James Milner and Curtis Jones have key roles for Liverpool next season. The duo will be vital to kick off the season.
Liverpool have a few problems heading into next season. The most obvious is at centre-back, of course.
Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip will all return from injury. No one knows exactly how they’ll be, however, or how long it’ll take to get back to their best. The other option is Ibrahima Konate but there are even more questions over him as he’s never played for Liverpool.
Nat Phillips, if he’s still around, will be the only known quantity at the back.
The club can’t do much about all of that, though. It is what it is and Jurgen Klopp doesn’t have a choice – he’ll have to use those options and make do.
Midfield is different. Klopp has choice there and it’ll surely see him lean into two bit-part players to start the season.
James Milner and Curtis Jones
The first-choice midfield next season seems obvious – Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Thiago. It should have been the first-choice last season, too, but injuries stopped that.
In fact, the trio only played in midfield once and that was away at Everton. Virgil van Dijk and Thiago both picked up bad injuries in that game, changing everything about the Liverpool team.
And even though they should now be available, we’re not sure Klopp should kick the season off with them. Not after the last 12 months.
The previous season was gruelling, especially for Liverpool. Injuries everywhere forced players to play more when they shouldn’t have, or ruled them out for extended periods.
And that came in a campaign that already packed too many games into a shortened timeframe.
Now all of Fabinho, Henderson and Thiago are at international competitions. All three will likely go reasonably far, too. They’re not getting the rest they needed.
So to kick off the season, Klopp will surely lean into players who have had the summer off. Milner and Jones appear to top that list.
Milner, in particular, is a perfect stand-in. He’s a natural leader and someone Klopp can entirely trust to deliver what’s necessary from game to game.
Then in Jones, Liverpool have a player who is constantly developing. Here’s a wonderful opportunity to put some trust in him as a key player in big games. His stats suggest Jones is on the verge of becoming vital – he can give Liverpool an edge even with certain stars missing.
If the games were tougher, we think Klopp would need to take a risk on his stars. Against Norwich and Burnley, though, we’d back Milner and Jones to lead a victorious midfield.