Liverpool are set to complete the signing of Alexis Mac Allister from Brighton this week, marking the club’s first signing of the summer as Jürgen Klopp’s Reds embark on a major overhaul of their core that for many might be said to come a year too late.
For many, then, attention has already begun to turn to who comes next. And, perhaps just as importantly, to how many come next. Plenty of names have been linked over the months, and right now Khéphren Thuram of Nice and Manu Koné of Monchengladbach are getting most of the attention.
But could Liverpool realistically sign both? And if they did, would they actually have enough minutes to go around? The short answer, as much as it may annoy those dreaming of the Reds winning the transfer window, is no. At least not without another significant departure or two.
It all comes down to minutes. Namely, that in a 55 game season, a club playing a 4-3-3 like the Reds has around 15k minutes to fill. That’s because 55 X 3 X 90 = 14,850. There will be injuries to account for, and there might even be a few more games, but that’s the baseline.
Liverpool need to have a group of midfielders capable of playing around 15k minutes—and past a point, stockpiling players who won’t play is either going to lead to unhappy players sat in the stands or stunted development of promising talents like Harvey Elliott, Crutis Jones, and Stefan Bajcetic.
So. Let’s do some math to cover who’s departing, whose minutes perhaps need to be better managed, and what’s left after that.
Liverpool have lost James Milner (1.2k minutes played last season), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (0.5k), and Naby Keïta (0.5k).
Add it up and the Reds have lost 2.2k minutes of the 15k they’re likely to need next season.
Last season, Fabinho played more than he likely should have (3.5k), while Jordan Henderson (2.5k) is reaching the stage in his career where his minutes may need to be managed a little more than they have been, and Thiago (2k) remains both one of the club’s most talented and most injury prone.
Dropping Fabinho and Henderson down to 2k minutes next season (or Fabinho to 2.5k and Henderson to 1.5k) plus expecting a conservative 1.5k out of Thiago creates a deficit of 2.5k minutes.
In Harvey Elliott (2.3k), Curtis Jones (1.2k), and Stefan Bajcetic (1.5k) the Reds have three highly promising young players who also need to play to continue to develop. That development may not be linear, and it’s possible next year one will play less than last season and another more. On the whole, though, that trio need around 5k minutes of the 15k available to avoid stagnating.
The New Signigns
Alexis Mac Allister played 3.3k minutes last season and the expectation is that he will take at least 3k minutes for the Reds when he arrives. Rumoured targets Khéphren Thuram (3.7k) and Manu Koné (2.7k) would expect to take similar minutes.
The Math (with Mac)
- Mac Allister 3k
- Fabinho 2k
- Henderson 2k
- Thiago 2k
- Elliott 2k
- Jones 1.5k
- Bajcetic 1.5k
- Total = 14k
The signing of one of Thuram or Koné—or of a similar player expected to walk into the First XI—would bring the expected minutes played by the eight midfielders Liverpool would then head into next season with to 17k of a possible 15k.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. That 2k buffer would provide some comfort when it comes to dealing with unexpected injuries or significant drops in form. But turning that 2k surplus into a 5k surplus with a third major midfield signing would mean having to find a significant number of additional minutes beyond those already being taken away from Fabinho, Henderson, and Thiago.
The signing of a third midfielder would take that total up to 20k expected minutes and create a situation where one of Fabinho, Henderson, or Thiago would need to be sold—or where the club would be consigning at least two and perhaps all three of Elliott, Jones, and Bajcetic to the scrap heap.
In short, Liverpool do need one more major midfield signing after Mac Allister arrives, and less than that would mean gambling either on one of the youth stepping up significantly or it would mean playing Fabinho, Henderson, and Thiago as much as last season. Two more signings after Mac Allister, though, is exceptionally unlikely—and might be downright unfeasible without at least one more significant departure to make room.