Most of the Liverpool team essentially picks itself on a weekly basis. We know that Alisson and three quarters of the back four will start every big game if available, and the same of course can be said for the front three. The dilemma for Jurgen Klopp all season long has been getting his midfield trio selection right.
There are different midfield balances that would be necessary for certain opponents but you can imagine that Klopp has always secretly been longing for a group that he can turn to in all situations in much the same way he can with the rest of his team.
Since last summer, I have felt that all things considered the best midfield combination we can field is Fabinho in the deeper role with Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita in front of him. It has taken longer than I expected for this unit to find their form/confidence simultaneously but I think we are now very close to my belief finally coming true.
The logic behind my choice was simple. By signing Fabinho we finally had a proper defensive midfielder who had shown his class at Monaco. His arrival in my mind would also allow Henderson to be released from the shackles and play back in his more natural role of box to box midfielder. Once upon a time (ask your parents) Henderson was brilliant in that position but he has sacrificed himself for a long while for the good of the team. He has his many critics but Henderson would do everything for this club and as captain, he should be starting as many games as possible.
Finally, I just have always been a massive fan of Naby Keita. I was convinced he could do everything in midfield and would settle in instantly. It didn’t quite happen that way but it is brilliant to see the Guinean finally looking happy out on the pitch.
Arguments of course could be made for essentially any of our midfielders to fill one of these positions. A fully fit Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will certainly have something to say while James Milner and Gini Wijnaldum have at times this season looked world class. Even Adam Lallana offers something quite unique when in form as well.
The only near certainty I thought was going to be Fabinho due to the fact that he is the only pure holder in the squad. The Brazilian was given time to settle in though and the patience has paid off handsomely for Jurgen Klopp. Fabinho has brought an extra dimension to the middle of the pitch perfectly blending his ability to not only disrupt by to also facilitate our attacks.
Keita scored his first goal for the club last Friday against Southampton and what an important goal it was. You could almost physically see all the strain and tension from the last few months leave his body as that goal went in. The pressure he must have been putting himself under had to be a massive burden.
The same could be said of Henderson’s goal but we should remember that the captain celebrates basically every goal he scores as if he’s won the Champions League and I love everything about it!
This time last season when Oxlade-Chamberlain got injured and Lallana was still struggling for fitness the only option we had was to play Henderson, Milner and Wijnaldum week in, week out. It was a trio that has served the team well and will be needed at times in the future but the landscape has changed for the good.
The midfield evolution is something to behold. I am definitely hoping to see a lot more of the Fabinho, Hendo and Keita grouping. However, no matter what way you look at it, we now have far more layers to how we set up in midfield which only makes the team even more difficult to play against. This bodes well for the future success of the team.