Klopp 'not surprised' by Elliott display for Liverpool in win
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Liverpool’s failure to sign a central midfielder over the summer has come under fire by many who believe they could be in trouble if their depth is tested again, like last season. But that is not the only position where they are in desperate need of cover.
Jurgen Klopp’s high intensity, high pressing system means that his players are more likely to suffer from muscle injuries and other injuries, so having reinforcements at the ready is crucial.
Reds manager Jurgen Klopp’s tactical approach to the game relies on his fullbacks overlapping and causing overloads in the final third.
Andy Robertson in left-back has cover in the shape of Konstantinos Tsimikas, but there is no proven cover for Trent Alexander-Arnold in right-back – instead, there is academy product Neco Williams.
The English defender missed out on Euro 2020 through a thigh injury, he has also suffered from hamstring and calf injuries over the past few seasons.
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If Alexander-Arnold does find himself sidelined this season then Klopp may have to play someone out of position to cover him, given how inexperienced Williams is in the top-flight and how he made just six league appearances last season – not to mention the fact Liverpool seemed willing to sell in the summer.
Fabinho used to play as a right-back during his time at AS Monaco, though he plays a vital role in the Liverpool midfield trio. Joe Gomez has also been played there too, though not for over three years.
James Milner, known for his versatility, has played as a makeshift right-back in previous campaigns at Anfield, though he no longer has the pace and energy to be a like-for-like replacement for Alexander-Arnold so may force a system shift.
Finally, midfielder Curtis Jones has filled in for the 22-year-old on a few occasions too, though one would expect this would very much be in a last-resort scenario.
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The Reds only made one signing this season, purchasing Ibrahima Konate for £36million from Bundesliga side RB Leipzig.
Klopp justified his lack of signings by explaining the club didn’t have the funds to go into the market and compete with the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City to sign big-money players.
He said: “I have said it before, we cannot compare to other clubs. They obviously don’t have any limits, we have limits.
“But we were quite successful even with having limits in the last two years and that is what we should try again.”
However, only two clubs in the ‘Big Six’ purchased right-backs, Arsenal purchased Nuno Tavares from Benfica for £7m and Spurs bought Emerson Royal from Barcelona for £26m.
Ivorian fullback Serge Aurier terminated his contract at Spurs on deadline day and, although potentially not the most exciting prospect for the Liverpool faith, could provide cover if required.
Also, Juventus’ Juan Cuadrado and Lazio’s Adam Marusic both have contracts that expire in 2022 so would have been available for a cut-price fee, yet there never appeared to be any interest **from** Klopp.
Both of the Serie A defenders have played as right midfielders in their career so will know what is required of them to play in the attacking fullback role.
The sale of Harry Wilson to Fulham for £12m could have contributed significantly to securing the signature of either of these players, which begs the question: who does Klopp see as his cover for Alexander-Arnold?
In 2016, the now-England international began to be handed opportunities in the first team, and in the following season, he was a regular inclusion after first-choice fullback Nathaniel Clyne was sidelined with a serious back injury.
In pre-season, under-23 fullback Conor Bradley made two appearances, playing a 30 minute half against VFB Stuttgart and then coming off of the bench against Osasuna.
The 18-year-old has impressed coming through the ranks at the Reds since joining from Northern Irish semi-professional team Dunbaggon Swifts.
Although it is too soon to make any solid predictions, the Northern Ireland youth’s inclusion in the first-team over the summer suggests that Klopp may be keeping tabs on his development and want him as an option this season.
Similarly to Alexander-Arnold, who is a midfielder by nature, Bradley can play further forward too so would suit the overlapping fullback role well.
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