Opinion

LFC Season Review – Our Midfield: Good Enough FOAR U?

Having taken a look at our defense in part 1, it’s now time to move further afield and look at the players in the engine room. If you haven’t yet read part 1, you can do so here.

Klopp’s geggenpressing system is perhaps the most taxing on the midfield, seeing as how they are required to constantly press while also support the defence. With the loss of a key midfielder in the Jan window, in addition to heavy injury issues, this was perhaps an area where Liverpool felt the pinch, with just 3 first choice midfielders available towards the end of the season.

So let’s go ahead and take a look at what our writers thought of our midfielders.

 

 

Opinion by: Aditya @ AdityaLFC_

Georginio Wijnaldum:

Fans have been divided over the opinion if Wijnaldum is the kind of a player we need in a midfield. Is he a value addition to midfield? Is he really worth 25 million is still a question that remains unanswered till date. The Dutchman was a regular starter at St. James’ Park and was capable enough of turning games around all by himself.  However, that facet of his game has unfortunately never really surfaced at Anfield.

Wijnaldum is undoubtedly a talented player but seems to lack the confidence to do too much with the ball. One could almost say he possesses an immense amount of fear while having the ball at his feet. Takes too much time on the ball and in being indecisive, frequently loses the ball or ends up passing backwards or sideways. This is quite infuriating.  Another major problem, which many fans also rue, is the lack of consistency. At times, he is the driving force behind the team by helping dominate possession, while at others is an anonymous midfielder along for the journey, making no impact and being poorly positioned to do so as well.

In general, Wijnaldum either can be an asset or a liability depending on where or which team Liverpool are playing against.  At Anfield, Wijnaldum has played a pivotal role in midfield in home games but has been a sheer disappointment on the away turf (except for an away goal against Roma which helped Liverpool secure their place in the final of Champions League this season).  This is a continuation of how he played in the previous season as well.

So, 2 seasons down, this raises the question – what‘s next for our No. 5? Well, with the imminent arrival of Naby Keita and potentially Nabil Fekir, it seems unlikely that Wijnaldum would still remain a guaranteed starter at the club and may have to fight for his spot, yet again. A valuable workhorse backup, who can occasionally turn it up is perhaps not the worst option to have on the bench.

Rating: 6/10

 

 

Opinion by: Kathiresh @ red_clown69

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain:

Alex was bought from Arsenal at the start of the season for quite a huge sum of around 40m GBP. The sum was thought to be huge because Alex was only a bit part player in the Arsenal team and with a poor injury record, hadn’t really featured much for the Gunners. Even when available, had after more than 5 seasons at the Emirates not been able to nail down a particular spot, having been shunted to suit the requirements of the team. That however didn’t stop Klopp from splashing the cash to land the player, who in choosing us over Chelsea, straight away won some merits from the fans. Would he be of use though was a question which hung on many lips.

Ox has in return proved to be a very valuable player to the Reds this season. The Englishman proved crucial as his goals against a most notable side like Manchester City in the Premier League and Champions league were key to beating the Champions of England. Starting the season in a wider role, he had made clear of his intentions to be selected as Central Midfielder. The departure of Coutinho to Barcelona opened the door for Chamberlain to take up the attacking midfielder position, who over the course of the final 4 months, made it his. His combination of quick feet, energy, robustness and directness from the middle of the park was something no other midfielder offered in such amounts. His performances from the turn of the year have certainly been noteworthy and any doubts the supporters may have had have surely vanished.

If not for his unfortunate injury sustained against Roma in the semi finals of the Champions league, he would have been a key player for the Reds in their Champions league final. With a respectable return of 5 goals and 7 assists and having scored 3 in the Premier League (more than with Arsenal in one season), Ox will be looking at this season as one on the road back towards becoming the promising player when he rocked the PL in 2011 as a 17 year old. Still only 24, I fully believe that Chamberlain would be a key player for the reds in the coming season after he recovers from his injury, and also prove to be a competition midfield for the incoming recruits to Anfield.

Rating: 7/10

 

 

Opinion by:  Manny @ mannyyylfc

Jordan Henderson:

Our captain is another player who has had highs and lows this season. First of all he failed to feature regularly throughout the season mainly due to his fitness and injury issues. But as shown in many occasions, when available, Jurgen would almost always start him.

This season, Hendo has become more mature, a passionate hard worker and a leader that our team lacked when he wasn’t available. He may not be the best all round midfielder in the league but he is very good at what he does, and that is controlling the rhythm of the game, making important interceptions in the middle of the park and most importantly, mitigating the potential counter attacks for his team.

Henderson offers the best passing range from our midfield but there are limitations to his game. With his good passing range, he lacks the creativity/vision to make the key passes and that is reflected by 1 assist made in 27 appearances this season. He also does not offer goal threats he used to have in the 13/14 season where he bagged 4 goals and 7assists. You may say the way we set up may have affected the stats but comparing to Fernandinho (5 goals 3 assists) who plays in a similar position? He needs to do better as a regular starter, or else we’d need a better player comes next season.

We may not know what the future holds for Jordan comes the 2018/19 season. We have either been heavily linked (Fekir and Neves), or have already bought (Fabinho & Keita), with a variety of midfielders who offer more to the midfield and are goal threats (with higher assists and goals). What we do know though, is that he has become the leader we thought he couldn’t be. He gets the Liverpool way as shown on many occasions that he is willing to participate in projects that support the people of Liverpool and what he did after the game at the Stadio Olympico will never be forgotten.

Hoping he is completely fit for the upcoming season, and with all the competition incoming, perhaps the fighter in him will bring out the best once again.

Rating: 7/10

 

 

Opinion by:  Pranav @ komaFOAR

Emre Can:

“The Future Captain” – this was my thought when the last season ended and whenever Emre Can’s name showed up. Although he had a mixed season in 2016-17, I was encouraged by the way he grew into being a vital part of the Jurgen Klopp’s system. He has all of it, wonder goals, assists, physicality, aerial ability and a no-nonsense attitude during defence.

“It’s a big season [for me] and I think it’s a big season for the team as well. Last season we did quite well but we could do better, so we will try to do it better this year and push on,” said Can. That’s what I wanted to hear – a dedicated player, playing for the team.

The 2017-18 started well for Emre Can, with immense performances against Watford, Hoffenheim and Arsenal. Post the City away game, he played decently against Leicester and Burnley. Post this, he had a bit of a wobble in his form, where Can was defensively weak. But then, he recovered well, to be a great physical presence of Liverpool’s midfield once again. Indeed, Emre Can’s Season until April was always an epitome of inconsistency. One moment, he would be brilliant, only to make a rash challenge or give the ball away the next. However, in the big matches, Emre Can usually turned up. He was immense in the home game against Manchester City and performed well in the matches against United at Anfield. His impact in games usually could be attributed to the fact that after his substitution, Liverpool usually lost control of the midfield. In his 24 appearances for Liverpool this season, Emre scored 3 goals, has 4 assists and has had pass percentage of close to 85.5%. Although these numbers could have been better, Emre did his job of breaking up the play and transition into attack pretty well.

Post his heavy links with Juventus, there was a gut feeling that whenever Can lost the ball or did something wasteful, it was because his head was turned but that wasn’t the case. His loss of form was more due to his back injury and the side really had a dip in form due to his absence, together with that of Ox.

Emre Can is most probably leaving this summer. Although he never fulfilled his true potential, he did gave his all for this Liverpool team and his wonder goal against Watford will always be remembered as this Rolls Royce Souvenir.

Rating: 7/10

 

 

Opinion by:  Aditya @ TheKloppmeister

James Milner:

Milner is the gift that keeps on giving and never ages a day. At 32, playing in a system with extracts lethally from the body and mind, Milner has shown up his much younger midfield partners for the desired level of fitness from a modern footballer. While Henderson, Can and Lallana all faced injury issues throughout the campaign, this young (yes, young!) lad had a cracker of a season once again, shouldering the responsibility & workload of his injured midfield partners.

After having performed admirably at Left Back the season before last, it seemed likely he would continue there, with an unknown Robertson and an untrustworthy Moreno the only options at Left back. With a masterstroke, it seemed that the Robertson-Moreno gamble worked and the midfielder was back where he wanted to be – in the midfield. With a total of 42 appearances for the season, Milner had a respectable return of 1 goal and 11 assists across competitions. He also was the assist king of Europe, with his 8 assists being the highest in the Champions league. Irrespective of the goal or assist return, it was his willingness to play; however drained he was, to help the team in times of crisis that will always endear him to the fans. If there is one player who epitomises love for the club, it’s Milner, who gave it all this season.

While he is 32 and is only getting older, his fitness levels make it easy to say that he has atleast 2 more seasons left in the top flight. For the coming season, while competition for midfield spots will likely be tough, it is likely that Milner should get enough game time in his role as the senior pro on the bench. Looking forward to another year where Milner gives it all for the club.

Rating: 9/10

 

 

Adam Lallana:

Adam Lallana was one player who, ever since coming to Anfield, has been unable to seal his value in the eyes of the fans. Finally, he had an excellent season last year, contributing heavily with goals, assists and presence in the midfield. Everyone in the fan-base was had likely prepared themselves for yet another year of excellence from the midfielder.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. This year has turned out to be an injury plagued season for the midfielder, managing to make a measly 16 appearances, 13 from the bench and 3 starts, across all competitions. Considering the number of games the team played, and the desertion by key midfielder Coutinho, this was truly a big blow for the club.

Having recently turned 30, not being clear what the injury situation is and the level of competition coming into the midfield, one has to wonder what lies in store for this midfielder. Will we only ever remember him for his 1 excellent season or will he bounce back strong next year? One thing is for sure, he is definitely a good player to have for squad depth if he can regain form and fitness. Wait and watch is the call on this one.

Rating: N/A – Did not play enough to be rated accurately

 

 

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