Former Liverpool striker Stan Collymore has questioned whether the alternative options for the Reds in midfield are ‘good enough’ in an exclusive chat with Empire of the Kop after the win against Norwich.
Jurgen Klopp started with a midfield trio of James Milner, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain against the Canaries and Collymore noticed that the Reds didn’t dominate enough in possession.
Both sides kept an even share of the ball, whilst Collymore insisted that a team of Liverpool’s quality are expected to hold ’60-68%’ of the ball against a side like Norwich.
Collymore believes that the lack of dominance in this area was due to Milner, Keita and Oxlade-Chamberlain not ‘wrestling the ball back enough’, especially in the first-half of the tie.
Jurgen Klopp did introduce key man Fabinho to the fold in the 61st minute of the tie, whilst two other expected starters for the season in Jordan Henderson and Thiago Alcantara were left out of the squad.
James Pearce notes for the Athletic that Henderson and Thiago only had a week of pre-season under their belt, so neither were expected to start the opener.
“Keita is there to be a workhorse, to get turnovers, nick the ball back and to put Liverpool on the front foot. He was okay at doing that [against Norwich].”
“Liverpool, when they go up to Norwich, are [expected to be] at 60-68% possession, but the stats suggest it was about even.”
“And that was because, in the midfield department, whether it be Milner, Ox or Keita, particularly in the first-half, there wasn’t enough wrestling the ball back.”
“So there are questions – if two of Liverpool’s best three in midfield get injured for 3-5 games, are the players underneath good enough?”
“That’s a valid question when we’re talking about Liverpool and the standards they set.”
Liverpool have so far decided against strengthening in the middle of the park, despite the exit of key man Georginio Wijnaldum this summer.
That decision could come back to hurt the Reds if backups like Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Keita struggle with the same issues they did against Norwich if they’re facing better opposition, should Klopp need to call on them if the likes of Fabinho, Henderson or Thiago are sidelined.
The Anfield outfit do have another central midfield option to call on in promising youngster Curtis Jones, who can perhaps offer the side a different dimension when necessary.
Liverpool could be left threadbare in this department and forced to field a trio that they usually wouldn’t when you consider the injury troubles most of their midfielders have faced.
Keita has been injury-prone ever since he arrived at Anfield, Thiago missed a considerable portion of his debut season with a knee injury, Henderson missed a large chunk at the end of last season, Oxlade-Chamberlain has also been hindered with fitness issues since he joined and even Fabinho had a spell on the sidelines last term.