22 Aug 2015

Dream Team: How Liverpool could line-up if Rodgers signs 'fantastic' £15m playmaker

On Friday, The Independent claimed that Borussia Dortmund have accepted a £15m offer from Liverpool for 'fantastic' playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but if the deal goes through, where will the 26-year old Armenian fit-in at Anfield?

This particular rumour seems incredibly tenuous to me, but stranger things have happened in football, and if Mkhitaryan ends up at Anfield before the end of the transfer window, Liverpool's attacking options will immediately look a lot more enticing.

Can Liverpool fit another attacking midfielder into the squad, though, or will it lead to unhealthy competition? A few points:

* As the stats from last season show, Liverpool's attacking midfielders are just not productive enough, and the paucity of end product has continued into this season.

* After two games, Lallana, Henderson, Ibe, Coutinho, Can, and Milner have collective created 6 chances in 180 minutes, which is pitiful.

* As a comparison: Jonjo Shelvey (allegedly not good enough for Liverpool) has created 9 chances for Swansea in the first two Premier League games, which is more than Henderson and his five creatively bereft team-mates *combined*.

* Seriously, just read that Shelvey stat again, and consider what it means in the context of how much these players cost, and how much they get paid every week.

Since the season ended, I've argued that:

- Liverpool need a minimum of two new *proven* attacking midfielders (i.e. players with a history consistently scoring/creating goals).

- Relying on Lallana, Ibe, Markovic, Coutinho, and Milner to get regular goals/assists is a gigantic mistake.

Firmino is a step in the right direction, but s the first two games show, the need for another goalscoring midfielder is particularly acute. Whether Mkhitaryan is the answer remains to be seen, but if he signs, there are some obvious benefits:

* Lallana, and Coutinho will have some serious competition for their places. They'll have no choice but to consistently perform or face being dropped for Mkhitaryan.

* These players need to feel the fire, and the more proven quality *attacking* midfielders in the squad, the better.

* Mkhitaryan is 26, and entering the prime of his career, and if Rodgers brings him in, it won't be to sit on the bench, and I'm sure the player will seek assurances of this prior to signing.

As such, in hypothetical terms, how will Liverpool line up with Mkhitaryan in the team. My preferred formation:

442: Diamond (With Firmino playing off Benteke)

---------------- Mignolet
Clyne ------ Skrtel - Lovren --- Gomez
---------------- Lucas
------- Henderson -- Coutinho
------------- Mkhitaryan
------------------------- Firmino
------------- Benteke

433: (Without Milner)

-------------- Mignolet
Clyne ---- Skrtel - Lovren ----Gomez
---------- Lucas --- Henderson
------------- Coutinho
----- Mkhitaryan - Firmino
------------- Benteke

4231: (Without Milner)

---------------- Mignolet
Clyne ---- Skrtel - Lovren ---- Gomez
------- Henderson - Lucas
Coutinho --- Mkhitaryan ---- Firmino
------------- Benteke

442: Diamond (With Sturridge and Milner)

---------------- Mignolet
Clyne ------ Skrtel - Lovren -- Gomez
---------------- Milner
-------- Henderson -- Coutinho
------------- Mkhitaryan
-------- Benteke -- Sturridge

There's no room for Ibe or Lallana in any of these line-ups, and that's the way it should be (IMO). Both should be squad players, not regular starters, and based on the last 20 games, neither players deserves to be starting regularly.

Of course, (Hypothetically again) fitting Sturridge, Firmino, Mkhitaryan, and Benteke into the same team will be a major headache for Rodgers, and it'll be even more of an issue if the Reds sign a DM (Asier Illarramendi?) before the transfer deadline.

In my view, there's more chance of an attacking midfielder arriving than a DM; with Milner in the squad, Rodgers has made a rod for his own back, and if another DM arrives, there's no way to consistently fit Hendo, Milner (Captain and VC) the new DM, Firmino, Coutinho, Benteke, and Sturridge into the same team (not to mention Emre Can).

I maintain again: Liverpool did not need Milner - the club needed a specialist, experienced DM/holding midfielder to replace/challenge Lucas. Instead, Rodgers has built an unbalanced squad, with acute issues in midfield and attack.

Author: Jaimie K


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