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Did Liverpool Solve Their Midfield In ONE FELL SWOOP?

5 minute read Published December 5, 2023

As of October this year, Jurgen Klopp has been at Liverpool for eight years. 454 games in charge. A few players have been staples in Klopp's starting line ups, among them a few centre mids with Milner playing in more than 70% of Klopp's games in charge. Wijnaldum, despite leaving in 2020 has played in more than half.

Player Games
Milner 323
Henderson 304
Wijnaldum 237

However the long tenure of the centre mids isn't all good. They were reliable, yes, but to the detriment of their own replacements. Keita never got a long run in the starting XI, maybe he shouldn't have, and further replacements weren't deemed necessary. So many had seen in coming when Liverpool finished 5th, the worst since Klopp's first took charge at the club in 22/23. 

The most played midfielders last season was Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Naby Keita and Fabinho. Players that were with the club for many years and had been great players for most of that time (again, maybe not Keita). But Milner was 35 and Henderson 32. Fabinho was just 29 but his form fell off a lot, possibly due to the rest of the midfield not being as reliable anymore.

So it wasn't surprising that this summer Liverpool went all out and signed four first team ready central mids. Szoboszlai, Mac Allister, Gravenberch and Endo. And what an upgrade it has been.

Liverpool might not be the most reliable side defensively, but offensively they’re a joy to watch for a neutral. They’re fast and creative. It feels like Klopp's famous “heavy metal football” is back.

Just to give you an idea of how much more competent this midfield is offensively, look at the graphs below. None of these players are like for like, but these graphics give you an idea of just how big an upgrade the Liverpool midfield has seen. (If the text is a little hard to see, you can go straight to the source,


Both Fabinho and Milner were accomplished when it came to defending both placing relatively high among midfielders on defensive duties. With these players the team was also able to play a little more pressing, 8.83 passes per defensive action (PPDA), by some margin the lowest in the Premier League last season. This season their PPDA 9.52 which is the fourth lowest in the league.

Passes Per Defensive Action or PPDA is a statistic measuring intensity of pressing, how many passes the opposition are allowed before a defensive action is taken. A lower number indicates a higher pressing intensity. Defensive action could for example be an interception, tackle or foul, attempted or completed.

This season Gravenberch, out of these three, has been mantling that responsibility. Of course Gravenberch isn’t a defensive midfielder in the same way Fabinho was and Liverpool did also recruit Wataru Endo this season who’s an out and out defensive midfielder. Endo hasn’t been playing as much and has mainly been brought on in the latter stages of games to offer extra security at the back.


By far the biggest difference between the starting midfielders from this year and last is their offensive contributions. Tiago was brought in in 2020 to be the creative, offensive midfielder but injuries have kept him watching from the sidelines. Arthur is another more offensively minded midfielder who wasn’t able to contribute last season due to injuries. 

So it’s no wonder Liverpool went for offensively minded midfielders this year. And what an upgrade. Look at the offensive stats of Jordan Henderson, the most attacking of the three midfielders with most minutes last year and compare them to the stats of Mac Allister, the least offensively minded of the new centre mids. A world of difference. They make Mac Allister look like prime Özil.

And it’s not only showing up in their individual stats, it shows up on the field too - especially now that the players have had 14 games to gel. As we can tell from the stats they’re all good ball progressers and as we can see below, they’re fast too. They move up the field almost as fast as West Ham who are basically just counter attacking this season.

What sets Liverpool apart is their ball retention. They’re moving up the field very quickly but they have amazing ball retention. Average possession this season is just above 57 percent. In the recent Mersey side derby, Liverpool had a league season high possession of 78%. Granted, Everton did play with 10 men for almost 55 minutes.

Final Thoughts

It’s fair to say that this season's midfield additions upgraded Liverpool's midfield. The offensive qualities of these players are some of the best in the league. They move the ball quickly up the field, yet still manage to retain possession. 

There’s still some defensive parts of their game that need to be sorted but as long as they keep playing the way they have offensively they can just keep winning 4-3.

In any case, there’s no denying that Liverpool are back playing some great football and that they play possibly the most entertaining football in the league, even if it’s likely to cause a heart attack or two among Liverpool supporters. Now at second place in the league they're one of the title contenders for sure.


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