Liverpool Squad Analysis: The Front Line

Curtis Jones’ performances and success for England in the Under-21s tournament has shown up a weird sub-section of Liverpool fans who are desperate for our players not to do well. The midfielder ended last season in excellent form, proving himself to be a genuine option for Jürgen Klopp as one of a myriad of midfielders who can give the manager some choices when it comes to selection for the forthcoming campaign. He has followed that up with some genuinely tremendous performances this summer, being one of the main players for the young Three Lions on their way to success against Spain in the final. If there is one thing we’ve all been crying out for for Liverpool it is options in midfield, so I cannot for the life of me understand why it is that there are a wealth of people who seem to be desperate to down play his upturn in form over the past few months. Surely the manager being able to pick and choose from a group of healthy, talented midfielders is exactly what we all want?

Given he’s just 22, it is genuinely bizarre to me that so many people are so desperate to write him off. Of course, in that sense he is in good company. You don’t need to look far to find plenty of people who would drive Jordan Henderson to Saudi Arabia if they could. This is in spite of the fact that he is the club captain, obviously well-respected in the dressing room and is part of the winning culture that Jürgen Klopp has established at Liverpool. Even if you don’t think Jones is the best midfielder in the entire world, it is worth bearing in mind that having squad players is really important to the success of a football club. Manchester United won countless titles with the likes of John O’Shea, Nicky Butt and Wes Brown. You need players that are good enough to play, but not so good that they demand to be played at all times. Right now, that is the category that Jones fits into, but he has the ability to be anything that he wants to be. The better he does, the happier I am as a fan of the club.

Núñez Is The Great Unknown For The Season Ahead

Whilst we obviously have no idea what to expect from Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai, the man who is the most confusing as far as I’m concerned is Darwin Núñez. The Uruguayan feels as though he could end up being anything this season. If you were from the future and told me that he scores 40 goals and gets 10 assists, I’d find that easy to believe. Unfortunately, if you told me that he barely featured in the league and struggled to make an impact in Europe, I’d find that quite easy to believe too. When assessing what the forward line is looking like, it is important to mention the fact that Núñez is the one we have no idea what we’ll get out of. That is likely to be a conversation that the manager is having with his backroom team, discussing where Diogo Jota is going to spend most of his time and whether we’ll be able to get Mo Salah more central. If the hope is to get Núñez going through the middle then that will be confusing in terms of the rest of the forwards.

The signing of Núñez in and of itself makes sense, given that he’ll give the Reds something different to do compared to the rest of the forwards. Yet he’s also a player that doesn’t seem to fit when put alongside the others. All of Salah, Luis Diaz, Cody Gakpo and Jota like to start wide and then come central, which is what Darwin also likes to do. It means that he can’t quite play as the nine, but also doesn’t work with the others as one of the wide forwards. Gakpo has shown excellent discipline playing a part that is similar to what Roberto Firmino became the master of, but Núñez doesn’t seem to have the same tactical nouse to be able to do it consistently. Of all of the questions that are facing the management team right now, the answer to the Darwin Núñez one might be the key to whether or not we have a successful season. He could be the breakout star of the campaign, but he could equally be the square peg that we just never manage to find a round hole for. It remains to be seen.

There Are Options, But Could We Do With One More?

There is no question that the manager has options in the front line. Dominik Szoboszlai has the ability to play where Mo Salah tends to ply his trade, whilst both Jota and Núñez can come in from the left. Cody Gakpo, meanwhile, is nailing that position that Firmino did so well. As a result, we have choices that I’m sure Jürgen Klopp will approach in a horses for courses manner once the season gets underway. Personally, though, I’d like to see another body introduced to the forward line who can give Gakpo a rest or cover him if he’s injured. If the manager were reading this then I wonder whether he might pull his puzzled face before mentioning the names of Ben Doak, Kaide Gordon and Bobby Clark, all of who are doing well for the Academy and would doubtless love to prove that they can offer him plenty of choices when it comes to the attack. Luis Diaz will also be hoping to make up for lost time, given how much of last season he missed through injury.

As I said on my piece on the defence, I do think at the back is where the most strengthening needs to take place. It is also easy on the back of a poor season to feel as though you need to make changes everywhere, but the last ten games of the 2022-2023 campaign arguably prove that we’ve still got the ability to score goals and win games. It is easy to forget that we beat Bournemouth 9-0 and Man United 7-0; although I’m unlikely to forget the latter any time soon. This side has got goals in it, with the new-look midfield likely to provide more support than the men in the middle did last time out. Hopefully the Reds will be able to take the fight to Manchester City when the new season gets underway, but I’d like one more man in attack to ensure that that is likely to happen. Of course, it is important to acknowledge that we all always want one more, so hopefully that’s all it is and the lads we’ve got manage to stay injury free and bang in the goals at will.

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