Liverpool Can’t Spend Its Way Out Of This Mess

When the 2022-23 Premier League season got underway, the FiveThirtyEight Club Soccer Predictions model gave Liverpool the second-best chance of winning the title. Over five months and 20 weeks into the competition, however, the Reds sit ninth in the table, behind the likes of Brentford, newly promoted Fulham, and Brighton & Hove Albion, and the model gives them less than a 1 percent chance of domestic glory.

Also last season, Liverpool sat in third place, nine points behind eventual champions Manchester City, but with a game in hand. The model favored City at the time – and was eventually rectified – but Liverpool have played near-perfect football since then, buoyed by the signing of former Porto forward and Colombian national team superstar Luis Díaz in the winter transfer window. was Díaz’s signing was, in general, one of the biggest wins in the Premier League’s winter signing history: his non-penalty goals and expected assists per 90 minutes of play (npxG+xAG/90) ranked ninth (with Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez) are among the players to make at least 11 starts.

Of course, the Reds ultimately fell short in their pursuit of a 20th English top-flight title – thanks to the collapse of Aston Villa.

The same cannot be said this season, although they did recently sign Dutch forward Cody Gakpo – one of Europe’s most exciting young attacking talents, and one of the breakout stars of the 2022 World Cup – away from PSV Eindhoven . As good as Gakpo is now (and even if it eventually becomes world-class), it’s too little, too late. Furthermore, Liverpool’s problems lie not with its forward line – they lie (mostly) with its midfield (and the inability of opponents to score first).

To put it mildly, Liverpool’s midfield is a mess. It is a bad mix of very old and very injured. Club captain Jordan Henderson – whose presence at Liverpool has been both (unfair) and decorative – was probably never meant to play so many minutes in his age-32 season. The same goes for maestro Thiago Alcántara and destroyer Fabinho, who are both on the wrong side of 29.

A year ago, these three formed one of the best exchanges in world football – a combination that (more or less) brought Liverpool to the waste of an unprecedented frame. As such, they have each played more than 2,300 minutes in all competitions, which is a lot of minutes for any player, let alone players in their 30s (or approaching). It’s impossible to know what manager Jürgen Klopp was thinking at the start of the season, but it’s also somewhat unbelievable to think that he planned to play his mid-major states as much as he’s had to this season. However, long-term injuries to Curtis Jones, Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the loanee Arthur have given Klopp few decent options to fall back on.

Signing a midfielder during the transfer window (which ends on December 31) would make sense – perhaps more than signing a forward, although Díaz and fellow forward Diogo Jota are sidelined with long-term injuries – but until now At the moment, Liverpool have not dipped their toes into the market to improve their fortunes. And it may just be that Liverpool can’t be fixed (at least not this season). When a team relies on a strong press – that is, when a team relies on defending from the front (Díaz and Jota are two fantastic pressing forwards, but have been out for months) – and the press breaks down, it makes the midfield work, and the back line work. , much more difficult.

So, is Liverpool’s season over? Not exactly. The league title is almost certainly out of reach, and the same can be said for a top-4 finish, which would be a borderline disaster financially – Champions League qualification is worth tens of millions of dollars that clubs can use to reinvest in teams and facilities. , making them more attractive for potential future signings. But the Reds are still alive in the FA Cup and Champions League. Klopp’s teams have historically been monsters in knockout tournaments – Liverpool have reached the final in three of the last five Champions League campaigns, winning one and won the FA Cup last season – so silverware is still in store. it’s possible. But without signing an interval (or two, or three), that possibility diminishes by the day.

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