Dave Davis explains how Jürgen Klopp’s expert man-management skills will be tested this season after the arrival of Fabinho and Naby Keïta.
“You have to accept at the beginning of the season that I cannot keep all the players happy each second of the day. At the moment, we need to be ready all the time and that means we need more players.
“That means we have to rotate to keep the intensity levels up and minimise the risks of injuries.”
Rewind a year to the signing of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jurgen Klopp had made his strategy quite clear. When you take into consideration the most recent additions, however, and those that may potentially follow could struggle to see everyone in midfield stay on board.
Following Emre Can’s inevitable exit, reinforcements in the central area were always going to be needed.
Naby Keïta’s arrival at Melwood had been tied-up a long time ago and the signing of Fabinho was a pleasant surprise for all. Rumours continue to circulate that Nabil Fekir will still arrive as Coutinho’s replacement and if it’s not the Frenchman, it’s clear Klopp will target someone of a similar skill-set.
The run-in to last season’s campaign where Liverpool possessed only three fit midfielders at one stage seems a distant memory.
That’s not to say Klopp’s man-management skills won’t be needed. In the manager’s favoured 4-3-3 formation, there are limited places available. Henderson, Keita, Fabinho, Lallana, Milner, Wijnaldum and Oxlade-Chamberlain will all battle it out to see who starts.
Those are just the senior names potentially competing before any potential Fekir arrival. Marko Grujic wisely looks set for a move on loan to Cardiff and we’re unlikely to see the best of Oxlade-Chamberlain until the new year. Competition for places will be fierce come the West Ham game.
Six or seven into three doesn’t work and a pecking order will soon be determined. Cup games may well see opportunities given to those who don’t start the initial league games, but Klopp’s skills will be needed to maintain squad harmony.
Wijnaldum and Milner seem to be many fans’ favourites to be fifth choice, but will a Dutch international who’s been linked with a move away this summer already settle for that option? Much less a player that quit international football and left a title-winning Manchester City side to play regularly.
Injuries made the argument moot during the last campaign, but that’s not a solution nor something anyone will be hoping for. Keita and Fabinho won’t have been guaranteed first team football, but a manager doesn’t spend significant sums on players he isn’t likely to use regularly.
Jordan Henderson returns from the World Cup having played the best football of his career in the last six months, whilst whether it be Fekir or another, Klopp is looking for a creative player who can unlock teams that sit deep.
Adam Lallana will feel he’s spent enough time on the sidelines over the last year and if Oxlade-Chamberlain can get back to that player of last season then he’ll challenge any of those mentioned.
Certain problems don’t always rear their heads instantly, but it may be something to watch as the season progresses. Klopp himself won’t consider it any type of problem and if injuries do crop up, then there’ll be little to discuss.
If they don’t, those who find their game time limited may be looking for more than a bear hug and it wouldn’t surprise any fan if there have been a few knocks on the manager’s door at Melwood to seek clarification. This’ll be one to keep an eye on.