Eclipsing 100 & looking to youth – Liverpool’s priorities for final 7 games of the season

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Liverpool may have already secured the Premier League title, but there are still a number of things fans want to see in the final seven games of the season.

It has been a campaign to remember for the Reds so far having set a record-breaking pace atop of the Premier League table and while the 30-year wait is now over, Jurgen Klopp’s side still have plenty to prove and play for.

Youngsters have opportunities to impress, records are still there to be broken and those on the fringe continue will be offered chances to make their mark.

The Reds have been clear in the intentions to finish the season on a high and what better way to do so than to eclipse 100 points while simultaneously giving youngsters the chance to impress – but where do your priorities lie?

Here, This Is Anfield duo Joanna Durkan (@JoannaDurkan_) and Matt Ladson (@mattladson) are joined by David Comerford (@Dave_Comerford) to discuss what they hope to see from Liverpool in the remaining seven games.

 

Should Klopp prioritise securing a record points tally?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, June 24, 2020: Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrates scoring the first goal, from a free-kick, during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JOANNA: For me, absolutely. But there’s no reason Liverpool can’t surpass 100 points even when mixing up the team sheet.

Our current maximum is 107, giving us wiggle room of six points to surpass City – and when you consider we’ve dropped only seven in 31, it’s certainly more than achievable.

This side constantly speaks of going one better, of not letting up and this is the perfect opportunity to put words into action.

We’ve seen countless records fall this season but this one would cement our status among legend for years and decades to come.

DAVID: I’m torn on this. On the one hand, I think surpassing the 100 mark would cement this as the greatest Premier League season. After we were beaten at Watford and invincibility was off the table, this record looked the next-best thing.

And I’d like to see Salah and Mane given enough minutes to properly push for the Golden Boot – particularly Salah, who could follow in the footsteps of Shearer and Henry by winning three in a row. Equally, Alisson deserves the Golden Glove after battling back from injury and defensive changes might mean giving up clean sheets.

But ultimately, I still don’t think we should be going absolutely all-out, in terms of selection at least. You’re not going to get a better opportunity than this to test our most promising young players at the highest level. And I’m really keen to see whether they can flourish as Premier League starters, alongside top players rather than in heavily-rotated cup sides.

MATT: To be honest, I think it will happen without it necessarily being ‘prioritised’.

Like Jo says, we can drop six points and still get the record of 101. I don’t see us losing more than one, and we won’t be losing one and drawing more than three!

The quick turnaround of games and lack of motivation for some teams will play into our hands; our squad are still motivated and have been very well-rested. Pre-City match, we’ve played two games whereas some have played four, we’ve also not travelled yet and only have three fixtures outside of an hour away from Anfield.

 

Which youngsters do you want to see given greater opportunities in the run-in?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, February 4, 2020: Liverpool's Neco Williams (C) celebrates after an own-goal by Shrewsbury Town during the FA Cup 4th Round Replay match between Liverpool FC and Shrewsbury Town at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JOANNA: My top two are Neco Williams and Curtis Jones.

Our starting full-backs are guaranteed starters every game, unless injury, suspension or rest forces Klopp’s hand and beyond that we don’t have too many options.

Williams has shown real potential and building up his confidence and experience without any unnecessary pressure will be paramount if we are to keep our chequebook in our pocket.

And Jones has shown real promise in his eight appearances this season having visibly grown in maturity, stature and confidence – not that he was ever short of the latter – and more time with the first team will only see him continue to grow into the player we all hope he can be.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, June 24, 2020: Liverpool’s Harvey Elliott looks up towards the tall presence of manager Jürgen Klopp as he prepares to come on as a substitute during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

DAVID: There are four who I’d like to see heavily involved. Harvey Elliott is the first. He looks an accomplished player and I think he could cause some very experienced defenders all sorts of problems.

Jones is also really enjoyable to watch because of his composure in possession and his ability to glide past players. Playing alongside Fabinho and Henderson would give him so much freedom to express himself.

Williams looked bright enough against Crystal Palace to justify plenty of minutes. As Joanna noted, Trent is arguably our most integral player from a stylistic point of view but I’d be confident that Williams could pitch in with a couple of assists and even a goal judging by how keen he was to get into the box last week.

Finally, in the absence of Matip, I’d much rather Klopp partner Ki-Jana Hoever with Van Dijk than try to placate Lovren, whose time at the club is pretty much done. I don’t think we’ve seen enough of Hoever so far.

MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - Wednesday, September 25, 2019: Liverpool's Ki-Jana Hoever (L) celebrates scoring the second goal during the Football League Cup 3rd Round match between MK Dons FC and Liverpool FC at Stadium MK. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

MATT: Williams is a cert isn’t he, even Trent’s said he should get a game! You’d think that the next week of Villa (Sunday), Brighton (Wednesday), Burnley (Saturday) will definitely see Neco start one.

Jones, I’m not sure he will get a start but some cameos from the bench would be nice. Purely because we’re so well stocked in centre midfield with Keita and Oxlade more likely to get rotated in for Gini and Hendo.

I’d really like to see Elliot get a game. I expected him to become Liverpool’s youngest ever goalscorer this season but now that’s gone it would be nice to see him become the youngest player to receive a Premier League winner’s medal.

I’m not sure Hoever will start a game, more likely the three remaining centre backs take one game off each in that week, but an injury or suspension would open the door for him.

But if Hoever does start, it’s a very good sign – it should mean Lovren’s on his way out this summer.

 

Should that mean Lallana is overlooked in the team selection?

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 2, 2019: Liverpool's Adam Lallana celebrates after the FA Premier League match between Aston Villa FC and Liverpool FC at Villa Park. Liverpool won 2-1 with an injury time winning goal. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JOANNA: In short, yes. He recognised his extension would be to see out the season and not block the pathway of our youth or those on the fringes and I don’t see him getting a swansong as he has already qualified for a medal.

We’ve simply developed beyond Lallana but his influence in Klopp’s early days will be fondly remembered once he does depart come seasons end.

I’d put Dejan Lovren in this camp as well but with seven games in 24 days and the injury to Joel Matip, we have little choice.

DAVID: For me, it’s a yes as well. Lallana has been a decent enough servant for the club and it wouldn’t surprise me if Klopp gave him a start or two, but even though there is room for sentiment after sealing the title, it makes a lot more sense to focus on the future.

Lallana is very much the past. If you’re Jones and he’s being played ahead of you at this point, you have a right to be miffed.

You could even make the case that playing Lallana, a notoriously injury-prone 32-year-old, after the huge disruption may actually put his future at risk. There’s talk that he’s lining-up a move to Leicester. It’ll be hard to justify his wages if he breaks down again.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp (left) celebrates with Adam Lallana after the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. (PA Media)

MATT: Maybe I’m being less sentimental than you guys, but it would be a no for me! Start Lallana who is leaving, or start Ox, Keita or Jones who are the future of the club… got to take the long-term best interests of the club for me.

Like David mentions on Lallana’s future, we may even have made a verbal agreement not to risk playing him. I’d expect a sub appearance as a ‘farewell’ but not much else.

 

And what do you want to see from the fringe players?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, June 21, 2019: Liverpool’s Naby Keita during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 236th Merseyside Derby, at Goodison Park. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JOANNA: There’s a real opportunity to see Naby Keita start to blossom as we all hoped he would, albeit a lot earlier then now, as the small glimpses we have been given since the restart have been positive ones.

His movement and understanding have always been his standout traits but now he looks increasingly at ease in the side, and after a number of setbacks this could be a run of games which helps propel him into next season.

The same goes for Ox and Minamino, both of whom will see their number of games increase next season as we keep quiet in the transfer window, but the latter needs to be deployed in Firmino’s role rather than out wide as we saw at Everton.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Wednesday, January 29, 2020: Liverpool's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates scoring the second goal with team-mate Roberto Firmino (L) during the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. Liverpool won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

DAVID: You know what you’re going to get from James Milner but Oxlade-Chamberlain and Keita are players who seem to deliver in bursts. Neither make our strongest midfield but they do offer a different dimension.

Oxlade-Chamberlain could wind up approaching Firmino’s goal tally for the season if he muscles his way in, which would underline his worth. I pray Klopp doesn’t try to deploy him out wide, where he just looks uncomfortable. Keita, when he’s in the form he showed at Goodison, is capable of pushing Gini Wijnaldum for a starting role. I hope he can stake his claim for next season.

In attack, it sounds obvious but if Minamino can get two or three goals, he’ll find a lot of confidence and start playing with the swagger he showed that night for Salzburg. And I think Klopp should also consider giving Origi minutes through the middle. A lot of what he tries from the wings doesn’t come off, but he could grow into an out-and-out goalscorer as a No. 9.

MATT: I’d certainly like to see Minamino start one of those three games next week as the No.9 and get his first goal for the club – a massive confidence booster ahead of next season.

I really don’t know what to say about Origi, I believe he’d have been leaving this summer in a non-pandemic world and he just isn’t of the quality required whether that’s on the left or in the middle. Klopp might need to use him next season though so I expect to see him start one game to rest Mane.

All that and nobody mentioned Shaqiri!

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