Is Liverpool’s Squad Stronger Than It’s Given Credit For?

I very much understand why some Liverpool supporters don’t like it when we have sung about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer being ‘at the wheel’ of Manchester United during matches not involving the Red Devils. At the same time, I haven’t minded it because that club basically single-handedly ruined my youth, so I plan to enjoy every single second of their dysfunction. The news that they had given the Norwegian Andy Serkis the bullet took the shine off my weekend, whilst the leaks linking Mauricio Pochettino to the job now are equally upsetting. There’s plenty going on at Old Trafford to suggest that the appointment of the Argentine alone won’t save them, but it will certainly help point them in the right direction in a manner that Solskjaer was never going to be able to. The idea that singing about them when we were playing Arsenal makes us ‘as bad as them’ is laughable, given signing ‘Ole’s At The Wheel’ isn’t the same as singing about poverty and death.

Anyway, the sad news is that Ole is no longer at the wheel, increasing the chance that our fun of seeing Manchester United be legitimately terrible might soon come to an end. Even if the bring in Pochettino tomorrow they’re unlikely to be any of our business for the title, such is the extent to which us, Chelsea and Manchester City are the only teams likely to win the Premier League this season. The London club’s impressive win away to Leicester City this weekend certainly put pressure on us heading into our game against the Gunners, given that it temporarily extended their lead over us to seven points. Whilst I remain unconvinced by their underlying numbers and their draw with Burnley showed that they are always at risk of dropping silly points, we need to keep within touching distance of them if we’re to have much hope of winning the big prize. One of the arguments in the favour of them and City is their squads, but is ours better than many people think?

We Have Cover In Most Positions

There is some legitimate criticism of the Liverpool squad when you look at certain aspects of it. I was one of the many people banging the drum this summer for a new midfielder to replace Gini Wijnaldum, as well as more cover for the front three. Yet at the same time, it is difficult to argue against the idea that we do have strength in depth in most areas. Kostas Tsimikas’ performances at left-back have been good enough to mean that I have been advocating for the Greek international to start games ahead of Andy Robertson, for example, such is the extent to which the Scot has been struggling for form this season. In central defence, Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip have been impressive, but neither Joe Gomez nor Ibrahima Konaté have disappointed when they’ve been called upon. That’s without even looking to the likes of Nat Phillips, who was a big part of the reason why we were able to qualify for the Champions League last season, always performing well.

The midfield is the area where there is the biggest question mark, largely because of the fact that many of our players there are somewhat injury prone. When you look at the list of players classed as midfielders by the club, it’s impressive in its depth:

  • Jordan Henderson
  • Fabinho
  • Thiago Alcantara
  • James Milner
  • Naby Keïta
  • Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
  • Curtis Jones

That’s before you even consider the fact that the manager clearly plans to use Harvey Elliott as a midfielder for the foreseeable future. Yet when you look at that list, not one of those players hasn’t missed a chunk of time due to injury at some point or another. Henderson, Milner and Thiago are all getting older, whilst Oxlade-Chamberlain probably hadn’t played a decent game for the Reds for a couple of years prior to this weekend. The forwards, meanwhile, are exceptional in their own right, with Jota and Takumi Minamino offering solid cover for the times when Divock Origi is doing what Divock Origi does.

The Kids Look Alright

One of the things I was most pleased with at the weekend was the appearance of Tyler Morton. I thought he looked like a really tidy player when he came on in the League Cup match against Norwich City as well as when he played the full ninety versus Preston North End. The Premier League is a different kettle of fish, of course, and less than ten minutes against an already beaten Arsenal isn’t the same thing as being thrown in at the deep end versus the likes of Everton or Tottenham Hotspur. Even so, he performed well and gave me hope that we’ll see more of him in the coming weeks, months and years. If he had done exactly the same thing he did for us but for Chelsea against Leicester, many people would have been bemoaning the fact that the Londonders had yet another decent looking youth prospect. Liverpool fans do have a habit of downplaying out own talented youngsters whilst waxing lyrical about those that play for other clubs.

That extends to squads overall, with many rating Manchester City’s and Chelsea’s much higher than our own. A lot of that is, in my opinion, based more on the amount of money spend to accumulate the squads than it is about the actual players involved in them. This Liverpool team isn’t the same one that racked up ninety-nine points; it’s a better one. We shouldn’t forget how well Harvey Elliott started the season, just because he’s now out injured. He looks like a real prospect, bolstering our options moving forward in midfield before he likely gets promoted into the attack. Is he significantly worse than Kai Havertz, who is a few years older than him, for example? Would you rather have him or Gabriel Jesus? They’re the sort of questions that Liverpool supporters should be asking themselves when trying to decide just how good our squad is. Obviously we need improvements, but the idea that our squad is ‘rubbish’ is obviously far from correct.

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