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Assessing Liverpool’s Midfield After Szoboszlai Signing

Liverpool have continued their midfield rebuild with the singing of Dominik Szoboszlai. Now the question is where does the midfield stand with the additions of him and Alexis Mac Allister, and are additional signings needed?

Liverpool Unveil New Signing Dominik Szoboszlai Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

We’re less than three weeks into the summer transfer window, but Liverpool have done a good bit of business already to address their deficient midfield from a season ago. The signings of Alex Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai for a combined £95m seems like a very good bit of business with both players likely to take on regular roles in the squad for the foreseeable future.

A few weeks ago, Noel took a look at the midfield math to see how many minutes Liverpool could realistically look to spread around. While the surprise signing of Szoboszlai doesn’t change the math, it does potentially change the expected composition of Liverpool’s midfield. With eight current senior team players (and one potential player returning from loan) for three starting spots, let’s take a look at the composition and depth of Liverpool’s midfield.

Left Box to Box Midfield

The Players
Alexis Mac Allister, Curtis Jones, Thiago

The Synopsis
The left-sided eight in Jürgen Klopp’s set up tends to play a more controlling role tasked with ball retention and progression. Thiago, when fit, has shown he excels in this role with his ability to ride the press and find a killer pass. The 32 year old had a drop off in form last season and missed a large chunk of the season yet again through injury.

Meanwhile, young Curtis Jones also missed a large portion of the season but finished on a high note after getting a run of games to close out the season. The 22 year old Jones showed just how strong of a player he can be in the system, doing lots of dirty work and driving the ball from box to box to supply the attackers.

Alexis Mac Allister is expected to supplant both Thiago and Curtis Jones this season, though he may be eased into the team to start. The 24 year old World Cup winner is a more refined version of Curtis Jones that should keep the side ticking along even though it may not look like anything spectacular.

Right Box to Box Midfield

The Players
Dominik Szoboszlai, Harvey Elliott, Jordan Henderson

The Synopsis
While still box to box, the right-sided eight for Liverpool tends to be a little more attacking, though still with plenty of responsibility to cover the flank to let Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah do the things that they do. Jordan Henderson has been the primary player to man this spot for years now, but his physical decline as he ages has opened up playing time for others. Henderson will likely transition into more of a rotational player in the spot, and could see more time in a holding role.

The player who was seen as heir apparent to Henderson is Harvey Elliott. The 20 year old started out will in the role last season, but faded along the way. Elliott is an excellent playmaker, but he’s more quick than fast and doesn’t have as much of a physical side to his game. Still, he’s proven to be someone that can be relied upon, and is still growing as a player.

Like on the left side, Liverpool have brought in a player that is a couple years older and a couple more years refined than the youngster previously on the roster who held down a role. Dominik Szoboszlai will likely surpass Elliott as the regular on the right of midfield at some point this season, though he could also play further forward when Mohamed Salah is out for the African Cup of Nations.

Holding Midfield

The Players
Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Stefan Bajcetic, Thaigo, Tyler Morton

The Synopsis
While Liverpool have strengthened both the left and right side of their midfield, the holding midfield role is still in flux. Fabinho is coming off of a season where he looked well off the pace for much of the year, and was a huge liability at times. He did look better late in the season when Trent Alexander-Arnold tucked in next to him in possession, taking some of the pressure off of Fabinho as a single pivot.

Stefan Bajcetic is an exciting young talent that made a big impression in less than 600 minutes in the Premier League. At 18 years old, he looked the part, but he is still very much a player who will likely need time to grow into a regular starting role with consistent performances. He could be the future of the spot, but even if he is it’s likely too soon for him to be relied upon as an every day starter.

Two other veteran players could also provide depth in the holding role, especially with the genesis of the position to play alongside Trent. Both Jordan Henderson and Thiago have spent time in the holding role for Liverpool. While it might not be their favored position, they have both show they can occasionally fill in when called upona. Thiago in particular could be an intriguing option against low block teams, allowing for two excellent playmakers in him and Trent Alexander-Arnold to run the game from the center of the pitch.

Tyler Morton is the wildcard of the bunch. The 20 year old made a few appearances two seasons ago for the Liverpool senior team and parlayed that into a successful loan with Blackburn last season. It would take a big jump for him to be in contention for regular minutes for Liverpool, but he could be a player to watch for the short term at least. He would also not count against the cap of non-homegrown players, which could be a big point in his favor for this season.

Final Analysis

The additions of Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai likely mean an end to the rumored pursuits of Khéphren Thuram (no, he is not a holding midfielder, please don’t suggest this) and Ryan Gravenberch. Liverpool now have a nice blend of age levels and experience at both box to box roles in the team.

The only area that seems plausible for further strengthening is in that holding role where Liverpool have numbers but not certainty. Fabinho is on the downside of his career, and Jordan Henderson and Thiago would only be temporary depth. Stefan Bajcetic is really the only player expected to have a growing role in the squad going forward, though Tyler Morton could conceivably make the jump after a successful loan with Blackburn.

Liverpool have been said to be interested in both Manu Koné of Borussia Mönchengladbach and Roméo Lavia of Southampton who would provide a boost in the holding midfield role. Koné unfortunately has sustained a knee injury while playing for the France U21 side this summer, and Southampton are looking to get a king’s ransom for Lavia. While Lavia would not count against the cap of non-homegrown players, and would eventually qualify as homegrown himself, it seems unlikely Liverpool would make a deal unless they can get the price down significantly.

At this point, I would not expect any other midfield additions, though a surprise holding midfield option isn’t out of the question, especially if there were any further departures from the squad. It seem likely that Liverpool will look to either transition to Stefan Bajcetic in the holding role as time progresses, or make the decision to recruit over him next summer if he doesn’t seem to fit the bill.

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