Jurgen Klopp continues to build his Liverpool squad this summer, but if push came to shove, what would be the Reds’ best possible team in 2017/18?
Ok, so there’s not necessarily such a thing as a ‘best’ XI these days, with the intensity of modern football calling for plenty of rotation.
Although it is impossible to play the same team every week, unless you have luck with injuries and only the Premier League to focus on, we all have our best possible Liverpool side in the back of our minds.
We spoke to six Liverpool supporters to hear what their selections would be, theoretically, if everyone was fit and in form.
In the spotlight are This Is Anfield trio Jack Lusby (@jacklusby_), Sachin Nakrani (@SachinNakrani) and James Nalton (@JDNalton), as well as Alex Mansfield (@el_mansfield), Ben Metcalf (@horatioalgar) and Taintless Red (@TaintlessRed).
Much of Liverpool’s ‘best XI’ picks itself, with Mane, Salah and Firmino set as the obvious first-choice forward line and Coutinho looking great in midfield in pre-season.
Meanwhile I believe that, while Wijnaldum presents a fine option in both of the other two roles, Can and Lallana are better suited.
There are clearly issues with Klopp’s defence heading into the new season, and both left-back and the left-sided centre-back are contentious positions if no further additions are brought in.
Klavan may be a safer option than Lovren, and Moreno does offer more than Robertson on paper, but there’s still little to go on from both in pre-season.
Finally, I’d opt for Karius ahead of Mignolet and Ward in goal, as he offers more in terms of his all-round game and, while Ward certainly has the potential, looks the best fit in terms of Klopp’s long-term plan.
That being said, I would be very disappointed if that was Liverpool’s ‘best XI’ by the end of the transfer window…
There is suddenly competition for the No. 1 spot, but given how strongly he finished last season I’d opt for Simon Mignolet.
As far as the defence is concerned—we desperately need a centre-back, and by centre-back I mean Virgil van Dijk. But on the basis we don’t sign him during the current window, I’d stick with Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren.
I’d also give Nathaniel Clyne one more chance to prove he is a better choice at right-back than Trent Alexander-Arnold, while at left-back I’ve totally lost my head and decided Alberto Moreno is worth another go following his excellent showing against Bayern Munich in pre-season.
The front three picks itself.
Karius starts in goal as he and Ward fit Klopp’s style and are helpful when the team play a high line, unlike Mignolet, who only thrived last season when Klopp changed the system.
Klavan gets the nod as the left-sided centre-back as Lovren is too error-prone, Sakho is unavailable and Van Dijk isn’t here (yet).
It has to be Robertson or Moreno at left-back, but the Scotsman should become first choice once settled and given chances.
Alexander-Arnold is one of the most promising players from the academy in recent times and needs games, and with Clyne injured, he has the chance to show he is good enough to get them.
Henderson and Wijnaldum are unlucky to miss out in midfield, but the middle of the park has a few options when all are fit, including Grujic, Ejaria and now Milner as an extra.
The standard front three picks itself, and those in reserve are fairly flexible so should all get game time this season. Sturridge could start centrally if any of the other three are out.
The real question marks in Liverpool’s strongest XI are at the back, so let’s start there.
For me, Mignolet retains his starting spot ahead of Karius and Ward on the merits of last season alone—pre-season didn’t do much to clarify the pecking order.
Moreno has reclaimed his berth on the left, and I trust his knowledge of the system at this point.
I’d opt for Matip and Klavan at centre-back, if only for Klavan’s more measured approach at the back. I think Klopp will ultimately defer to Lovren.
On the right, Alexander-Arnold’s impressive rise still isn’t quite enough for me, as Liverpool need Clyne’s defensive nous over the Scouser’s attacking prowess.
My midfield three would be Can anchoring Coutinho and Wijnaldum for three simple reasons: Can’s snarl, Coutinho’s sheer brilliance from deep and Wijnaldum’s ability to create balance.
There are lots of interchangeable parts in this area of the pitch, so it’s all about finding the right complements.
There’s no real question about the front three of Mane, Salah and Firmino—in fact, they’re so far ahead in the pecking order that I hope it pushes the players behind them.
Mane looks ready to make up for the months he lost last season, Salah has needed next to no bedding-in period and Firmino is basically Klopp’s football philosophy personified.
I’ve gone for Mignolet in goal—much improved after last season and seems to have command of his box. I would love to see Ward get a runout in the League Cup.
Alexander-Arnold has really stepped up another level, and I was particularly won over by his performance against Bayern Munich. Franck Ribery knows him well having spent most of the game in the youngster’s back pocket.
Matip and Lovren are still the best centre-back pairing at the club, although the latter’s penchant for a halfway-line, all-or-nothing lunge scares the crap out of me.
Yes, Moreno had a great game against Bayern but he’ll need to do it on a regular basis if he is to get back in the side; Robertson has all the attributes and deserves his chance.
I’ll also admit to a pang of nostalgia at seeing a Scotsman in a Liverpool shirt again.
Henderson, Can and Coutinho provide the right balance for us to dominate every game in the middle. Passing, tackling, strength and guile. In particular, the prospect of Coutinho pulling the strings for the front three is mouthwatering.
Mane and Salah feeding off the creativity from the little magician and Firmino’s deft touch and ability to find that killer pass in the final third should be enough to give even the most established defence nightmares.
I’d play 4-3-3 as our main system, with Coutinho in midfield and Can in his most comfortable position as a No. 6.
I’d rotate Wijnaldum with Henderson and Lallana dependant on opposition and system.
We control possession in most games, so Alexander-Arnold and Robertson will help break down deep blocks by better utilising width.
I don’t trust Klavan, but I trust Lovren less.
What would your best XI be? Use our lineup selector to pick yours here.