At this point doubting Jurgen Klopp seems foolish.
Everything he has touched at Liverpool has, more or less, worked. He has delivered a league title, has them pushing Manchester City season after season and took an unprecedented bid for a quadruple through until late May last season.
He has moved quickly in the transfer market: winger Fabio Carvalho first in from Fulham, then came club record signing Darwin Nunez, in from Benfica in a deal expected to rise to £85million, and now the finishing touches are going on a £6.5m deal for Aberdeen full-back Calvin Ramsey.
Fabio Carvalho (left) and Darwin Nunez (right) are two of Liverpool’s summer signings
Liverpool have also made a breakthrough in their pursuit of Aberdeen starlet Calvin Ramsay
Two exciting young talents and one of Europe’s most wanted marksmen is a brilliant summer of business in many respects. Sadio Mane will move on and other departures may follow, but as for incomings that looks to be that.
Klopp has his 2022-23 squad.
Yet, there has been a nagging feeling among supporters and viewers of Liverpool that, for some time, they need reinforcements in central midfielder.
As it stands heading into next season, Klopp will be able to call upon Thiago Alcantara, James Milner, Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, Harvey Elliott, Naby Keita, Curtis Jones and Carvalho, should he be deployed more centrally than in a wide role all set for Luis Diaz to lock down on the left.
The ages of the fateful eight read: 31, 36, 32, 28, 19, 27, 21 and 19. A real mix of youth and experience.
Why many have pointed to the midfield is creativity, more so than the depth.
Jordan Henderson (left) and James Milner (right) are providing the experience across midfield
Thiago Alcantara represents Liverpool’s most creative midfielder heading into 2022-23
Liverpool’s two primary creators last season were Mohamed Salah, league-leading with 13 assists, and right back Trent Alexander-Arnold, second in the league with 12.
Left back Andrew Robertson ranked in third with 10, tied with Chelsea’s Mason Mount, Leicester’s Harvey Barnes and West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen.
Much of the success under Klopp has come due to the world class abilities of the full-backs. Combining for 22 assists over the course of a campaign is unrivaled compared to City, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United.
But in midfield, an analysis of Thiago, Milner, Henderson, Fabinho, Elliott, Keita and Jones in the league last season shows they combined for just 13 assists between the seven of them.
Of those players, only Jones (15) and Elliot (9) played in fewer than 23 league games in 2021-22.
Ramsey, one of the summer signings is a former midfielder who has taken well to creating from right back, will add to the production out wide but more onus will be placed on midfielders to step up heading into 2022-23.
|League 2021-22||Jordan Henderson||Fabinho||Thiago||James Milner||Naby Keita||curtis jones||Harvey Elliott|
|Odds Created from Open Play||36||16||29||18||15||10||8|
|Passing Accuracy (%)||85.5||87.5||89.1||86||86||90.5||84.2|
Fabinho (left) bagged five goals last season but much more is needed from Naby Keita (right)
While no central midfielder is set to arrive, Liverpool had planned to take a different route, only for Real Madrid to scupper that plan.
They were pursuing France international Aurelien Tchouameni but recognized it was difficult to add him as he was eager to join Real Madrid, and he joined them from Monaco in an £85m deal.
Jude Bellingham has his fans at Liverpool, too, but there was never the prospect of the England international leaving Borussia Dortmund this summer.
And so any reshaping of the midfield will wait until this time next summer.
By then Milner will be 37, Keita will be out of contract and the development of Elliott and Jones will provide food for thought.
No midfielder played more games last season than Henderson, who finished with 35 appearances from 38 league games, starting in 29 of them.
He was the midfield leader in assists with five, created the most chances with 38, and made the most passes, finishing with 2,157.
This season should give more opportunities to Harvey Elliott (left) and Curtis Jones (right)
So, Henderson, who is under contract through until 2025, is a metronome that keeps Liverpool ticking over.
Given Liverpool’s fearsome attack, there is no huge reliance on goals coming from the midfield, with Fabinho out on top with just five over the course of the season.
The question mark for Liverpool is that an injury to the Brazilian or Thiago, who is their most creative option in the middle, would leave Klopp needing to lean more and more on his younger, and more unproven, stars.
Elliott has been ascending but suffered a nightmare injury at Leeds which stunted his progress, seeing him finish with just six league games in 2021-22.
Jones has had more experiences but it remains unclear if he can carry the midfield on his back if the call came from Klopp amid injuries and only time will tell if he is cut out to break through and dominate a side looking to go again in the hunt for a quadruple.
Then there is Milner, who signed a new deal to stay for another season. He won just nine starts from his 24 league appearances and while he said he only signed the new deal on the basis that he is able to contribute, his dressing room presence on players like Elliott and Jones is invaluable.
Jurgen Klopp will look at his midfield next summer and will hope not signing one isn’t a mistake
‘He’s a role model,’ Klopp said in April.
‘I have told him, I can tell the whole world – nothing we have achieved in the last few years would have happened without James Milner, it’s as easy as that.
‘Whether he was on the pitch or not, he’s set standards in a way not a lot of people can set standards, and he educated all of us.’
Look, if Klopp is comfortable with his midfield options heading into the new season, so should supporters.
He will just hope it’s a decision that doesn’t come back to bite.