man season under Rodgers, and he’s reaped the rewards. Arguably one of the most underrated players in the Premier League, Can’s physicality and ability to cover the turf can only truly be noticed when he’s unable to play, which has been the case for much of the Reds’ opening 270 minutes of Premier League football this term.

Jordan Henderson – The Reds’ skipper is sure to start more regularly this season with his ankle injury seemingly behind him, and if he can recover to produce the level of performances he turned in during that season, he will form a formidable partnership with Can. ‘Hendo’ is, for all the detractors he has, a very good progressive central midfielder.

Georginio Wijnaldum – Pinning down where the Dutchman is most effective remains an open debate, but he’s spent much of the season so far operating in a central midfield role, so it appears this is where Klopp envisages him going forward. The ex-Newcastle man, unlike other options at Liverpool, is adept at arriving late in the box to support his attackers, and his 11 goals in league action as the Magpies slipped to relegation last term show that he effective in doing so.

Lucas – For the umpteenth summer Lucas has remained at Liverpool amid widespread doubts about his future. The Brazilian is still only 29, and as he’s one of only two genuine holding midfielders at Anfield, it’s likely that he’ll get some game time as the season progresses.

Marko Grujic – A pre-season star after making his long-awaited move to Liverpool from Red Star Belgrade, Grujic has only tasted Premier League action for 12 minutes thus far. A couple of goals in the build-up to the campaign shows that he has the ability to drive on from a deeper role, drawing tentative comparisons with Can.

Kevin Stewart – One of the surprise players to emerge under Klopp, what Stewart may lack in terms of technique he makes up for with reliability. The 22-year-old may not have a huge long-term future at the club, but he’ll be useful for shutting games down late on and will get minutes in cup action.

Attacking midfield

attacking midfield

Philippe Coutinho – The man that makes Liverpool tick, Coutinho has shown his best and worst sides this season in three games. The Brazilian was breath-taking at Arsenal before resorting to long-range pot-shots in the loss at Burnley. Alas, he remains the catalyst for much of the club’s better play and will, barring injury, be the first name on Klopp’s team-sheet all season long.

Roberto Firmino – Firmino can frustrate with his tendency to misplace simple five-yard passes, but he remains, arguably, Liverpool’s finest unpredictable talent. The Brazilian matches his flair with understated work-rate to make him a dream Klopp attacking-midfielder/forward, while his 11 goals in all competitions last season illustrate his overall importance.

Sadio Mane – The £30m+ summer signing from Southampton has made a staggeringly impressive start to his Liverpool career, netting an early contender for Goal of the Season at Arsenal before performing well at Spurs after missing the Burnley clash. Mane offers the sort of pace Klopp’s other attacking-midfield options seem to lack.

Adam Lallana – Neat skills and clever passing but little in the way of measurable return, Lallana is a pretty player to watch, yet he lacks end product. The Englishman remains a player Klopp clearly rates, but he seems to be behind

Up front

strikers

Daniel Sturridge – The Sturridge debate seems like one that may rage on all season long. Although he’s, arguably, Liverpool’s best centre-forward, it’s becoming clear that Klopp has concerns regarding his ability to fit into his pressing style, while his fitness concerns have been an issue. Alas, with Liverpool set to be on the front foot for the bulk of their games against deep defences, it’s likely that Sturridge will be the main man given his finishing ability.

Roberto Firmino – Although the ‘false nine’ is no longer a new phenomenon, a host of fans are left surprised when the Brazilian is used as the focal point of the Liverpool team. Firmino may not offer the presence of a target man, nor the lethal edge of a traditional No.9, but his relentless work rate is key in tough away games, as it was at Spurs.

Divock Origi – Pace, work-rate and physical presence, Origi, although he lacks a clinical edge, has the tools to be a top striker. The Belgian has come on leaps and bounds under Klopp and certainly seems to be a player the German likes, so it appears odds-on that he’ll get game time across the campaign.

Danny Ings – Another player to have been out for the entirety of Klopp’s reign through injury, Ings’ role in the Liverpool squad is up in the air. The English forward offers energy and work-rate, which suggests that he would be valued under his now manager, but game time may be hard to come by just by virtue of numbers