“It’s time to act now!” Is the cry from many Liverpool fans across social media following the latest update regarding Thiago Alcantara’s injury. The 31 year old Spaniard has been ruled out of action for at least 6 weeks following a hamstring injury suffered against Fulham in Liverpool’s season opener. It is likely that Thiago will miss Crystal Palace, Manchester United, Bournemouth, Newcastle, Everton & Wolves.
I think the time has come for even the most optimistic fans (such as myself) to be a little concerned regarding the central midfield department.
At the start of the season, there were three positions that I said Liverpool could do with some strengthening in. Right back, centre midfield & a forward. I got my wish with two of those. Liverpool signed 18 year old Calvin Ramsay from Aberdeen to play understudy to Trent Alexander-Arnold, whilst also completing the signing of Darwin Nunez from Benfica. But there is one glaring weakness that has not been addressed, for whatever reason.
Liverpool’s current injury list, specifically with midfielders, does not make a good read. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is the biggest injury who has been ruled out for a number of months due to a hamstring injury that he picked up in Singapore. Curtis Jones also suffered from a calf injury & will be side-lined for “A number of weeks”. On a more positive note, Naby Keita will be back in contention for Crystal Palace on Monday night after recovering from an illness. But with Thiago’s latest injury, combined with Curtis Jones & Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Liverpool’s midfield options have taken a big hit.
Regarding Monday night's fixture against Crystal Palace, I don’t think Liverpool’s options are disastrous.
With Naby Keita returning & Harvey Elliott looking very promising when he was substituted on at the weekend, I think Liverpool currently have enough to get by. But that’s not sustainable for the long term. Especially when you look at Naby Keita’s injury record. There is no doubt at all that the Guinean has tremendous ability, but his availability is what has let him down during his Liverpool career so far. We did see a vast improvement in his injuries last season however, so Liverpool will be hoping that he can take it one step further this season.
Fabinho & Jordan Henderson are also known to pick up the odd knock here & there, so even with them, there could be some concern. But like I mentioned...for the short term Liverpool could just about get by with what they have...but for how long?
For the long term, the answer is pretty simple. Liverpool need to invest heavily in the central midfield department.
Oxlade-Chamberlain & James Milner will be leaving the club next season on free transfers, and Naby Keita is yet to agree terms. So with at least two midfielders leaving, you’d expect Liverpool to be looking at midfielders right now.
The simple fix is of course Jude Bellingham who would fit this Liverpool system like a glove, playing in that right central midfield role. However, it’s not as simple as it seems to sign him due to Dortmund already losing one of their biggest assets.
Matheus Nunes of Sporting Lisbon is seemingly available on the market & has drawn interest from Everton & Wolves. However reports from Portugal claim that the Portuguese international is holding out for a club that plays Champions League football & competes for big trophies.
If Liverpool are interested in Nunes, then it is quite hard to understand why a bid wouldn’t be made. He fits the age bracket that Liverpool look for when signing players & also the price is very doable. Liverpool’s transfer net spend has pretty much broken even with a lot of departures this summer, so you would certainly expect there to be some cash there to spend.
The only con that I can really think of, is that Liverpool currently have 8 central midfielders already & would probably need one to leave before bringing in another.
I think we could be entering a season defining period for Liverpool. They have to get this 100% spot on. Whether that means trusting in Naby Keita, Harvey Elliott or possibly even Fabio Carvalho to play in midfield, or investing in the market. Whichever route the club decides to take must be the correct decision. As Liverpool knows more than any other club, the margin to winning a Premier League right now is very small. Liverpool can’t end the season with any regrets. Let's see what they decide to do.