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The midfield puzzle

rurikbird

Part of the Furniture
Honorary Member
For all the initial euphoria about our midfield rebuild being finished ahead of schedule last season, I don’t think we’re quite there. In fact, for all the undeniable talent and depth, I think we’re still at best 1-2 seasons removed from constructing the next great midfield of the post-Klopp era and there will be plenty of additions and substractions in the meanwhile.

Here are my thoughts and predictions on each of the current midfield players:

Endo - will stay as an important squad player for 1 more season, we need a player with his qualities even if we buy someone.

MacAllister - unfortunately I have a feeling he will leave for Real Madrid, probably next summer. He is pretty great and versatile and precisely the kind of a premium quality squad player serial winning teams have to have - but I just don’t have a feeling he will remain at LFC long-term. Would be pleasantly surprised if we manage to keep him.

Trent - if I were Slot, I would tell Trent the following: you made a lot of progress learning how to play in midfield and I am sure you will eventually get there, but you’re not currently ready to be a starting midfielder for a top team. Not for us, certainly not for Madrid. So I will give you playing time at #6 in certain games throughout the season, but you would not be the 1st or the 2nd option there. You will play as a RB in most games, inverting or not depending on specific tactics for the game, also allowing playing time for the young Bradley. Oh, and please sign the contract now, if not - adios.

Gravenberch - will be given a chance and will need patience, there is a lot of potential growth to come. Slot will definitely want to work with him and find out what kind of player he can become.

Jones - will stay at LFC for many seasons as a home-grown and versatile option, but not as a key player. May eventually become our Rabiot.

Szoboszlai - unlocking him and finding the perfect role will be one of the key tasks for Slot. Potentially a superstar, still.

Elliott - I don’t know how much Slot knew about him prior to signing, but I’m sure he will fall in love with The Boy after a couple of weeks working with him and will always try to find a place for him on the pitch. For example, in addition to his usual roles from last season, I could see him on the wing in a 4-1-4-1.

Bajcetic - potentially a key player for us for years to come, if we can keep him and keep him fit. Next season he should rotate with Endo, Macca and others to gently get back into things.

Morton - could actually be a good understudy option at #6, but will probably fall victim to the Trent situation and be sold for £20M or so.

Clark - loan.

Oh, and I would buy a warrior midfielder type like Ugarte or Joao Gomes either this or at the latest next summer. Our current midfield profile is too heavily skewed toward offensive qualities, with only Endo offering any kind of counterweight.
 
One more thing: Slot mentioned 4-1-4-1 as one of the systems he could potentially play. This would mirror something Klopp did in his early seasons here and since we barely ever considered this possibility, let’s discuss how it would fit our squad.

4-1-4-1 is similar to 4-3-3 in that it requires a specialist DM. The difference is that it uses wingers rather than wing-forwards, so these players are meant to create more than score. It’s the opposite with the #8’s - in this system they become much more important attacking threats, almost playing as a 2nd striker at times, creating chaos with their movement and combativeness and expected to regularly contribute with goals.

I could see how this system could suit many of our players: we have lots of young-ish goal-scoring and chaos-creating #8’s, players who will happily lose the shackles of Klopp’s approach to midfield and could express themselves more in attacking play. On the wings, I can easily see Gakpo, Diaz, Elliott or Szoboszlai all fitting well with the create rather than score mandate and then Nunez or Jota would be expected to carry the attacking burden up front. Probably the only player who I’m not quite sure how to fit into this system is Mo - to accommodate him it would need to become a hybrid of sorts.

Would this system win the Premier League? Probably not: its simplicity and natural balance also means it will be harder to leverage it for a decisive advantage. But it could suit the current make-up of the squad, help some of our younger players, particularly the #8’s, develop and should deliver a solid top-4 finish, which would probably be considered a success in Slot’s first season. I wouldn’t discount it.

—————Alisson————-
———Konate——Virge——-
Trent———Endo——Robbo
———Macca—Jones———
Szoboszlai—————-Gakpo
———--Nunez/Jota————
 
One more thing: Slot mentioned 4-1-4-1 as one of the systems he could potentially play. This would mirror something Klopp did in his early seasons here and since we barely ever considered this possibility, let’s discuss how it would fit our squad.

4-1-4-1 is similar to 4-3-3 in that it requires a specialist DM. The difference is that it uses wingers rather than wing-forwards, so these players are meant to create more than score. It’s the opposite with the #8’s - in this system they become much more important attacking threats, almost playing as a 2nd striker at times, creating chaos with their movement and combativeness and expected to regularly contribute with goals.

I could see how this system could suit many of our players: we have lots of young-ish goal-scoring and chaos-creating #8’s, players who will happily lose the shackles of Klopp’s approach to midfield and could express themselves more in attacking play. On the wings, I can easily see Gakpo, Diaz, Elliott or Szoboszlai all fitting well with the create rather than score mandate and then Nunez or Jota would be expected to carry the attacking burden up front. Probably the only player who I’m not quite sure how to fit into this system is Mo - to accommodate him it would need to become a hybrid of sorts.

Would this system win the Premier League? Probably not: its simplicity and natural balance also means it will be harder to leverage it for a decisive advantage. But it could suit the current make-up of the squad, help some of our younger players, particularly the #8’s, develop and should deliver a solid top-4 finish, which would probably be considered a success in Slot’s first season. I wouldn’t discount it.

—————Alisson————-
———Konate——Virge——-
Trent———Endo——Robbo
———Macca—Jones———
Szoboszlai—————-Gakpo
———--Nunez/Jota————

An excellent post. I do think we're more of a 4-1-4-1 squad than anything else at the moment.

If we had a natural winger on the right (Diaz?), it could allow Trent to drift into the deep lying playmaker role without us losing width - which is what happened with Salah in front of him, who is a forward rather than a winger.

The 4-1-4-1 does place a high emphasis on the two central attacking midfielders getting forward and getting goals, but I think some of our players would thrive given this freedom. Unlike your post - I could see Szobo playing in the central midfield role with the mandate of getting into the box. With the shackles off, MacAllister could chip in with a fair amount of goals as well. And Elliott would thrive in this role.
 
@rurikbird I read you post post agree on the player assessments for the most part but came to a different conclusion. I think we are in a comfort Place with the personnel we have have. If the opportunity arose to buy in a younger Paulihno type then I’d go for it but generally I’d be looking to sort out our problem at RW and CB
 
Fitness is key, we could have won the league last season if we were luckier with injuries.
So yeah, it's good enough for a one off, an entire season? Nah, we need a left back, a RW and maybe even a DM.
 
What happened to Brazilian Freddy Mercury?
I thought he was the bee's knees?
 
Well there's a difference between a rebuild and basically doing what Madrid do which is using their name to sign the 3 biggest talents in the world. Besides maybe bringing in a CB last summer, we were feeling good for the season ahead......fast forward 12 months Grav hasn't worked out yet, neither has Szobo, Mac has his issues at the start which also resurfaced in the last few months and here we are feeling on edge all over again.

I look at what our potential starting XI could be next season (regardless of shape and structure) and there are 8-9 positions that can be improved upon.

We saw how well Endo and Mac functioned together so whether that's in a 2 or 3, they need to be on the team sheet. Do we have plans to bring in a DM? Who knows, looks like we've been or were in contact with Ederson's reps to discuss a potential move....would we do that if it never crossed our minds?

So from the outside looking in I see it more as a squad puzzle and getting the balance right. We have about 9483493 gazillion midfielders on our books and we have 1 right winger and 1 experienced top class CB.

Oh & a midfield with Jones in it isn't winning anything any time soon, quicker he's cashed in on the better.
 
Yeah, I think the the team as a whole is a bit of a puzzle at the moment.

We have a lot of options but also a lot of question marks.

There will be a temptation to keep everyone and hedge our bets but can't help but feel we'll need to be a bit ruthless to get the balance right.
 
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I haven’t watched enough Slotball to know if he likes to pack the midfield.

4141 sounds risky for a team that misses so many chances, but also might make us bullet proof at the back.

I can see Slot signing a midfielder just cos it’s such an important role and you expect most managers to sign someone truly in the mold of their system in there. Equally he has some very adaptable players in Jones & Elliot he could do this with.
 
This response might seem a bit pessimistic, but I'd wager we're in for at least two transitional years. It feels almost impossible to make any confident predictions this summer. We have a general idea of how Slot wants us to play, but it's unclear how that will look in practice. It's also unknown how many players will cope after a heavy season, followed by a summer of football, and then jumping straight back into it.

Is Szoboszlai the next KDB or another Christian Poulsen? How will Bajcetic perform after a year out? Can he handle the role of a six at this level? Can Gravenberch increase his work rate or find a system that suits his game? When will that burst of pace in Endo's legs start to fade? There are lots of questions, and Slot will be as much in the dark as the fans.

The players I'm more confident about are Jones, Mac Allister, and Elliott. They're not guaranteed to be our best performers, but we know what to expect from them. They are players who can shine more in a possession-based, slightly less chaotic side.

It's worth mentioning that while there are many questions, I'm hopeful that most of the answers will be positive. Klopp started the midfield evolution at least two years too late, but last summer he gave us some very good pieces to move forward with. How Slot integrates it all will be interesting to watch.

All of this makes identifying midfield targets tricky. In my view, one area we can improve is finding an athletic, young, defensively-minded six who can compete with Bajcetic and Endo. Ideally, someone aged between 22-25. No matter the system we use, there's a need to provide a solid platform for our more technical midfielders to showcase their skills. This is an area of potential improvement for the squad regardless of other factors. That's why the Gomes link is appealing; the profile of player is spot on.
 
i hate the talk of macallister moving on because it’s true, there’s no way we picked him up cheap without a catch
 
Endo cannot last a full season, and we saw evidence of that. I want to see preseason how Morton and Steph do in a double pivot. CJ is a walking sick note so consider him to be available for 18 league games a season. I think Fab C will be great bench option.
Having 4 new youngsters (Morton, Steph, SVB, and Fab C) is like 4 new signings, you could even include Bradley in that mix
 
I think the hardest thing about shaping a midfield is the effectiveness of your attack & full backs. We saw under the OG Klopp XI that we could win games through the front three + the full backs.

Last year we saw that we couldn't rely on our a front three + full backs to win games.

Not quite sure what is going on in the post above from Bluebell but I think only two of that list will feature. Morton may get cup game -but I guess its between him and badger to deputise for Endo. Excited to see Badger back though - he is more box-to-box than Morton so might get more opportunities.
 
When is the last time we have someone an out?

maybe true but look at the evidence, he was much in demand pre world cup and signed an extension at brighton which only made sense if it contained some type of escape clause

he comes to us for a ridiculously low fee which gives him leverage to get something in his contract allowing him to move on

a fair amount of speculation there but guided by common sense (imo)
 
maybe true but look at the evidence, he was much in demand pre world cup and signed an extension at brighton which only made sense if it contained some type of escape clause

he comes to us for a ridiculously low fee which gives him leverage to get something in his contract allowing him to move on

a fair amount of speculation there but guided by common sense (imo)
Nah that's all wild speculation mate. Conspiracy theorists would be proud of you!
 
Seen enough of Szobo at Leipzig, Hungary and for us at the start of last season that he’s gonna be boss. Still only 23, which is easy to forget. Slot will develop him into a monster.
 
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