Liverpool’s rivals have spent £110m on midfield transfers but it won’t be enough. The Reds have a plan that no one can match.

Chelsea officially signed Kai Havertz this weekend in a deal worth around £75m. This comes a few days after Manchester United confirmed Donny van de Beek for £35m, potentially rising another £5m.

Holland v Poland -UEFA Nations league

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So Liverpool’s rivals are spending big on their midfieds – but we knew they would.

Both sides were lightyears behind Liverpool last season as the Reds stormed the league. A better way to put it, though, is that each were literally years behind in their development.

Puzzle pieces

Liverpool have built their midfield over many years. Jordan Henderson is the lynchpin that defines the style and the Reds have added complementary players since.

First, there was Gini Wijnaldum, then Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, with Naby Keita and Fabinho arriving a year after that. And the result is what we see today – a midfield that’s capable of playing against absolutely anyone.

The beauty of it is in flexibility. All players may have strengths and weaknesses but their defining trait is their rounded game. Henderson, James Milner and Wijnaldum show it off best – all three are decent at virtually everything.

Want to press? They’re sensational. They can defend deep, too, and play physically or disciplined. But they’re capable of getting in the opposition box, if Liverpool need that. While all three are competent passers on top, allowing a possession game.

Perfect players? Of course not. But they’re reliable beyond belief, meaning Jurgen Klopp can shift strategy to whatever he wants in-game. Then there’s the other three.

Keita is largely box-to-box but more geared towards driving with the ball. Oxlade-Chamberlain is naturally a winger who feels more comfortable in the winger – he’s direct, pacy, and attacking. Fabinho is a one-man defensive shield who can create goals out of nothing.

So Liverpool have unbelievable variety but with one common theme – flexibility. Liverpool’s midfield is whatever it needs to be at that moment and it’s a large part of why they’re champions.

They’ve built it piece by piece over years and left everyone else in the dust. And we may see more of that this year. Liverpool reportedly want Thiago – another flexible midfielder who offers something Liverpool don’t have.

 

He’s technical and tricky but can help cover a defence. It’s the one kind of midfielder Liverpool lack and something that could push their possession game forward without sacrificing the plan.

Playing catchup

How do you catch up with that in no time at all? You spend big, of course. Both United and Chelsea have splashed the cash on new midfield transfers, hoping they take them to the next level.

But we can’t see it happening.

They’ve signed excellent players, no doubt. In fact, we’ve previously wanted both at Liverpool. But we don’t see them as players who will transform these midfields into elite problems for the Reds.

Take Chelsea and Havertz. We recently wrote about the then-potential deal as it’s one Liverpool supposedly didn’t like themselves. Too much money, according to the Independent back in February.

He’s a great player – but will he help Chelsea out? Havertz is an attacking-midfielder who can play as a striker. He gets you goals and assists and is excellent at it. The problem, then, is that Chelsea always threatened anyway. They scored 69 goals last season – only Liverpool and Manchester City scored more.

But they conceded 54 – more than anyone in the top half. Four more than 15th-place Brighton. In that case, how does Havertz turn them into a consistent threat next season?

For United, things are a little different. They never struggled with conceding goals but we don’t see how Van de Beek fits into their midfield. He’s a flexible, productive midfielder who gets goals and assists – but don’t they already have two of those in Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes?

To us, it seems like they’ve got three star midfielders who are all at their best doing largely the same thing – attacking. There’s no obvious cover and no versatility. Would you trust that trio to defend a lead or keep a game tight against a top side?

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We think their midfield transfers are good on their own – excellent, even – but players who help them build towards a plan? We’re not so sure.

Liverpool, who set the standard in that regard, still lead the way.

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