December is always an interesting month in the English Premier League. The top clubs are wrapping up their Champions League groups, the Europa League clubs are doing the same, and everyone is girding for the always-insane holiday period, when matches come thick and fast for everyone.
For Liverpool, things start off with a hopefully-easy match against Sunderland, though Gus Poyet's crew took Chelsea to the brink last weekend in earning an impressive draw. That's quickly followed, though, by a win-or-you're-out match against Basel in the Champions League that will determine if Liverpool advance to the Champions League knockout rounds... or deal with the drudgery of the Europa League.
A trip to Old Trafford and Manchester United is on the cards the next weekend, and then the holiday period gets truly underway; a trip to Bournemouth for League Cup action is followed by a visit from Arsenal the weekend before Christmas, then Boxing Day sees Liverpool away at Burnley. The following Monday then has Liverpool hosting Swansea City, and hopefully by then the club isn't limping and licking wounds.
Making this period difficult is that this side is still struggling mightily with injuries. Daniel Sturridge is still out, as to is Mario Balotelli. Suso and Jon Flanagan may return by the end of the month, but that's a big "if" right now. Making things more interesting is that apparently Philippe Coutinho and Jose Enrique are carrying knocks from recent action, leaving their availability in some question against Sunderland.
In somewhat happier news, Liverpool may soon get Mamadou Sakho back. Dealing with the lack of form on the back line has been harder with very little center back depth to work with, so getting the intimidating Frenchman back will be a boon to Liverpool's defense. Of course, we all thought he was about ready to return a month ago. That didn't so much work out well.
Making things interesting for the purposes of putting this feature together has been Brendan Rodgers' recent use of Steven Gerrard further up the pitch than we've grown used to seeing him overt the past year. That's allowed Liverpool to deploy a sturdier defensive base in midfield without taking their captain off the pitch, and at least on paper leaves the side better balanced. We'll see how long this change lasts, but for now at least it seems promising.
|Key: Starter (Bold), U21/Academy (Italics), Injured (Orange), Suspended (Blue), On Loan (L)|
|Goalkeepers||Central Defenders||Fullbacks||Central Mids||Attacking Mids||Strikers|
|Simon Mignolet||Martin Skrtel||Javier Manquillo||Steven Gerrard||Raheem Sterling||Daniel Sturridge|
|Brad Jones||Dejan Lovren||Glen Johnson||Jordan Henderson||Adam Lallana||Mario Balotelli|
|Danny Ward||Kolo Toure||Alberto Moreno||Lucas Leiva||Philippe Coutinho||Rickie Lambert|
|Lawrence Vigouroux||Mamadou Sakho||Jose Enrique||Joe Allen||Lazar Markovic||Fabio Borini|
|Lloyd Jones||Jon Flanagan||Emre Can||Suso||Lazar Markovich|
|Daniel Cleary||Ryan McLaughlin||Adam Lallana||Fabio Borini||Jerome Sinclair|
||Kevin Stewart||Brad Smith||Philippe Coutinho||Cameron Brannagan||Ryan Kent|
|Jordan Williams||Kevin Stewart||Jordan Rossiter||Jerome Sinclair||Samed Yesil|
|Sebastian Coates (L)||Emre Can||Jordan Lussey||Harry Wilson|
||Tiago Ilori (L)||Sam Hart||Jordan Williams||Sheyi Ojo|
|Andre Wisdom (L)||Connor Randall||Luis Alberto (L)||Ryan Kent|
|Rafa Paez (L)||Marc Pelosi||Joao Teixeira (L)||Jordon Ibe (L)||Divock Origi (L)|
For new readers, or those of you who haven't seen 3XI in awhile, here's a quick refresher of how this works:
- This is a project that takes a regular look at the current state of Liverpool's depth chart, projecting starters and reserves at each position.
- The graphic shows each of the eleven positions on the field with a starter and two reserves (hence the name "3XI"). Each player is shown in their primary position in the given formation (generally selected based on recent formations used by Liverpool), so only appears once on the chart no matter where else on the pitch they may be involved in for depth purposes. Injured or suspended players are not included here, with exception of injuries believed to be very short-term in nature, and those are noted appropriately.
- The table below the chart is a more broad-strokes look at the depth. Each position group is more generalized, and we see players listed in each group they are involved in. This is also where injured, suspended, or on-loan players are listed for reference.
- Thanks as always go to Dave Clark of Sounder at Heart for coming up with the 3XI concept and format, and for allowing me to use and modify it for The Liverpool Offside.