Elliott, Gravenberch or Endo? – 4 Liverpool midfield options without Curtis Jones

Liverpool are without Curtis Jones for their next three Premier League fixtures, so how could the midfield three look in his absence?

The 21-year-old was sent off at Tottenham for his challenge on Yves Bissouma and the Reds were unsuccessful in their appeal to have the decision overturned.

It leaves the midfielder serving a three-match ban after making an impressive start to 2023/24 and having also helped inspire the side’s return to form towards the end of last season.

So, who could Jurgen Klopp turn to against Brighton, Everton and Nottingham Forest while Jones is out?


Mac Allister – Szoboszlai – Gravenberch

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 16, 2023: Liverpool's Ryan Gravenberch during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Perhaps the most likely set-up without Jones would see a completely unrecognisable midfield three from last season.

Alexis Mac Allister has acted as the No. 6 on most occasions already this season and this system would allow Ryan Gravenberch to make his first Premier League start.

The Dutchman impressed in the middle against Union SG as he became the first Liverpool player since Milan Baros over 20 years ago to register a goal involvement in each of his first three starts for the club.

It would be an entirely new engine for the Reds that cost around £133.5 million to assemble over the course of the summer.

But the comprehensive nature of the overhaul was always likely to throw up some fresh combinations and this would certainly be something that fans could get excited about.

Question marks remain over whether Liverpool can get the best out of Mac Allister in the deeper lying position, but there is more than enough energy in this midfield to cope with the threat of the upcoming opponents.


Endo – Szoboszlai – Mac Allister

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 30, 2023: Liverpool's Wataru Endo during the FA Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

A different approach would see Wataru Endo return to the starting 11 at the heart of the midfield behind Dominik Szoboszlai and Mac Allister.

Endo was withdrawn at half-time during Thursday’s win over Union SG, with Klopp confirming it was a pre-planned sub.

He remains the only recognised defensive midfielder in the squad and this selection would provide the Reds with plenty of balance.

If Endo is to return to a Premier League starting 11 for the first time since his appearance away at Newcastle, this is how it is most likely to look.

The Japan captain’s presence would allow Mac Allister to return to his preferred No. 8 role alongside Szoboszlai and give Liverpool a healthy balance in the middle.

Any other set-up would require a degree of compromise, but this shape allows all three to operate from their best positions.

Whether Klopp has sufficient trust in Endo to carry out that job remains unclear, with the 30-year-old having made just one league start since his arrival.


Alexander-Arnold – Szoboszlai – Mac Allister

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 2, 2023: Liverpool's captain Trent Alexander-Arnold leads his side out before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Aston Villa FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s return from injury opens up a multitude of possibilities for the manager.

Joe Gomez has impressed at right-back while stepping in for the new vice-captain and could keep his place in the side if Alexander-Arnold moves into defensive midfield.

Such a move has long been posited for the 24-year-old and his impressive showings in the inverted full-back role have demonstrated that he possesses the attributes to carry out the job.

Mac Allister would keep his place in this configuration and the Reds certainly wouldn’t be short of creative talent to supply their already hungry forward line.

Alexander-Arnold operated in his usual hybrid role against Union SG and that would normally indicate that Klopp is likely to call upon a separate No. 6 in the upcoming fixtures.

However, the manager is fully aware of the talent he possesses and he is more than capable of anchoring the Liverpool midfield if called upon.

This is an option, but a less likely one than the two above.


Mac Allister – Elliott – Szoboszlai

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 27, 2023: Liverpool's xxxx during the FA Premier League match between Newcastle United FC and Liverpool FC at St James' Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The other option is Elliott, who has been patient this season and taken the chances when presented, so his first Premier League start of the campaign doesn’t feel far away.

Mac Allister in the deeper role would allow Elliott to fill the right-sided position in the midfield three and work alongside Szoboszlai to carve out opportunities.

Elliott made an enormous 46 appearances in all competitions for the Reds last season, demonstrating the level of trust Klopp has in him.

Szoboszlai would be able to share the creative burden with Elliott in this system, but this is by far the most attacking option of the five and might not necessarily suit all scenarios.

Tricky away trips – such as Brighton – would likely require a bit more solidity, although there are clearly plenty of legs should the manager go in this direction.