There might be a lot of arguments over the positions that Liverpool should’ve added depth to this year, but we can probably all agree that the midfield is one part of the park that we don’t need help in. Jürgen Klopp has eight midfield players to choose from week in and week out, with only three positions to fill to make a proper line up for the week’s match. It might frustrate us as fans as we debate the pitfalls and merits of each midfield combination, but it’s not a problem that Klopp takes lightly.
On Saturday he started a midfield combination of Georginio Wijnaldum, James Milner, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and though it felt a bit flat at times, it got the job done in the end - even with the nerves. The thing is though that there’s no automatic starters, and that’s just the way Klopp likes it.
“I like them all,” Klopp said to the Guardian following the match at St. Mary’s against Southampton. “If they are all in good shape I have decisions to make, if only a couple are in good shape my decisions are easier. I like having difficult decisions to make.”
The upcoming season, with now five trophies left to play for, will afford Klopp plenty of opportunities to rotate and find different combinations. If I were better at math, I could probably figure out how many combinations that gives Klopp, and my gut tells me the answer is a lot. It comes down to Klopp’s belief in protecting his players, though, and rotating is going to be essential with nearly double the games to play this season over last season.
“No player should play 50 or 60 games a season, especially not in these intense [midfield] positions,” continued Klopp.
“Give whatever you have and next game maybe somebody else will do the job and you will come on or whatever. That’s the plan but we can only do that if they all stay fit. Last season we couldn’t do that and the year before we couldn’t do that – we went to the Champions League final in 2018 with the only three midfielders we had and last season we had only four midfielders for the last 10 or 12 games. Now they’re all back and we will use all of them.”
The return of players like Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from injury, however long they stay fit for, only add to Klopp’s “problems”. And sure, some players might be itching to get some more minutes, but it’s not about that for the boss - an ethos he hopefully instills in those players looking for more game time.
“It’s not important how long you play, it’s important how good you play,” added Klopp. “We have to make sure our midfielders play as good as possible as often as possible.”
There’s plenty of chances ahead for that. Quality over quantity, after all.