Liverpool have used 11 different midfield combinations this season. We think the best available hasn’t been seen, however.
11 different midfield combinations in the Premier League for Liverpool this season. That’s a very, very large number for a team who thrive on consistency.
Those 11 feature 10 different players, too – again, far too many players.
But which is the best? (Scroll to the bottom if you just want to see the combinations and their wins/draws/losses)
Well, five of them have only happened once, including, on paper, Liverpool’s preferred choice. Jordan Henderson, Thiago and Fabinho played against Everton together but not since.
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One and done
We’ve seen Naby Keita, Gini Wijnaldum and Curtis Jones once. James Milner, Wijnaldum and Jones once. Milner, Wijnaldum, and Takumi Minamino once.
Then Milner, Henderson and Jones has happened once, as has Winaldum, Thiago, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
It’s hard to judge these combinations as they’ve each only played once. Notably, though, Keita, Wijnaldum and Jones is the only trio that got a win.
So how about trios we’ve seen twice?
There are only three of these, one of which failed to win a game.
That was Wijnaldum, Thiago and Xherdan Shaqiri. They drew against Manchester United but lost to Burnley.
Then we have the most volatile trio of them all – Wijnaldum, Fabinho and Keita. They beat Arsenal 3-1 but then suffered the 7-2 defeat against Aston Villa.
The third two-game combination is a very notable one as it’s the only two-man midfield. Henderson and Wijnaldum partnered each other in two games with four forwards ahead of them.
They won 2-1 at home against Sheffield United and then drew 0-0 against Manchester City. It’s the only time Jurgen Klopp really moved away from his 4-3-3.
One, two, three
Two combinations have played three games. We’ll start with the most recent.
Thiago, Wijnaldum and Milner have lined up for the last three games. They got a very good win over Totten Hotspur, a very good win over West Ham United, and then a bitterly disappointing defeat to Brighton.
Is there promise there? Definitely. But that last result was awful.
The other combination is Liverpool’s most successful. It’s also the one they started the season with – Wijnaldum, Henderson and Keita.
They beat Leeds United 4-3, Chelsea 2-0 (although, Thiago replaced Henderson at half-time with the scores 0-0. Chelsea had 10 men for the entire second-half), and Crystal Palace 7-0.
This trio, quite clearly, works. So hold that thought as we go over the most-used partnership this season.
Wijnaldum, Henderson and Jones have made up the field five times. They also haven’t lost, winning three and drawing two.
They beat West Ham United 2-1, smashed Wolves 4-0, drew 1-1 with Fulham and then beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1. They’d have another win, if not for Jones’s late mistake that led to a draw against West Brom.
This, clearly, is a midfield that works. And that gives us a lot to learn from.
Liverpool have two midfields here that work well and both are very similar in their make-up. Both feature Henderson and Wijnaldum alongside a more direct, progressive midfielder.
Sometimes that’s Keita, other times that’s Jones.
Which makes us wonder how Liverpool can use this. Upgrading on Henderson and Wijnaldum is tough but the other player, certainly, can be improved on.
Keita rarely thrives in games, after all, while Jones only just turned 20.
Could Wijnaldum, Henderson and Thiago be a winning trio, then? You’ve got Henderson marshalling from deep, Thiago with a license to drive forward and link the attack, with Wijnaldum filling in the gaps as he does.
It’s similar to the other winning combinations but with Thiago in there, almost certainly improving things.
We’ve never seen these three together but with Thiago back and defenders replacing Henderson in defence, we could see it before long.
Another interesting note here is that only two players haven’t lost games when playing in the middle this season.
Jones and Henderson.
That’s despite Henderson playing 11 games in midfield with five different combinations. He is absolutely vital there. No question about it.
Jones is an interesting one, too, given he’s just a kid. He’s started seven games in three different combinations, winning four and drawing three.
But these results also include some of the best results this season. Jones started the 3-0 win over Leicester, the 4-0 win over Wolves and the 2-1 win over Spurs.
Perhaps, then, we should see more of the Scouser.
Liverpool midfield combinations
Wijnaldum / Henderson / Jones – WWDWD
Wijnaldum / Henderson / Keita – WWW
Wijnaldum / Thiago / Milner – WWL
Wijnaldum / Henderson – WD
Wijnaldum / Fabinho / Keita – WL
Wijnaldum / Thiago / Shaqiri – DL
Wijnaldum / Thiago / Oxlade-Chamberlain – L
Wijnaldum / Keita / Jones – W
Wijnaldum / Milner / Minamino – D
Henderson / Fabinho / Thiago – D
Henderson / Milner / Jones – D