While ten points from four games represents a promising start to the new Premier League season
for Liverpool, the team undoubtedly remain a work in progress.
Online bookmakers tend to be a useful yardstick of a team’s progress, and they have not seen fit to react too drastically to the Reds’ first four results. The sites offering the best odds for football betting rate Liverpool as 9/1 shots to win the title – around the same price as when they started the season.
If Liverpool are to upset the odds and dethrone Manchester City, manager Jurgen Kopp must quickly resolve the team’s disjointed set-up.
The club’s revamped midfield will undoubtedly take time to settle, but that is a luxury they can ill-afford given the helter-skelter nature of the Premier League.
Although winning with 10 men twice this season is a positive sign, each performance left Klopp with several issues to address.
The signing of Japanese international Waturu Endo raised plenty of eyebrows among Liverpool fans, and he will need to get up to the pace of the league. His addition for £15 million looks even more baffling given that Sofyan Amrabat was available before the transfer window closed.
In fairness to Endo, being thrown in at the deep end at St James’ Park was a big ask, and he may improve with that experience under his belt. Endo’s addition to the ranks provided an upside for Klopp, as he was able to utilise Alexis MacAllister in a more advanced role.
The Argentina international did not look comfortable playing as the holding midfielder, which contributed to his subsequently overturned dismissal against Bournemouth. MacAllister showed flashes of his ability during pre-season and looks a good bet to thrive for Liverpool as the season progresses.
While Endo and Mac Allister have not produced their best form for the club, the same accusation cannot be levelled at Hungarian midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai.
He joined from RB Leipzig this summer and his early season performances suggest he will turn out to be one of the best acquisitions of the transfer window.
Signed primarily to be a creative outlet in Klopp’s system, Szoboszlai has proven there is much more to his game. He showed plenty of defensive discipline when the Reds were reduced to 10 men against Bournemouth and Newcastle, winning a total of 14 duels over the two matches.
His willingness to put in the hard yards for his teammates has already endeared him to the fans and he looks guaranteed to be a big hit for Liverpool. The acquisition of Ryan Gravenberch from Bayern Munich boosts Liverpool’s options, although it is unclear whether he can slot in as a number six.
Another issue that remains hugely problematic for Klopp is Trent Alexander-Arnold’s role in the team and the impact it has having on other players.
He is an excellent footballer – this fact is not in dispute. However, he also does not currently have a position that best suits what he brings to the table. Alexander-Arnold can be a liability defensively, particularly in a four-man set-up. To counteract this, Klopp has experimented with a hybrid role.
When he pitches up in midfield, Alexander-Arnold’s passing ability makes him a dangerous weapon. It also creates issues elsewhere. Andy Robertson ends up playing a like a man caught between a rock and a hard place – not knowing whether to pick up opponents in the centre or the wide man.
His revised role also negates his attacking tendencies, which leaves Liverpool looking less effective down the left-hand side of the pitch. A solution to the problem could be to utilise a wing-back system, allowing Robertson and Alexander-Arnold to wreak havoc down the flanks.
However, Liverpool would need to play three centre-backs to accommodate this set-up, which would impact the structure further forward. With that in mind, an argument could be made for Liverpool to ditch Alexander-Arnold’s hybrid role and task Gravenberch with being a deep-lying playmaker.
Having someone to sit in front of the two centre-halves and drop deeper when required would free up the two full-backs to patrol the flanks. MacAllister and Szoboszlai would control proceedings in midfield, while Klopp could retain his favoured attacking front three system.
There’s been plenty of talk that the 4-3-3 set-up was exposed too often last season and Liverpool must evolve. That argument is flawed, as the system primarily failed due to the personnel at Klopp’s disposal in the engine room. Liverpool may now have the three key pieces in place in that department. If Gravenbech, MacAllister and Szoboszlai gel, they could be on to a good thing.