Arne Slot inherits a midfield in its prime – but there’s an obvious missing piece

Liverpool’s midfield rebuild throughout the 2023/24 season leaves Arne Slot with an impressive list of options in their prime or approaching it, but a key piece is missing.

Jurgen Klopp had only six consistent midfield options last season, with Thiago and Stefan Bajcetic‘s persistent injury woes keeping them out of the German’s reach.

The average age of that contingent was 23.1 years, a marked reduction from the average age of 27.2 years from the midfield that was turned to in 2022/23.

Thus, with Wataru Endo (31), Alexis Mac Allister (25), Dominik Szoboszlai (23), Curtis Jones (23), Ryan Gravenberch (22) and Harvey Elliott (21), Slot has a host of midfielders in their peak or approaching it.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, May 18, 2024: Liverpool's Alexis Mac Allister celebrates with team-mate Harvey Elliott (R) after scoring the opening goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Klopp had three midfielders in the prime age bracket between 22 and 28 heading into last season, Slot will inherit four – though you can argue Elliott now deserves to make it five.

In the likes of Stefan Bajcetic (19), Bobby Clark (19) and even James McConnell (19) and Tyler Morton (21), there are further youth options who have experience behind them.

The midfield was the clear focus last summer and we saw it transform from a dysfunctional and ageing contingent to a dynamic and energetic one, which Slot will aim to build on.

And this is where the missing piece comes into play, a player who almost bridges the gap between the eldest midfielder and the youngest in their prime (Endo to Gravenberch).

It is not to say that any investment this summer in a player who is closer to Gravenberch than Endo in age would be a misstep, but there is an opportunity to acquire an experienced player in their prime.

The obvious position to add this profile is with another defensive midfielder, one who will complement Liverpool’s No. 3 and ensure Mac Allister remains as a No. 8.

That the club have future prime-age midfielders in Clark and McConnell allows them to take this approach in the knowledge that they have a new generation waiting in the wings.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, April 11, 2024: Liverpool's Curtis Jones (L) is challenged by Atalanta's Éderson José dos Santos Lourenço da Silva during the UEFA Europa League Quarter-Final 1st Leg match between Liverpool FC and BC Atalanta at Anfield. Atalanta won 3-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Atalanta’s Ederson has been speculated as a potential option for the club this summer and he would fit the bill as he turns 25 in July and has over 200 games to his name.

It poses an interesting question to the club’s new transfer hierarchy, overseen by Richard Hughes and Michael Edwards as to how they continue to evolve the midfield group.

A huge step was taken last summer, but they cannot rest on their laurels, they must instead be proactive in ensuring there is increased competition in the team and quality too.