Liverpool's opening games prove that two new signings are still...
Liverpool's opening games prove that two new signings are still needed at Anfield

Liverpool's opening games prove that two new signings are still needed at Anfield

When Jürgen Klopp first touched the iconic This Is Anfield sign as Liverpool manager and walked out on the Anfield pitch, towering behind him was the half-built new Main Stand - a metaphor for the rebuilding job he had on his hands back in 2015. Eight years later and Klopp should have been walking out at Anfield this weekend in front Anfield’s biggest crowd since the 1960s, in front of a redeveloped Anfield Road Stand. Instead, delays to the construction are now symbolic of a rebuild of Klopp’s Liverpool "rebooted" that should have been further progressed than it is. Liverpool’s failure to develop Klopp’s squad adequately this summer mirror those of the construction work off the pitch at Anfield after the principle contractor filed for administration this week. On and off the pitch, the problems are there for all to see. Forget ‘things we’ve learned’ type articles, every Liverpool supporter knew ahead of the new season that the club needed to sign a holding midfielder and a left-sided centre-back, and yet neither arrived in time for the new campaign. The surprise signing of 30-year-old Japan captain Wataru Endo the day before the first home game finally plugged one of those needs, or will, eventually. “We really need you,” Klopp told Endo when first meeting the player on Thursday. “We have a really good team, really good, ready to work - but offensive.” How Klopp would’ve liked to have had Endo signed in time for the season and the home opener against Bournemouth, which showcased all the Reds’ defensive fragilities inside the opening 10 minutes. Twice Bournemouth had the ball in the net in the opening three minutes, the first ruled out for offside but the second simply profited from abysmal play from Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield. It was hardly a great advert for those who have clamoured for Alexander-Arnold to simply be played as Liverpool’s defensive midfielder and do away with signing one. A wild idea that, thankfully, Klopp has never contemplated. Someone else who will be delighted at Endo’s arrival is Alexis Mac Allister. The World Cup winner would not have been sold on a move to Anfield in order to play as a defensive midfielder, but that’s where he’s found himself in the opening two games. Sent off for a high challenge on Ryan Christie on his home debut on the hour, Mac Allister can at least rejoice in the thought that when he returns it won’t be to play as the most defensive midfielder in this often frenetic and open Liverpool side. Mac Allister joined a unique list of Liverpool players sent off on their home debut that includes only Darwin Nunez just last season and Joe Cole back in 2010. The Argentine looked devastated as he left the field, but nobody in the stands is expecting his career from here to be anything but positive. Having Endo around, someone who can tackle, do the dirty and, in the words of Klopp, “win challenges and pass the ball from A to B” will help Mac Allister no end. The third man in Klopp’s new-look midfield is Dominik Szoboszlai and it is his name that supporters were discussing in the pubs around Anfield post-match. The new £60 million arrival showed his quality in a superb home debut. His shot which rebounded for Jota to slot the third goal for the home side had more than a touch of a former Liverpool No.8 about it. Having a powerful, strong, dynamic right-sided midfielder was a significant change to last season when fans became accustomed to Jordan Henderson labouring in such a position. “We had to hold him back a little bit, he was the only one who really felt like he had power for more,” Klopp said post-match. “The general performance level he showed since he was here is really, really good." The bad news for Klopp is that it won’t be until September 24th at the earliest that he can now deploy his new midfield trio together, with Mac Allister to miss games against Newcastle, Aston Villa and Wolves through suspension. The manager hinted that they will appeal the red card, but the likelihood of it being overturned is extremely thin. That Klopp won’t be able to deploy Mac Allister and Szoboszlai - players signed before the Reds returned for pre-season training in early July - alongside an actual holding midfielder is an indictment of Liverpool’s fumbled summer transfer business. There were 35 days between Al-Attihad’s bid for Fabinho and Liverpool bringing in his replacement. During that time, Liverpool could and should have acquired Romeo Lavia - a player they were linked with even before Fabinho’s interest from Saudi Arabia. The 19-year-old would certainly not have been the finished product, but given his undoubted potential and homegrown status, he was a signing that should have been made this summer. Instead, Liverpool have, eventually, opted for a somewhat stop-gap arrival in Endo. And while he could well do a job for a few years yet, ideally he would not be the only specialist defensive midfielder arriving at Anfield this August. Perhaps just as concerning, though, is the failure to strengthen the defence. Liverpool’s back four have started 26 games together over the past three seasons, yet inside the opening 10 minutes they looked like strangers. The new system of transitioning to a back three in possession is certainly not without its issues. The spaces between Ibrahima Konate, Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson can often be far too wide, while the system also negates Robertson’s best attributes of being a marauding, attacking full-back. It limits Robertson’s game and exposes his defensive weaknesses - and yet, an injury to Robertson isn’t worth thinking about for Liverpool this season, because the alternative in Kostas Tsimikas is even less ideal. That a new left-sided centre-back hasn’t been brought in yet is a worry. That there is absolutely no competition for places and the same four will start in defence every time they are available is far from ideal and does not create competition for places or allow for rotation. These two opening games have shown us little new about Liverpool, but merely underlined there were two positions that needed strengthening at the opening of the summer transfer window - in midfield and at left centre-back - and that’s how it remains with less than a fortnight to go.

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