SOUVENIR PROGRAMME

Liverpool finally have invaluable asset restored as squad depth shines

Jurgen Klopp has turned to 28 different players so far this season, and while he has a firm idea over the spine of his side, Liverpool are being buoyed by significant contributions elsewhere.

A few names may be debated, but the Reds’ strongest starting lineup is pretty straightforward to predict, leaving few roles to put under significant pressure when everyone is fit.

However, what Klopp has cultivated at Anfield is the awareness that success cannot be achieved by 11 players only, it is a full squad effort or lest end the campaign with few, if any, triumphs.

After strangling Newcastle into submission just after the turn of the new year, Liverpool have now seen 13 goals and nine assists come from substitutes across all competitions.

That tally has been amassed after just 29 games. Across the entirety of last season, 16 goals and seven assists were contributed off the bench in 52 games.

That is only one more goal contribution than the current season in 23 more matches!

 

The defence

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 2, 2023: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker (L) and Joe Gomez during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Aston Villa FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

With long-term injuries for Joel Matip, Andy Robertson and now recently Kostas Tsimikas, Liverpool have needed reliable options in their defence.

Klopp has found the right fit in most notably Jarell Quansah and Joe Gomez, both of whom have thrived each time of asking, slotting in with ease to limit the defensive disruption.

And we all agree that Gomez is going to end his career long wait for a goal, right?

Conor Bradley, Luke Chambers and Calum Scanlon have all been handed minutes too, the next generation of talent that have stepped up when called upon.

Not to mention Caoimhin Kelleher, who has already reached 10 games this season – the most in a single campaign for the Irishman.

It is not to say they have all been perfect, but at a time when rotation is key across multiple competitions, that Klopp can trust them all to play their part is significant.

Add to that the resurgence of Virgil van Dijk and the continued excellence of the likes of Alisson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, and you have a defence with its swagger restored.

The Reds have shipped just 28 goals across all competitions, 18 of those have been in the Premier League when the backline has remained more consistent than in cup competitions.

 

The midfield

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, September 27, 2023: Liverpool's Dominik Szoboszlai (C) celebrates with team-mates Harvey Elliott (L) and Wataru Endo (R) after scoring the second goal during the Football League Cup 3rd Round match between Liverpool FC and Leicester City FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Now onto the biggest talking point of the summer and into the season, understandably so after the drop off the engine room experienced last season.

The combination of the four new signings in addition to the growth of Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott has led to a total transformation of the midfield, one that has yet to even be graced by Thiago.

And even Cody Gakpo has turned his hand at playing as a No. 8!

A notable choice by Klopp and his staff has been to keep the midfield unit cohesive across competitions – when possible.

Instead of the obvious dip and dysfunctionality we saw in 2022/23 when rotation came into play, we have enjoyed more effective changes thanks to conscious decisions in the selection room.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 17, 2023: Liverpool's Ryan Gravenberch walks past manager Jürgen Klopp as he goes off injured during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

For example, Alexis Mac Allister, Dominik Szoboszlai and Curtis Jones were largely the go-to midfield trio in the Premier League to start with, while Wataru Endo, Elliott and Ryan Gravenberch were selected in the cup competitions.

The depth to be able to chose an entirely fresh midfield group is a luxury and it allows Klopp the freedom to rotate in the knowledge that he has fresh legs but also players who will not force a noticeable drop in quality and effectiveness.

We were not so lucky last season and this, in turn, has allowed the likes of Endo, Elliott and Gravenberch to place pressure on those around them, with all staking a starting claim.

Take Liverpool’s No. 3 for example, his signing was met with plenty of questions and skepticism but he’s gone on to prove to be a reliable figure, and the concerns over his Asian Cup absence is a testament to what he offers.

If the Reds can avoid further injuries in this department and still welcome Thiago back into the fold in at least a small capacity, plenty of doors will remain open for them.

 

The attack

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 20, 2023: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (L) celebrates with team-mate Darwin Núñez after scoring the fourth goal during the Football League Cup Quarter-Final match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Nailing down the best front three has not been straightforward, many will find their preferences have changed quite frequently – understandably so.

Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez, Gakpo, Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota have all had their shining moments, and when in the starting lineup they have contributed 34 goals and 15 assists combined in 29 matches.

But it is also pertinent to mention the impact they have each had off the bench too, which can prove just as important – need we be reminded of the trips to Newcastle, Burnley and Luton.

Salah (four goals and one assist), Nunez (three goals and two assists), Jota (three goals and one assist), Diaz (one goal and one assist) and Gakpo (one goal) have together contributed 12 goals and five assists as substitutes.

LUTON, ENGLAND - Sunday, November 5, 2023: Liverpool's goal-scorer Luis Díaz after the FA Premier League match between Luton Town FC and Liverpool FC at Kenilworth Road. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The ability to have game-changers in the XI and on the bench is hugely significant, and the first half of the season has shown Liverpool can rely on both their starters and their finishers.

With Diaz, Jota and Gakpo all registering their first assist of the season over the last couple of weeks, we’re continuing to see this forward group evolve – though, you do wonder what their record would look like if more chances were finished off!

All signs are promising for Liverpool 2.0.