By James Miller – @JamesMillernews
It has been evident for some time now that either Manchester City or Liverpool will be crowned Premier League Champions at the end of the 2018/2019 campaign.
Wednesday night saw City seize the initiative once more in an ever-changing race for domestic glory. Another change at the summit after Liverpool’s win at Southampton means that there has now been a total of 25 times that a new leader has led the pack. Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions brushed aside strugglers Cardiff with a 2-0 victory at the Etihad.
This game in particular saw a midfield masterclass from Kevin De Bruyne – a truly outstanding midfield display caused Cardiff all sorts of problems. It was in fact his goal that gave City the early advantage in the match and with sharp, crisp passing and the addition of tireless running, the opposition struggled to get near him.
After missing most of the season through injury problems, the former-Chelsea man has established himself as one of the finest midfielders in the game.
It turned out to be a night for midfield men – Chelsea and England midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek chipped in a with a goal and an assist to help his side on their way to a 3-0 victory against Brighton, while Christian Eriksen played a pivotal role in Spurs’ move back to third in the table.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp clearly has some of the best players in the league available to him – if not the world – but it has been suggested that there is too much of a reliance on the trio of Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.
As seen with results from yesterday’s Premier League matches, midfield can be a critical area of the pitch in terms of defence and attack – it’s all about getting that balance right. At the moment, I personally believe that Klopp is lacking that one spark in that area of the field.
Liverpool have conceded just 20 goals in the Premier League this season, currently the fewest. The arrivals of Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk has been key, but the protection that has been offered from the midfield has been superb.
The signing of Fabinho has proved vital, often seen dropping in between his two centre backs to allow that extra space for his side to move further up the pitch and close in on the opposition shouldn’t be undermined.
Add to that the workhorses like Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum, it makes it very hard for the opposition to get at Liverpool’s defence. All four are very good in terms of technical ability on the ball, but creativity is not something that comes in abundance.
Summer signing Xherdan Shaqiri joins Milner at the top of the pile in terms of goal contributions – eight – behind the illusive front three. He has a solid return of six goals and two assists in just 11 starts, but often fills in as part of the front three and has fallen out of favour of late.
In terms of Liverpool as a footballing side, the chances are you won’t see a midfielder contributing to 20 or maybe 30 goals a season due to Klopp’s preferred style of play. He likes to utilise the width available which means allowing full backs to head upfield, hence why Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold have a combined 16 league assists between them.
What that means in terms of midfield is that more cover is required. Going back on that though, in order for the squad to move from competing to winning I feel that there does need to be an addition of a midfield playmaker who has the ability to unlock tight defences in tight games.
Before the sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona we used to have that player – the little magician often broke the deadlock in games with the bit of quality, in the latter stages of his Liverpool career he played more on the left of midfield and it has to be said the Reds were devastating in attack but lacked defensively somewhat.
To say we aren’t as good going forward now would be unfair but the fact that the front three alone have scored 47 out of a possible 75 league goals, not to mention assists, suggests we just need that added spark.
If you take some of the teams in the top six and their midfield options – Manchester United have Paul Pogba with 11 goals along with nine assists. Chelsea, a side with their own problems have N’golo Kanté, Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek who have all contributed six or more goals or assists in the league – the latter has started only twice in the competition.
A first Premier League is still in sight this season though and Liverpool fans worldwide should definitely get behind the side for a breath taking finish but with a new season around the corner, rumours have already begun as to who Klopp may look to recruit.
Creative midfielders have certainly cropped up in abundance. A Coutinho return? Finally Fekir? We’ll find out in due course.
Who would you like Liverpool to sign this summer? Let us know!