Looking At Liverpool’s Squad: The Final Third

Evidently I must be a glutton for punishment, given that I’ve decided to finish my look at Liverpool’s squad as it currently is despite having endured a degree of abuse over the past week for daring to have an opinion other than how amazing everything is. To clarify, just in case someone’s missed the point if this, my opinion is not based on the performance of the team last season. Clearly, notching up 97 points in the Premier League and winning the Champions League means that we’re a very, very good team. Yet we’re not perfect. We suffered during January because of a lack of depth in the squad and Jürgen Klopp basically threw both the FA Cup and League Cup because he knew that there was no real chance that we’d be able to play in four competitions this season unless his squad began to resemble extras from The Walking Dead. We got lucky with injuries to our most important players last term, which isn’t the same as saying that we didn’t suffer any injuries, but if we get as fortunate this time around I’ll be amazed.

I think the current vogue of just replying ‘trust the manager, trust Michael Edwards’ to even the smallest critique of the club is an odd position to take. Obviously I trust Klopp. It takes just the slightest look back over my articles to realise I’m a huge advocate of the German and I readily admit that he know more about football than I’ll ever know. It’s not as if he’s never made a mistake, however. Last season alone he settled for a point at both Old Trafford and Goodison Park, despite Manchester United being injury ravaged and all over the place and Everton forever being Everton. It’s ok to ask questions and still be completely supportive of the project and the people responsible for bringing it to fruition. As @buysheep said to me, it is possible to simultaneously have faith in the manager and want the club to strengthen. It doesn’t mean that you think the club’s a disgrace just because you think bringing a backup left-back in might be a good idea. Anywhere, here’s my look at the attack.

The Front 3 Are Amazing

In my previous pieces on both the defensive third and the midfield I’ve ranked them out of 10. I gave the defence a 7 and the midfield a 6.5, with my reasoning being about how we need to improve moving forward. In terms of the current front three, there’s no question that they’re a 10. You could maybe label them as a 9.5 if you wanted more goals from Roberto Firmino, but the job that he does in knitting together attack and defence is invaluable. When he plays well, the team as a whole plays well and it’s only when teams have nullified his abilities that they’ve looked like getting something out of us. They are glorious to watch play when they’re in full flow, offering numerous different manners of attack that defences struggle to cope with.

Perhaps the scariest thing about them is that they’re likely to improve. Mo Salah performed like a ‘normal’ striker compared to the 2017-2018 season, so if he’s able to find the same kind of form he had the season before he’ll be electric. Sadio Mané seems to be growing in stature with every passing campaign, too. The interesting thing about the Egyptian is that he seems to get caught up in the narrative for a time. Think of how he went on a barren spell when he was aiming to hit his 50th Premier League goal for us. If he gets over that kind of mental block then he’ll become virtually unstoppable. Hopefully his Champions League final penalty gives him the confidence he needs to do it in all of the big games.

The Drop Off Is Massive

All three of our first-choice strikers have been involved in either the Africa Cup of Nations or the Copa America this summer. The likelihood is that they won’t be around for the first few games of the season, so we’ll have to turn to the likes of Divock Origi and Rhian Brewster to supply us with the goals. I haven’t known a reputation to precede a player as it has for Brewster since Raheem Sterling began making his way through the Academy. I very much hope that he’s every inch the player he’s being spoken of as, but the reality is that he has yet to play a senior game. He could be absolutely sensational, but he could also be like a deer in the headlights until he gains some experience. As for Origi, he scored some massive goals last season and is a cult hero, but if we’re all honest he didn’t actually play that well very often. Even in the European Cup final he stank the place out until he put the ball into the back of the net.

Goals matter, of course they do. The big ones the Belgian scored will go down in Liverpool folklore. But all round play matters, too. On that front, Origi is lacking and we’re nowhere near as strong a team overall when he comes in to replace one of the front three. Look on the club website and there are six forwards listed, with the ones mentioned thus far joined by Taiwo Awoniyi. No, I don’t know who he is either. I readily accept that it’s difficult to buy an attacker for this Liverpool team, but it’s not my job to know the players available that fit the brief. The only thing I do know is that the drop off is currently too great, so Edwards and his team should be thinking long and hard about who can come in and make a difference. Origi’s become a cult hero and Brewster promises to be something special, but we’re currently heading into the next season hoping they perform if one of the front three gets injured. That’s got me worried.

Overall Score

Let’s be generous and give the current front three 10 out of 10. The backups are either unproven or just ok, even if Origi does have the ability to score some big goals. I think they’re probably a 4 as things currently are, which gives the attack a 7 overall.

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