Now Mane is injured it is likely Coutinho will be deployed as part of the front three which would mean our creativity will have to come from Oxlade-Chamberlain who is more than capable of stepping into this role. Although supporters may have been underwhelmed by his first couple of appearances, Ox has all the attributes to be a quality player for Liverpool. He is no doubt learning session by session what is expected of him in Klopp’s system which may highlight just why he’s struggled since joining the Reds.
If we take a look at the way Man City are playing with both De Bruyne & Silva operating as part of a midfield three we’ll be able to see that having two creative midfielders in deeper central areas is extremely beneficial. It comes as no surprise to me that they have scored over double the amount we have as well as conceding eight less which highlights that a balance can be struck. When we look at the stats it becomes quite apparent why this is the case and how effective playing creative players in midfield can be. Kevin De Bruyne averages 2.82 key passes per 90 compared to Silva’s 2.34 which is considerably higher than Emre Can with just 0.87 & Wijnaldum at 0.47. This is not necessarily a massive criticism of our midfielders, they’ve simply not got the attacking attributes the City pair have and while I think they should both do more in an attacking sense, I think it’s up to Klopp to change the personnel and add some much-needed creativity to our midfield. De Bruyne has created 3.49 chances per 90 this season with Silva averaging slightly less with 3.12, however, this is considerably higher than Can at 1.22 and Wijnaldum with a pretty dire 0.47. While it’s the Reds pair who have attempted more dribbles per game, Wijnaldum topping the category with 1.9 & Can closely behind with 1.2 compared to Silva and De Bruyne who both average 1.1 dribbles per game, it may just be this statistic that highlights what Liverpool’s midfield is missing. Although the Reds do need urgency from this area of the pitch which dribbling will give, it’s the incisiveness and telepathy which has been missing from Liverpool’s attacks. The quick, incisive one, two’s around the edge of the box and in the half spaces is what tends to unlock packed defences rather than a midfielder dribbling from deep even though it does have its uses when the time is right. The Reds do however have three players in their team who can provide this creativity.
When operating in a more central position last season we saw how effective Adam Lallana can be, his technical ability in tight spaces, quick footwork and brilliant combination play was something opposition sides just couldn’t deal with. There’s not a lot that needs to be said about Phil Coutinho, he’s just a magical footballer who lights up the football pitch so the more often you get him on the ball in central positions the more chances he will create and goals he will score, it’s that simple. Although he is a slightly different player to Adam Lallana, Oxlade-Chamberlain can also be very good in tight spaces because of his superb technical ability, he is also very good in one v one situations. It has to be said that his passing and end product can at times be very wasteful and extremely frustrating but under the guidance of Klopp I have no doubt he can become a very good creative midfielder.
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