If you are going to win the Premier League you need contributions from your entire squad throughout the season. With injuries to the strongest line up and a congested schedule both constant headaches for managers to overcome, they turn to the bench to fill the void.
The Reds were extremely fortunate last season with no injuries to any of the key players. Therefore, only calling upon the fringe players when the fixture calendar became crowded during the Christmas period. This gave minimal opportunities for several players in the squad with chances limited to substitute appearances and cup games.
Liverpool on a matchday have a plethora of talent on the bench that the majority of teams will look upon with envy, unless your Manchester City. The gifted individuals on the side lines would get into most Premier League sides.
With this in mind, we are going to look at the figures within Klopp’s squad who will be looking to make more of an impact this season, hoping then can push themselves into a starting berth.
James MilnerEmbed from Getty Images
Mr Reliable in the Reds squad. Vice-captain of the Premier Champions. The veteran has been an outstanding addition to Liverpool Football Club ever since his signing in 2015. He has been at the epicentre of everything positive that has happened at the club over the last five years, becoming English, European and World champion in the process. Now coming into the final year of his contract – two-year deal signed before the start of 2019/20 season – the Englishman is coming to another important point in his career.
Last season he was pivotal in the squad – making 37 appearances in all competitions – and was vital when Andrew Robertson was out, covering for the 26-year-old on several occasions. However, with the introduction of Tsimikas as back-up to the Scottish international and the potential for more midfield acquisitions adding to the depth in midfield, this could limit the former Leeds United player’s game time.
He is a Klopp and a fan favourite who has given his all for the shirt, giving 100% whenever he is on the pitch, but with him being 35 years old by the end of the next campaign and his game time dropping, he may look elsewhere for more regular football to end his career. If this is to be his last season on Merseyside, hopefully it will be a swansong to remember.
Joël MatipEmbed from Getty Images
The former Cameroon international has had a successful stint at Anfield since signing on a free transfer from Schalke, with his introduction key in the rise of the Merseyside club under the guidance of Klopp. He was the Germans preferred centre back partner for van Dijk from December 2018 until his injury against Manchester United in October 2019. During this time, he formed an impenetrable partnership with the Dutchman, as this backline was extremely successful on the way to becoming European and Super cup champions.
Unfortunately, injuries have side-lined him for a significant period of time, ousting him from the first team picture until the latter part of the 2019/20 season. On his return he found himself behind Dejan Lovren and the new starting incumbent, Joe Gomez. With the form of the 23-year-old, Matip has found his opportunities limited and will once again be behind the Englishman come the start of the new season.
After signing a long-term contract extension before the start of the 2019/20 season, the 29-year-old is firmly in Klopp’s plans for the future of the club. For him to earn his starting berth back it will mean him taking advantage of any starting opportunity that becomes available. Whether that be a rest or an injury to Gomez, the former Bundesliga player needs to put in a performance similar to what he was producing during the start of 2019 to be considered again alongside van Dijk.
Divock OrigiEmbed from Getty Images
The Belgian has written his name into Liverpool legend for his contributions over the last couple of seasons. After looking surplus to requirements before the start of the 2018/19 season, Origi turned his Anfield career around with crucial goals against Everton, Newcastle, Barcelona and Tottenham just to name a few. He has fully deserved his success and will look to continue the last two years of good work moving into 2020/21 campaign.
With a strike force as good as anything in world football, Origi has accepted that he will start the vast majority of the games on the bench, looking to make an impact when he is called into action for the final stages of fixtures. Therefore, to impress he will need to use these occasions alongside his starts in the FA and League cups to show off his attributes.
Liverpool were extremely lucky last season with no long-term injuries to any of the key forwards. If this was unfortunate enough to happen during the upcoming campaign, it is likely that the former Lille man will be called upon to fill the void. It is imperative that the 25-year-old continues to pop up with goals during this time to continue the clubs progress, and stop him falling down the striking pecking order with youngster Rhian Brewster now firmly knocking on the door.
Takumi MinaminoEmbed from Getty Images
After nine months on Merseyside, the 2020/21 season should be the breakout campaign for the Japanese international. Since his January signing from RB Salzburg, the 25-year-old has found it difficult with the speed and strength of the English game. Being thrown in for his debut in a Merseyside derby and his Premier League debut in a crucial fixture away at Wolves, won’t have helped him settle into his new surroundings.
His struggles continued for the next three months – with limited game time – he looked to adapt to the new style of play that Klopp was trying to implement into his repertoire. His appearances were few and far between, at most getting a 15-minute run out at the end of a dead game. This clearly frustrated the forward, and when lockdown came into effect it gave him the opportunity to focus on what he needed to improve upon.
Since the return from lockdown, Minamino has looked a completely different player. A significant difference has been seen since the start of pre-season. He has looked more physical, holding the ball up and laying off before spinning behind the opponent’s backline. When he was introduced during the Community Shield, he manipulated play with ease, putting the Reds on the front foot and grabbing himself his first goal for Liverpool in the process.
This significant jump in ability has surprised many fans and is an extremely positive sign moving into the new campaign. He will likely start on the bench initially, but if an injury was to hamper any of the attacking players, Minamino has firmly put his name into the mix to be the one selected to deputise.
Xherdan ShaqiriEmbed from Getty Images
The Swiss international has had a turbulent time on Merseyside over the last 12-18 months. Injuries and unexplained absences have limited his appearances in a Liverpool shirt. He has struggled for game time, but when called upon has produced in these key moments (v Manchester United, v Barcelona & v Everton). However, with consistent talk about his exit lingering, will he be given the time to resurrect his career at Anfield?
Clearly the Premier League and two-time European champion will be searching for a greater amount of playing time this season, but with another injury picked up during pre-season, he will initially be out of the first team picture once again. It will be key for the 28-year-old to hit the ground running on his return to fitness to force his way back into Klopp’s plans.
His creativity is a key feature to his game, that many fans claim the Reds currently lack in the starting line-up. With many supporters pushing for a certain Spanish midfielder, it could be a cheaper option to bring Shaqiri back into the fold and give him game time. Obviously, this is fully dependent on his fitness but if he was to make a healthy recovery it is a viable option moving forwards.
Unfortunately, it does look like the former Bayern Munich midfielder could be shifted in the window to build funds and make space for new arrivals. His lack of football seems the main factor for him to walk out the door alongside Marko Grujić and Harry Wilson during the next month.
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