It seems Liverpool are looking to prepare for AFCON 2021. That’s the impression from recent reports, certainly.
Fabrizio Romano told Anfield Watch this week that Liverpool want to sign a winger. It’s a somewhat surprising move, given other needs in the squad.
Gini Wijnaldum’s exit leaves a gap for a new midfielder. While if Liverpool do want to boost their attack, signing a striker makes more sense.
Divock Origi is the only recognised out-and-out striker in the squad and he could leave. Whereas there are least three elite wingers on the books.
But perhaps this is actually about preparing for a difficult period in the season. Liverpool might be worried about AFCON 2021.
Liverpool prepare for AFCON 2021
Much like Euro 2020, AFCON 2021 won’t take place in the advertised year. Instead, it should happen between the 9th of January and 6th of February 2022.
That affects Liverpool. Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita should all compete at the tournament, taking them away from the squad.
Now, Liverpool’s fixture list means they should only miss two games. There’s a winter break during that period that prevents the trio from missing too much.
What they will miss, however, is that break. The three will likely return far more tired than their teammates.
Keita won’t be a big issue as he’s not in the first-choice XI, while there are other midfield options. But Diogo Jota is the only top-class winger to cover both Salah and Mane.
Which might be why Liverpool want to sign one. The January / February period is key in any title race, while there will also be Champions League knockout games.
Running Salah and Mane into the ground over that period is counterproductive, so it makes sense to have cover. Then Jota and the new signing can feature while the African duo rest.
It sounds like a smart move to us if this is the plan. Though, what does it mean for Harvey Elliott?