Liverpool must prioritise a holding midfielder this summer. It’s a backup role where Gini Wijnaldum always fell short.
Liverpool have two elite holding midfielders in their squad: Fabinho and Jordan Henderson. They’re magnificent players who can deliver at the highest level.
The Brazilian is first-choice there, certainly. Henderson, though, is magnificent there. Liverpool literally won every game over a 10-match spell in late 2020 when he took over for an injured Fabinho.
But therein lies the problem: Fabinho is often injured. And unfortunately, Henderson is, too. In fact, the captain hasn’t played for Liverpool since February.
Last season showed us just how important it was to have one of these two in the holding midfield role. Without either of them, Liverpool fell apart.
It turned out to be better with two wildly inexperienced centre-backs and Fabinho in front than to move him into the defence. The difference is huge.
But Liverpool can’t properly rely on the duo to be fit all season. We’ve seen that over the last two campaigns.
Gini Wijnaldum was often the go-to as a third-choice there but he always fell short. Controlling the midfield in that way just wasn’t his strong suit and Liverpool would suffer.
And now, as Liverpool look to replace the Dutchman, we think it’s important they find someone who can play as a holding midfielder.
The midfield is now stacked with players who like to move forward. Thiago, Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner, Curtis Jones and, it seems, Harvey Elliott.
Liverpool don’t need to add to that by replacing Wijnaldum like-for-like. It’s far more important that they get some extra cover in the holding role.
It’s tricky, though. Signing an out-and-out holding player makes little sense as they’d rarely play. Instead, it’s about finding someone who plays elsewhere but is comfortable covering the role.
Declan Rice would be a wonderful signing, for example, but can he play elsewhere where he’d get games? If not, he wouldn’t be necessary right now.
Someone like Franck Kessie might be ideal. He’s far better with the freedom to get forward, of course but boasts the defensive capabilities to sit deeper.
Liverpool reportedly want him, too. Maybe, then, he’s the answer to their problem.