Champions League

Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp is preparing for his first Premier League game

Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp is preparing for his first Premier League game

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Thiago Alcântara is still a question mark. The manner in which Liverpool’s midfield lined up against Norwich City might be instructive in this regard.

Only on a few occasions in recent memory has Liverpool entered the first game of the Premier League season with such a sense of mystery around the starting XI. In previous seasons, Jürgen Klopp’s team could typically be anticipated with reasonable accuracy, with the exception of a few names here and there. From front to back, when Liverpool travels to Carrow Road to play Norwich City, there are a lot of questions to be answered.

Will Roberto Firmino or Diogo Jota be the ones to take the field? Will it be one or the other? Is Virgil van Dijk or Joe Gomez ready to take the reins in the defensive midfield? 

However, even if Gomez is fully healthy, where does he rank in the team’s pecking order in comparison to Jol Matip and Ibrahima Konaté? Every one of these topics is intriguing, but the middle area is perhaps where the most ambiguity exists.

On paper, it appears like Fabinho, Thiago, and Jordan Henderson will form the so-called “midfield three” for the upcoming season. 


    After their international heroics (and, in Thiago’s case, a small injury worry), the latter pair have missed most of pre-season thus far. Both players came off the bench to play their first minutes of pre-season versus Osasuna. 

    It must be anticipated that neither will be fully prepared for the trip to Norwich. Given the fact that both players are in their 30s and cannot be expected to play every minute of every game, Klopp’s selection could provide an indication of who will be getting reasonable minutes in the coming season. 

    Given the fact that both players are in their 30s and can’t expect to play every minute of every game, Klopp’s selection could provide an indication of who will be getting reasonable minutes in the coming season.

    Despite the departure of Georginio Wijnaldum, there are still a number of potential candidates, including Naby Keta, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Harvey Elliott, and the seasoned James Milner. 

    Curtis Jones would have been included in the conversation had he not suffered a concussion at an inopportune moment. It is worthwhile to read over each of these in turn before making a guess as to which three will be the beginning ones.

    Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp is preparing for his first Premier League game

    Based solely on his performances in the previous season, Jones would have appeared to be the most probable choice to start against Norwich — and indeed to play a more prominent part throughout the season in the absence of Gini Wijnaldum. 

    Many variables have subsequently influenced this, not least the pre-season play of some of the other names on this list, but a concussion suffered in the 2-0 defeat to Osasuna is the deciding factor in denying the 20-year-old a place at Carrow Road.

    Nonetheless, it is worthwhile to examine some of his underlying data from the previous year. Because of the arrival of the new flavor of the month, he has fallen somewhat out of favor, but he has already begun to demonstrate all of the characteristics of a top player. 

    His assists per 90 minutes put him in the top 5 percent of all midfielders in Europe’s top five leagues, and he is equally adept at ‘progressive carries,’ which involves moving Liverpool up the pitch by sprinting with the ball in his own half of the field. 

    Having a pass completion percentage in excess of 91 percent makes him a good option to replace Wijnaldum for a portion of his playing time.


        It has been a while since Keta has captured our attention, but this year could be the year. 

        He has made an impression throughout the pre-season with his outstanding pushing and his quickness on the ball. These are characteristics that we all know he possesses; 

        it is only a matter of witnessing them over an extended period of time. Injuries have plagued him during his tenure at Anfield, but it’s possible that we’ve reached a tipping point. 

        Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp is preparing for his first Premier League game

        Keta has been working with expert Andreas Schlumberger since January, and his most recent reported injury occurred as recently as February — he was just not being selected for the final few games of the season due to Klopp’s preference for consistency.

        Due to the departure of Wijnaldum, a higher-up squad spot has opened up, and Keta might be in a position to take advantage of the opportunity. 

        He has plenty of time to fulfill his enormous promise because he is still just 26 years old. A strong start against Norwich City might very well pave the way for a successful season.

        Another midfielder who has a lot to prove to his teammates. A similar number of injuries have befallen him as had Keta, but now that a full pre-season has been completed, he will be hopeful of contending for a starting spot.

        DON’T MISS:

        Oxlade-Chamberlain was the subject of an erroneous nine-man experiment by Jurgen Klopp at the start of the pre-season. 

        As a result, due to the form of Takumi Minamino, who finished preseason as Liverpool’s joint-top scorer, the Englishman was shifted back to his natural position in the center of the park for the Osasuna match. 

        This was, without a doubt, his most spectacular performance, with an all-action showing that caused the Spaniards a great deal of difficulty.

        It remains to be seen whether this late tryout will be in time for Norwich, but it may be too soon to cast off the former Arsenal man’s claimed goal of following in Steven Gerrard’s footsteps in terms of positional progression.

        For most supporters, Elliott would not have been considered a midfield option when preseason began, but that is precisely why Klopp was appointed manager. 

        In the 18-year-old, who spent the majority of last season on loan at Blackburn Rovers as a winger, he definitely saw something, and his performances in the center of the park have been nothing short of brilliant.

        He is getting lots of minutes as a member of the stronger pre-season teams, and he appears to be a legitimate chance to start against Norwich. 

        He defies his young age in terms of vision, calmness, and poise on the ball. Indeed, it is a wonderful testament to Elliott’s abilities that the prevailing reaction upon seeing him named to the first Premier League team sheet of the season would be exhilaration rather than nervousness.

        Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp is preparing for his first Premier League game

        One snag in the works is that Elliott’s pre-season involvement might signal a shift in Klopp’s tactical approach for the next season. 

        While still a 4-3-3, the presence of an attack-minded midfielder brings it closer to the realms of a 4-2-3-1 in possession: if this is a formation the manager wishes to stick with, it is possible that Roberto Firmino will play as a number 10, thereby filling one of the aforementioned ‘midfield’ slots.

        Milner is a dependable player, although he is 35 years old today. Klopp is likely to regard the midfielder as little more than a role model for the upcoming season, as well as an occasional emergency option with the ability to play in different places when needed. 

        In the event that Fabinho had not returned from Copa America in time, Milner would have been a probable contender for the number six position. However, the former Monaco star has likely gathered enough minutes to be ready for Liverpool’s Premier League opener against Manchester City on Sunday.

        Although there is fierce competition, it appears that Harvey Elliott and Naby Keta will be selected by Jurgen Klopp at the end of the season. The duo has appeared together on several occasions throughout the pre-season, and it is difficult to believe that this was done with a half-eye on the season’s first game.

        Klopp has been spared a dilemma by the minor injury sustained by Jones, who would undoubtedly have been disappointed to find himself displaced in the team’s pecking order by Elliott. However, Liverpool appears to have something truly special on their hands in the form of the teenage sensation Elliott.

        Oxlade-Chamberlain was arguably unlucky to be left out, but the quality of the players in front of him is indisputable. At the very least, his somewhat successful trial as a number nine offers up more avenues for minutes, but it is difficult to see where he might get a starting position anywhere on the field.

        Henderson and Thiago will almost probably return to the team in the near future, but the Fabinho-Keta-Elliott three for Norwich City is an intriguing proposition.

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