In the closing minutes of Saturday’s draw with Aston Villa, a new-look midfield subtly revealed a lot about Liverpool’s issues.
On Saturday, a new-look Liverpool midfield that subtly revealed a lot was buried beneath Aston Villa’s time-wasting and the tearful farewells of departing heroes.
Harvey Elliott, Cody Gakpo, and James Milner made up Jurgen Klopp’s midfield three as the Reds manager finished the final home game of the Premier League season. This was done as he shuffled his pack, juggled his options, and attempted to alter the course of the game in the second half.
The storied veteran Milner, whose illustrious eight-year stay on Merseyside will end this summer, made what will be his final appearance for Liverpool, bringing his total number of games played to 332 should he play against Southampton this Sunday.
On the other end of the spectrum, Elliott, a young professional who just turned 20 years old, was making his 45th appearance of the season, which is his most impressive to date.
Gakpo, who was brought in as a January signing and was supposed to be Klopp’s long-term leader of the line but actually played more like a No. 8, moving deeper into midfield before attempting to connect with players further forward.
The fact that all three were asked to essentially function as a midfield trio as Liverpool chased frantically to keep alive their tenuous top-four hopes summed up a lot of problems of this troublesome term, even though the selection of each individual player is neither a real problem nor even a bone of curiosity on its own.
If more evidence were needed, it was a further indicator of the exact areas of the season’s problems that had not yet been affected by frustrating key player injuries that occurred at the wrong time.
The introduction of Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota unavoidably changed the composition of the midfield as the Reds attempted to overturn a 1-0 deficit caused by Jacob Ramsey’s first-half goal. It was a dynamic, attack-oriented system created to compel a way back into the match.
Even if Gakpo’s goal had been allowed to stand and Firmino’s late intervention had turned out to be the game-winner, the controversy surrounding the disallowed goal at the hour mark would not have mattered because it would have covered up the flaws in the midfield department, which has drawn much criticism over the past 12 months.
That’s why Liverpool is committed to enhancing that department significantly over the upcoming weeks and months. It is anticipated that Stefan Bajcetic will now be able to consider himself a member of the first team squad once he returns from the injury that caused his season to end in March as a result of the loss of Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Milner this summer. However, it is also anticipated that Stefan Bajcetic will now be able to consider himself a member of the second team squad.
It is hoped that when Liverpool fields a new-look midfield for the upcoming season, it won’t include a player who is 37 years old and out of contract, a player who is still adjusting to the position and is better known for his instincts as a striker, and a player who is barely out of his teenage years.