Liverpool were quick to elevate optimism amongst their fan base after losing Saturday’s Champions League final by announcing the kind of signing that creates real positivity about the campaign ahead.
Fabinho has been one of the most in-demand midfielders in Europe over the last few years, such has been his exceptional form for Monaco, and his arrival completes something of a midfield overhaul for Jurgen Klopp – with Naby Keita also coming in from Red Bull Leipzig after a deal was agreed last summer.
The question though, is who finishes off Liverpool’s new midfield trio. There are plenty of options at the club already, and a few Klopp could bring in as well – although it’s more than likely his budget for the engine room has already been maxed out for 2018/19. With that in mind, Football FanCast lay out six suggested solutions…
After an underwhelming start to life at Anfield, Oxlade-Chamberlain really started to show his importance to Liverpool in big games as their most offensive and dynamic driving force from midfield. Liverpool’s 4-3 win over Manchester City in the Premier League was a prime example of that. But if there’s one concern, its that Oxlade-Chamberlain is perhaps a little too similar in style to Keita and Fabinho; they both like to burst forward and score goals as well, so Liverpool could find themselves really exposed at the back with all three on the pitch.
Grujic still has lots to learn but the Serbian powerhouse earned rave reviews for his Championship performances after joining Cardiff City on loan for the second half of last season, and Klopp clearly rates the 22-year-old highly.
That spell in the second tier might have just toughened Grujic up enough to start playing regularly for the Reds’ first team, although that’s a very big leap and would mean Liverpool begin next season with essentially three new signings in central midfield, such has been his limited involvement at his parent club thus far. With Fabinho and Keita keen to bomb forward though, his natural height and strength could be a real asset in plugging up the gaps behind them.
Henderson is perhaps the most obvious candidate to sit slightly behind Fabinho and Keita, allowing them to press forward and launch attacks. Indeed, in addition to being Liverpool captain, his style of play represents a nice contrast; while some label the England international mundane, he’s economic and sensible on the ball, and takes up good positions when Liverpool lose possession. Alongside Fabinho and Keita, that balance could be crucial.
It’s been two seasons of contrasting fortunes for Adam Lallana. During 2016/17, he emerged as one of the most important components of Liverpool’s midfield, showing real creative vision behind Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. During 2017/18 though, injury problems limited him to just one Premier League start and a pretty anonymous substitute outing in the Champions League final.
Nonetheless, Lallana’s playmaking qualities and his ability to change the angle of the attack give something Liverpool a little different and cleverer in midfield, which could compliment the more dynamic Keita and Fabinho very well.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that Fabinho is just 24 and Keita’s a year younger, so James Milner’s experience alongside them could go a long way, especially in terms of organisation and shape as they adapt to Klopp’s game plan.
Likewise, while the England international wasn’t a guaranteed starter for much of last season, he really showed his importance during the tail-end of the campaign, particularly in Europe where he grabbed eight assists in nine Champions League starts. Some Liverpool fans would certainly like to see him starting every week.
A real midfield all-rounder, Wijnaldum perhaps has the best chance of gelling with Fabinho and Keita right away simply because – much like them – he can do a bit of everything and offers plenty of energy. But there are question marks over the quality the Dutchman truly brings to the side, and whether he’s a little too passive at times.
Perhaps that wouldn’t be such a bad thing with two more cavalier midfielders alongside him, but if it’s stability the new midfield signings need there are probably better options available to Klopp.