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Analysing the Liverpool squad for 2022/23: Our strongest in history?

Liverpool embark on their seventh campaign under Jurgen Klopp with their sights set on more silverware – and a convincing case as the club’s strongest-ever squad.

Last season was a thrilling rollercoaster culminating in another two trophies safely tucked away in the bulging cabinet and ever so close to two more.

But this is a new season.

Our squad has changed, with a few comings and goings, our talented youngsters looking ready to step up, while our main rivals are all strengthening in an attempt to match – or better – Jurgen Klopp’s red machine.

So let’s break the team down into its three main components and talk about the comparative strengths of the squad – and how it might shape the season ahead.

 

The front line

LEIPZIG, GERMANY - Thursday, July 21, 2022: Liverpool's Darwin Núñez (L) celebrates with team-mate Mohamed Salah (R) after scoring the second goal during a pre-season friendly match between RB Leipzig and Liverpool FC at the Red Bull Arena. Liverpool won 5-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

As sad as I was to see both Sadio Mane and Divock Origi leave us after their respective achievements, I did feel it gave us the chance to take stock of the attacking options and recruit a striker to further enhance the plethora of talent we already have.

Enter Darwin Nunez.

While not exactly a throwback to the classic centre-forward, he’s undoubtedly more of a traditional target man than we have seen in recent times.

A second-half four-goal salvo against RB Leipzig silenced the naysayers, while his introduction against Man City in the Community Shield was, quite literally, a game-changer.

Meanwhile, Mo Salah (who many, me included, feared was heading towards the exit) signed a new contract, Bobby Firmino recently publicly declared his love for the club, and of course, we also have the exciting pace and trickery of Luis Diaz and the guile and goal-poaching capabilities of Diogo Jota.

In short, this might just be the most diverse and fearsome ‘front five’ that we have ever had.

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, July 30, 2022: Liverpool's Luis Díaz during the FA Community Shield friendly match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at the King Power Stadium. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Pace, trickery, guile, power, strength, technique, creativity, aerial ability and goal threat – this quintet offer all of these in abundance.

And let’s not forget we also have the emerging attacking talents of Fabio Carvalho and Harvey Elliott (more about them later).

In terms of areas of concern with the front line, I struggle to pinpoint any.

With the strength in depth and proven goalscoring and creating capabilities of all five, I just don’t see an Achilles’ heel.

 

The defence

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, July 30, 2022: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrates after scoring the first goal during the FA Community Shield friendly match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at the King Power Stadium. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

If our attack is world class, in Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson and Virgil van Dijk we can legitimately claim to have the best goalkeeper, left-back, right-back and centre-half in world football.

In Caoimhin Kelleher, Kostas Tsimikas, Joe Gomez, Ibrahima Konate and Joel Matip we have cover at the elite level for each of the back five positions.

Matip not only had his best season in a Liverpool shirt last year, but I would rate his performances right up there with the best centre-backs in Europe. He was immense.

At left-back, Tsimikas would be first choice for most teams in the Premier League and is the ideal understudy to Robertson, his game seemingly modelled on the superb Scot.

Gomez, who had previously struggled to adapt to the modern-day attacking right-back role, excelled in that position last season with driving runs and Trent-like delivery while maintaining his positional discipline.

He is, of course, a top-class centre-back, which makes him so vitally important as a utility player to cover multiple positions. Let’s just see a full, injury-free season please Joe.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, July 31, 2022: Liverpool's Ibrahima Konaté during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and RC Strasbourg Alsace at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Konate goes from strength to strength in his central defensive role, and while not yet the finished article, he’s already a top-class centre-half.

I think it’s fair to say that in the key position partnering Virgil, whether it be Matip, Konate or Gomez, we are in exceptional shape.

So just as with the attacking options, we are spoiled for choice in defence.

It is a defensive group second to none and it’s no surprise that we had the joint-best defensive record in England last season – a feat I fully expect us to repeat this time out.

Do we have any weaknesses back there?

Well, not necessarily a ‘weakness’ but the risk/reward high-line game we play does, on occasion, allow the opposition an avenue to goal, and one which most teams try to exploit.

BANGKOK, THAILAND - Tuesday, July 12, 2022: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker is beaten for the second Manchester United goal during the Bangkok Century Cup pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United FC at the Rajamangala National Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Unless the back four’s timing is exactly right (which, to be fair, it mostly is) the high line can be broken and an opposition striker can run free on goal.

We saw this on numerous times last season and are likely to see it again – because the simple fact is that the many rewards of this tactic far outweigh the occasional risk.

Of course, even when the opposition does break the line on that rare occasion, they still have to beat the great Alisson – the best one-on-one ‘keeper in world football.

 

Midfield

SINGAPORE - Friday, July 15, 2022: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson (R) celebrates with team-mate Harvey Elliott (L) after scoring the first goal during the Standard Chartered Trophy pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at the Singapore National Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

If there is one area of the squad which leads to heavy debate across the fanbase it is the midfield.

Do we have enough creative options? Do we have enough strength in depth? And do we have enough overall quality? Let’s explore that a little bit…

The first-choice midfield of Fabinho, Thiago and Jordan Henderson is not in question.

A destroyer, an artist and a captain who gels it all together and whose work ethic, leadership and attitude are critical to the team’s success.

Last season saw the glorious emergence (in a Liverpool shirt) of the world-class talent that is Thiago.

LEIPZIG, GERMANY - Thursday, July 21, 2022: Liverpool's Thiago Alcântara during a pre-season friendly match between RB Leipzig and Liverpool FC at the Red Bull Arena. Liverpool won 5-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Artist, magician, genius, he’s one of those players that defies footballing convention with his uncanny vision and technical brilliance.

The only concern with Thiago is his appearance record across Spain, Germany and now Anfield.

He has never in his career played more than 30 league games in a single season, and has only reached the 30 mark on one occasion.

Indeed, in his two seasons at Anfield, he has played 24 and 25 league games respectively. Only once in the last six seasons has he played more than 25 league games.

Fabinho is, of course, one of the best defensive midfielders in world football, but similarly to Thiago, he has not yet played more than 30 games in a league season for Liverpool.

SALZBURG, AUSTRIA - Wednesday, July 27, 2022: Liverpool's Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' during the pre-match warm-up before a pre-season friendly between FC Red Bull Salzburg and Liverpool FC at the Red Bull Arena. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

So while these figures can be explained by ‘rotation’ as well as injuries, the numbers do suggest that we will be without either Thiago and/or Fabinho, for one reason or another, in approximately 10 league games per season.

This means quality strength in depth beyond the first-choice trio is not just nice to have, it is a must-have.

Here lies the crux of the debate…

Is Naby Keita ready for a true ‘breakout’ season or will he flatter to deceive? The jury is, rightly, still out on Naby.

Can Curtis Jones find the level of consistency required at the elite level? He has games where he’s top drawer, only to sometimes follow a superb display with an anonymous one.

Then there is the age-defying James Milner, who will never let us down but can only be considered an occasional option; more a game-closer than a consistent starter.

Sadly, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is injured yet again, while the highly promising Tyler Morton has gone out on loan to Blackburn.

SINGAPORE - Friday, July 15, 2022: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (R) celebrates with team-mate Naby Keita (L) after scoring the second goal the Standard Chartered Trophy pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at the Singapore National Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Taking all of that into account, it is the one area of the squad where our backup options can be described as ‘unproven’ either due to inconsistency, injury or inexperience.

If we do sustain one or two injuries to any of the first-choice midfield trio, the question is who can be relied upon to maintain the highest of standards?

I hope it’s Keita or Jones, or one of the youngsters, but therein lies the concern…

I hope it’s one of them; I’m not certain. In attack and defence, I have no such concerns.

 

And finally, the kids…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, July 31, 2022: Liverpool's Fábio Carvalho during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and RC Strasbourg Alsace at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The young talent being scouted and nurtured at the club is mindboggling.

In the likes of Elliott, Carvalho, Morton, Kaide Gordon, Calvin Ramsay and others the future is in very safe hands.

I’ve seen enough of these players (Ramsay excepted) to have very high hopes for their top-class futures in a red shirt.

It’s also exciting to see many of these youngsters knocking on the door to first-team football.

I fully expect them to play key roles throughout the season – not just in early rounds of cup competitions, but truly ‘arriving’ as senior Premier League players.

It’s here where I believe the midfield concerns expressed above will be addressed.

LEIPZIG, GERMANY - Thursday, July 21, 2022: Liverpool's Harvey Elliott applauds the supporters after a pre-season friendly match between RB Leipzig and Liverpool FC at the Red Bull Arena. Liverpool won 5-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

In addition to those aforementioned ‘senior’ players (with 39 league appearances in the last two seasons, I include Jones in that), Elliott and Carvalho offer such exciting options as links to the front line, or perhaps as part of the front line.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that Klopp could go with a 4-2-3-1 formation in specific games, with the double pivot protecting the back line while the front four and flying full-backs do the rest.

Both Carvalho and Elliott have all the tools to thrive in such a setup.

 

Liverpool’s best squad ever?

2JK4CG0 30th July 2022; The King Power Stadium, Leicester, Leicestershire, England; FA Community Shield, Liverpool versus Manchester City; Liverpool players celebrate Trent Alexander-Arnold?s goal after 21 minutes (1-0)

In summary, I believe that this is the greatest squad we have ever had.

I believe our forward line and back five are the best in the Premier League, bar none. I think our first-choice midfield trio is at least the equal of any of our rivals.

And while I do have some reasonable reservations about one or two of the midfield options, it’s tempered by the fact that I completely trust Klopp’s judgment.

If he believes we have the midfield strength in depth required, that’s good enough for me.

So strap in and buckle up everyone.

It is going to be another exceptional ride ahead, and I for one believe we are in for another exceptional season.

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