So Liverpool are in a bit of a skid, entering the October international break on a run of one win in seven matches, giving up goals and points in a manner that can only be described as perfectly Liverpool-esque. Beyond the eternal quandaries that are set pieces and defensive transitions, a new wrinkle in the Reds’ inability to win games has been a surprisingly dysfunctional midfield, one that struggles to both press and defend effectively.
Where many managers rely on midfield specialists — i.e. a defensive anchor, a deep-lying playmaker, a slick dribbler — Jürgen Klopp’s midfield trios this season have often consisted entirely of box-to-box players, or at the very least players tasked with box-to-box duties. Where last season Jordan Henderson typically sat deeper than his partners, and Adam Lallana often pushed ahead to press and attack, this year, the captain, Emre Can, and Georginio Wijnaldum have all been expected to play both ways. It has not been super effective.
It looks to be a theme running into the future as well, as RB Leipzig’s Naby Keïta — arriving at Anfield in a €55m deal just about nine months from now — is the most box-to-box midfield player to ever box-to-box. He is expected to replace the mercurial and likely Barcelona-bound Philippe Coutinho, tilting the balance of the Reds midfield ever further towards jacks-of-all-trades.
So, when Liverpool are linked with a new midfielder — possibly as a successor to Emre Can if the German can’t agree a new deal with the club — it should be entirely unsurprising that the player is yet another allrounder. Thankfully, he is a very, very good one.
Adrien Rabiot is finally looking like he’s established himself as a bona fide starter for Paris-Saint Germain, partnering Marco Verratti and Thiago Motta in central midfield and featuring in every match the French club have played this season. However, it appears the 22-year old is hungry for adventures abroad, and the Premier League beckons.
“I think I would like to experience something else (outside Ligue 1),” said Rabiot. “I would love to play in the Premier League, not necessarily one club in particular, even though I was very fond of Liverpool when I was young.”
While there is every chance this is merely a ploy — inspired by the club’s obscene spending this summer — to get an improvement on his current £60k a week deal, if Rabiot is indeed open to an Merseyside move, not exploring it would be negligent of the Anfield club. At 6’4”, the Frenchman would be unlikely to struggle with the physicality of the league, while his ability to read and break up play, and subsequently launch attacks would mirror Keïta and Henderson’s skillsets, providing Klopp with the box-to-box buffet he so clearly desires.
With the Paris club looking at a >£150m net spend two summers in a row, there’s even a chance Rabiot’s price tag wouldn’t be completely indecent. Watch this space.