Liverpool’s World XI: An Anfield spin on the #CarraChallenge

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Taking a spin on Jamie Carragher’s #CarraChallenge, we have put together a Liverpool side from the Premier League including only one player from each nationality.

In recent weeks, Carragher has challenged players, ex-professionals and supporters to name unique XIs based on a specific set of parameters.

This included selecting a lineup from the Premier League era with each club and nationality only represented once—for example, Frank Lampard and Kevin De Bruyne would not be eligible in one XI, as both have played for Man City.

With the #CarraChallenge capturing imaginations during lockdown, This Is Anfield have opted for a Liverpool fan’s take, naturally with only Reds players considered.

Before building this World XI, there are a number of criteria:

  • There can only be one player from each nationality in the XI
  • Only Liverpool players from the Premier League era can be considered
  • It should fit into a defined formation; in this case, 4-3-3

So who makes our Liverpool selection? We’ll start from the back…

 

Goalkeeper

NAPLES, ITALY - Wednesday, October 3, 2018: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker walks out before the UEFA Champions League Group C match between S.S.C. Napoli and Liverpool FC at Stadio San Paolo. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

When it comes to Liverpool’s goalkeepers in the Premier League era, there have been none better than Alisson.

The Brazilian has transformed the Reds’ defensive fortunes since his £65 million move from AS Roma in 2018, and no stopper in Liverpool’s entire top-flight history has recorded a better clean sheet record than his 51 percent.

Though his inclusion rules out the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Fabinho, Roberto Firmino and Fabio Aurelio, building this side on the foundation of one of the club’s best-ever ‘keepers is a wise decision.

 

Defence

When it comes to choosing a defence, a few difficulties crop up, but there are two clear standouts in terms of centre-backs.

With Carragher’s nationality depriving him of a place in his own challenge XI, the likes of Denmark’s Daniel Agger, Switzerland’s Stephane Henchoz, Cameroon’s Joel Matip and even Slovakia’s Martin Skrtel make interesting options.

But, like Alisson, the metamorphic Virgil van Dijk demands a place in the side, along with Sami Hyypia as not only Liverpool’s best centre-backs of the Premier League era, but also two of the best to represent the club in history.

Van Dijk will keep the likes of Dirk Kuyt and Gini Wijnaldum out of the side further forward, but there is no arguing against his selection.

Full-back has often been a problem position for Liverpool since the early 1990s, but Andy Robertson is a no-brainer when it comes to the left-hand side, with the Scot fending off strong competition from Norway’s John Arne Riise.

And at right-back, the presence of another Englishman in midfield deprives Trent Alexander-Arnold of a place, as it does Rob Jones and, further down the pool, Nathaniel Clyne and Glen Johnson.

The Rebublic of Ireland’s Steve Finnan makes a convincing case to start, but in this World XI the shirt goes to Markus Babbel, despite this keeping a fellow German out of the squad in Didi Hamann.

Babbel was outstanding in his run with the club before a battle with Guillain–Barre syndrome, including the most appearances of any outfield player in the 2000/01 treble-winning season, with 60.

 

Midfield

Liverpool have seen a variety of nationalities turn out in midfield over the past 28 years, including with the current trio of Fabinho, Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson.

This could have allowed for a mix-and-match of talents, but with Fabinho, Hamann and Wijnaldum already ineligible and the likes of Denmark’s Jan Molby and England’s John Barnes not at their prime in the Premier League era, a familiar threesome makes the cut.

Javier Mascherano is one of only six Argentinians to play for the Reds, with Maxi Rodriguez the only other realistic candidate for this XI, and El Jefecito is one of the club’s finest modern defensive midfielders.

He was part of the club’s Kop-anointed ‘best midfield in the world’, and two other members also make this selection in Xabi Alonso and Steven Gerrard.

There is little evidence required for the inclusion of either, and in particular Gerrard whose unparalleled brilliance ensures neither Carragher or Trent were considered.

Momo Sissoko, of Mali, could have been included too, to complete the heralded quartet of 2007, but his place in the side is better used in attack.

 

Attack

The composition of the rest of this World XI keeps out all manner of outstanding attackers from Liverpool’s time in the Premier League.

Coutinho, Kuyt, Steve McManaman, Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, Daniel Sturridge and Luis Garcia are among those to miss out, but given the trio available, their absence should be forgiven.

Liverpool’s new African contingent aids this cause, but both Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane warrant their place in the side regardless of nationality restrictions.

Salah is already the club’s fourth-highest goalscorer in the Premier League era, and 18th in the all-time list, and should overtake the likes of John Toshack, Kevin Keegan, Barnes and Jack Balmer to move into the top 15 in the near future.

Meanwhile, Mane has vindicated the club’s faith in signing him from Southampton in 2016 with 77 goals in 161 appearances so far, including 59 goals in the Premier League to ensure his place as seventh-highest scorer.

That they operate on either flank is ideal for this XI, too, allowing the inimitable Luis Suarez to take up duties as the No. 9.

His reputation on Merseyside may be slightly soured, but there are few more talented players to ever grace the Anfield turf, and the Uruguayan should spark fond memories for his role in the 2013/14 title challenge.

Salah has now overtaken Suarez as the Reds’ most-prolific overseas goalscorers in the Premier League era, and the prospect of the pair dovetailing in attack alongside Mane is mouth-watering.

 

Liverpool’s World XI

Goalkeeper: Alisson (Brazil)

Defence: Babbel (Germany), Hyypia (Finland), Van Dijk (Netherlands), Robertson (Scotland)

Midfield: Mascherano (Argentina), Alonso (Spain), Gerrard (England)

Attack: Salah (Egypt), Mane (Senegal), Suarez (Uruguay)

Subs: Dudek (Poland), Agger (Denmark), Matip (Cameroon), Finnan (Ireland), Berger (Czech Republic), Benayoun (Israel), Origi (Belgium)

Think your XI is better? Let us know in the comments and on Twitter @thisisanfield.

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