Why Liverpool will sacrifice style in favour of substance

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Best of Premier League - Match Week Twenty Two
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Dave Davis expects Liverpool to continue grinding out victories in Philippe Coutinho’s absence and will likely sacrifice style for substance.

The badge on the front will always be everything. The name on the back means little. With Coutinho now at Barcelona and Liverpool £146 million richer, talk has naturally turned to potential incomings at Anfield.

Recent results may be an indication of what’s to potentially come if there are no incomings at Anfield as expected. Substance over style could be a feature of 2018.

The usual suspects (James Pearce, Paul Joyce, Simon Hughes et al.) all seem to have been briefed with the same narrative. Jurgen Klopp will attempt to bring in Naby Keita early, although RB Leipzig seem likely to resist any moves.

Thomas Lemar and Alisson of Roma are two names that are consistently mentioned as targets, now or in the summer. However, that subtle line exists in all the articles – if Liverpool can’t get their targets, they’ll keep their powder dry until the summer.

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There are reasons aside from transfer targets why Klopp believes his squad can cope. Adam Lallana has returned to first-team action recently and ‘the man who leads the press’ will likely become a key component for the first team. Lallana has naturally been criticised for his goals/assists output since his arrival at Anfield, but there’s no doubting his energy and drive will be factors Klopp relies upon.

Rotation has been a key feature of recent line-ups and the manager will be hoping that strategy bears fruit in the long run. Those who’ve been linked with stepping into Coutinho’s shoes should still have a freshness.

Using Firmino as a barometer (2276 minutes) for week in, week out players, then the likes of Oxlade-Chamberlain (1461) and Milner (1301) should enjoy more time in the midfield going forward with Lallana.

The little Brazilian did still find himself on the left of a front three quite often and Sadio Mane (1596) should naturally step into those shoes. Even Mo Salah has seen what a rest looks like in the last month, even if it wasn’t wanted by anyone.

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A spate of 2-1 victories have all involved coming from behind or late winners, which will please many Reds who felt those weren’t characteristics the current squad possessed.

The signing of Virgil van Dijk coupled with the changes in formation to include extra protection in the middle may mean that victories may not be achieved in the same swashbuckling style as against Maribor, Spartak, Swansea or Arsenal.

Goals scored may be reduced in the second half of the season, but Klopp will expect the goals conceded column to reduce dramatically.

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It’s a strategy that’s a gamble no doubts about it. If it comes off and Liverpool do make the Champions League for the second successive season or win a trophy this term, Klopp will rightly receive plaudits.

If neither of those ambitions are achieved though, it’s understandable that supporters will look back to the January transfer window as a key moment. The manager and the owners would face criticism which would be understandable.

Substance over style looks like being a key strategy for the first half of 2018. We’ll judge in the summer if it was a wise one.

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