Liverpool’s January transfer window has closed, and here’s a look at what Jurgen Klopp might consider his best starting lineup.
The transfer window slams shut, taking with it the last chance for Liverpool to strengthen their squad.
Cody Gakpo was the only newcomer in January, as the Reds ultimately chose to stick with the personnel who struggled to reach the heights of the previous season.
The absence of key players, including Ibrahima Konate, Virgil van Dijk, Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota, Fabio Carvalho, and Roberto Firmino, has contributed to the slump.
But, as was the case for much of the second half of last season, what if Jurgen Klopp had a full complement to choose from? Who would be the best XI right now?
Our Liverpool writers take on the difficult task of determining who deserves to be in…
‘Thiago is the most dependable person in the engine room,’ says Paul Gorst.
Virgil van Dijk has not had a stellar season, but the Dutch captain remains Liverpool’s best center-back, and Joe Gomez’s disappointing season has left Ibrahima Konate and Joel Matip vying for the number four spot.
Jurgen Klopp has been frustrated by Konate’s injury-plagued season, but when fully fit, the France international is likely to edge out Matip, whose form has not been on par with last season.
However, it is in midfield that Klopp’s real problems begin to mount. Jordan Henderson and Fabinho, in particular, have been woefully out of form for some time, and it’s telling that neither has started the last three games, the first time this has happened since the latter’s debut in September 2018.
Thiago Alcantara, 31, is still the Reds’ best and most dependable engine room operator, so he starts, but choosing the other two to go with the Spain international is a real challenge. Naby Keita currently holds the shirt, and it would be unfair to overlook Stefan Bajcetic, who has yet to put a foot wrong at the age of 18.
Up front, Luis Diaz is best on the left of the front three, and Mohamed Salah’s position is not in doubt, so the big question is who operates down the center. Diogo Jota has not scored since April of last year and has been plagued by injuries since last summer. Roberto Firmino had a strong first half of the season but has missed the last nine games, while Darwin Nunez has been inconsistent in his debut season on Merseyside. I’m going with the Uruguayan striker over Jota.
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Bajcetic, Thiago, Keita; Salah, Nunez, Diaz; Salah, Nunez, Diaz.
‘Nunez deserves to be a central striker,’ says Ian Doyle.
It wasn’t long ago that selecting the best Liverpool team would have been difficult given the depth of talent at Jurgen Klopp’s disposal. This season, on the other hand, has made it a puzzle for the exact opposite reason.
The back four, on the other hand, remains largely unchanged, with the only decision being who will partner Virgil van Dijk at centre-back. Ibrahima Konate should start, and the fact that the pair has only started four games together this season helps to explain the Reds’ defensive woes.
Midfield is the real issue, as it has been for months. Stefan Bajcetic has performed admirably since joining the team, but he is not among the strongest XI. Fabinho has been a major source of concern in recent weeks, but he is still the club’s best defensive midfielder and would benefit from having the right players around him.
In this case, that would be Thiago Alcantara and, perhaps controversially, Harvey Elliott. That trio has only started four games together in the engine room, three of which have been won – admittedly, the most recent match was a 3-1 defeat at Brentford, in which no player stood out.
In attack, Mohamed Salah is on the right, with Darwin Nunez, who has started fewer than half of Liverpool’s games this season, deserving of a starting spot in the center. Luis Diaz, who is sorely missed, is on the left flank. There are plenty of options on the bench, including Cody Gakpo, Roberto Firmino, and Diogo Jota.
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Elliott, Thiago; Salah, Nunez, Diaz; Salah, Nunez, Diaz.
‘Bajcetic hasn’t put a foot wrong,’ says Theo Squires.
For all of Liverpool’s defensive woes this season, they’ve only started their’strongest’ back five once – and that was in a 2-1 win away at Tottenham in November.
As a result, the Reds’ defense continues to pick itself, and it’s the same one that started last season’s Champions League final against Real Madrid, with Ibrahima Konate partnering Virgil van Dijk at center-back.
It’s a much more difficult task in midfield, where Fabinho and Jordan Henderson have struggled this season, leaving positions open. Stefan Bajcetic, Liverpool’s number six, makes the strongest starting XI on merit, having not put a foot wrong since being given the nod, though it is a tall order for the 18-year-old to keep the spot for the rest of the season given his youth.
Thiago Alcantara is still first-choice alongside his compatriot, with Naby Keita rounding out the trio simply because he’s the rare commodity of a Reds midfielder who isn’t past his prime.
Meanwhile, Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota join Mohamed Salah in the attack, with the added familiarity between the three hopefully benefiting them as Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo wait in the wings.
My starting lineup is as follows: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Keita, Bajcetic, Thiago; Salah, Jota, Diaz.