With Brendan Rodgers’ squad for the new season nearing completion, Ben Twelves takes a look at the strongest XI’s available for the Liverpool manager to pick.
After a second successive summer of much transfer activity, Brendan Rodgers has a new and improved squad at his disposal for the season ahead.
Additions in all areas of the side from the goalkeeping department to up front has provided the Liverpool manager with a squad full of strong options to select from.
But with a strong group comes tough decisions over team selection, systems and set-ups to deploy. We attempt to discover what exactly Liverpool’s best team will be.
Without Sturridge: 4-3-3
At this moment, Rodgers is fielding his XI without the ability to call on goal machine, injury prone first choice striker Daniel Sturridge. So firstly, a team is picked without the 25-year-old available for inclusion.
It’s a tough choice as to what formation is best suited, but with the vast number of attacking midfield and wide options available it makes sense to deploy a 4-3-3 shape.
Within this, Simon Mignolet picks himself in goal – with Adam Bogdan firmly a number two – while Nathaniel Clyne has already confirmed himself as the Reds first choice right back, impressing on arrival.
The first selection headache of the XI arrives at centre back.
One thing for certain is that Mamadou Sakho has proven himself to be the best central defender at Anfield so it should be a case of who partners the Frenchman at the heart of defence.
With Dejan Lovren also a left side centre back – and having struggled there since arriving – Martin Skrtel is the pick to play as the right sided defender next to Sakho – though ideally, Rodgers moves to sign an upgrade soon.
Another dilemma comes at left back between Joe Gomez – who has earned his chance after a spectacular pre-season – and Alberto Moreno, but being a natural left back, and a good one at that, the Spaniard remains first choice despite the 18-year-old’s early promise.
Defence: Mignolet; Clyne, Skrtel, Sakho, Moreno
The toughest area of the team to pick comes over who takes up the three midfield positions – with options aplenty of real quality.
Though there’s competition from the magician that is Philippe Coutinho, Jordan Henderson and James Milner take up the roles ahead of Can to form a highly energetic and creative central midfield three.
Midfield: Can, Henderson, Milner
Once again, options of genuine quality are readily available to choose from for the front three roles, but in truth, the three man attack is a fairly straightforward pick.
Coutinho must play for obvious reasons, and therefore operate from the left side, while countryman Roberto Firmino takes up the right side role of the front three, with the pair encouraged to come inside with a license to roam.
Attack: Coutinho, Firmino, Benteke
Without Sturridge available to call upon, Liverpool’s strongest set up for me is therefore the side that finished the match at Stoke on the opening day:
With Sturridge: 4-4-2 Diamond
The impending availability of Sturridge throws more than just a team selection dilemma Rodgers’ way; will the Reds boss change shape to accommodate as many first choice options as possible?
It’s certainly something he should do, allowing his side to line up in the successful 4-4-2 diamond formation with maximum energy, creativity and goal threat, while offering added defensive protection with a compact midfield.
Within the change of shape, the back four – and Mignolet – remains Liverpool’s strongest defensive set-up and therefore stays the same.
Defence: Mignolet; Clyne, Skrtel, Sakho, Moreno
However, while the change of formation is an easy decision, picking who features within it provides arguably the biggest selection headache possible out of any likely set-ups the Reds could line up in.
There’s plenty of quality permutations for Rodgers to deploy to bring energy and creativity in force.
Emre Can should once again provide defensive cover in holding midfield, but Jordan Henderson should this time be partnered by Coutinho in central midfield, meaning there’s no room for Milner to feature.
It’s a real tough decision to leave Milner out, but perhaps for certain games away from home, the 29-year-old should feature at the expense of one of the attacking options.
Once again, there are plenty of options for Rodgers over who plays at the tip of the diamond, but Firmino’s quality and tenacity is undeniably needed, handing him the shirt.
Diamond Midfield: Can, Henderson, Coutinho, Firmino
The two man strike-force is a straightforward selection with Benteke and Sturridge leading the attack – though the option of pairing Ings with either of the first choice duo should not be discarded.
Attack: Benteke & Sturridge
My strongest Liverpool XI, within the 4-4-2 set-up would therefore look like this:
Both teams are certainly strong and look capable of pushing all the way to securing a Champions League finish this season.
It’s now down to Rodgers and the squad to make it happen.
Agree or disagree with Ben’s selections? Pick your best XI and share it with us on Twitter @thisisanfield.