Another match on the horizon now as Liverpool prepare to make the long trip to East Sussex to face up with Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday. Jürgen Klopp’s starting eleven remains a mystery. Although, I’d expect to see the free-flowing Mohamed Salah walk out at Falmer Stadium for his inaugural display in front of the Seagulls’ supporters.
Salah is a strength in this Liverpool side. In fact, he’s one of many strengths on Klopp’s team sheet. And Brighton’s defenders will have their work cut out for them dealing with Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino and any others who might end up in the attacking band.
But it isn’t the attacking prowess at Liverpool that one Brighton defender is most interested in at the moment. Liam Rosenior, Brighton full-back, has written in The Guardian about the importance for great teams to have a proper defensive midfielder if they hope to win all the things. He highlights Liverpool’s reliance on unspecialised DMs as a weakness and he’s not wrong.
“I’ve seen them play exciting, attacking and breathless football this season,” said Rosenior, “but there has always been an air of vulnerability in their defence with numerous individual defensive players being singled out and criticised for poor performance in the media.
“I would instead point to the fact that these players always seem to be defending in isolation, without protection from a specialist, top-class defensive midfield player who stops counterattacks and in turn protects them from in front of the back four.
“Players such as Jordan Henderson, Emre Can and Gini Wijnaldum are outstanding midfielders in their own right but none are what you would call a natural anchorman who is happy to forgo the attacking, creative side of their game to sit in front on their defensive line and give balance to protect them from counterattack.”
Defensively-devoted midfield players are not especially in vogue. Rosenior points to the flashing lights that are always centered on the strikers or attacking midfielders, players with pizzaz who get our blood flowing. But it’s that true defensive midfielder who is vital to a team’s entire defense.
“Those unselfish, tactically adept, positional midfielders whose effect on a game cannot be quantified, yet are sometimes unnoticed, are worth their weight in gold,” claims Rosenior.
Liverpool have been without a dominant defensive midfielder since Lucas Leiva pre-ACL injury. Those were the days. Since then, neither Brendan Rodgers nor Klopp have placed too much emphasis on filling the position with a specialist. Klopp seems to prefer a fluid rotation in the midfield with one player kind of being the one who rotates less and sticks to the center circle. But this approach has met with mixed results.
Klopp’s current team still has to be considered a work in progress and he and the recruitment staff may have their eye on a proper DM to bring in down the road. But, currently, Rosenior’s assessment of Liverpool’s best weakness is valid. And in this topsy-turvy world of Klopp’s fluctuating center backs, a shrewd and smooth operator sitting just in front of them could go a long way.