Liverpool need to forgo usual transfer strategy and bring in midfield reinforcements

Far be it from anyone to tell Liverpool Football Club how to operate in the transfer market. Let’s just start on that note.

The Reds have built a reputation as trendsetters and industry leaders in the window. Seemingly every signing is a hit, nearly every decision is vindicated.

Top decision makers at Anfield tend to get the big calls right, but they’re facing another big call and their stubborn nature could come back to haunt them.

Thiago Alcantara picked up a hamstring injury in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Fulham and was replaced by Harvey Elliott. The Spaniard’s fitness concerns are nothing new and should be factored into how Jurgen Klopp is building his squad, but the substitution doesn’t inspire confidence for the season ahead.

Elliott is a fine prospect and a good Premier League player, but he is not someone a title contender like Liverpool should be turning to in order to come on for Thiago.

Klopp insisted post-match that Liverpool have plenty of midfield options, but some – Naby Keita, Curtis Jones and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – are injured and that is partly why they won’t enter the transfer market for reinforcements. Part of the problem is at least one of them is seemingly always injured.

Liverpool have been heavily linked with a big-money move for Jude Bellingham next year, but they could certainly do with upgrading their options immediately. It’s been quite obvious for a few months that captain Jordan Henderson is on the decline, and their options beyond Thiago are decent at best, with none of their younger players in Jones or Elliott quite yet reliable.

The Reds’ signing of Thiago shocked some because he wasn’t their usual profile of target – he was ready made and good to go. But at a cut-price deal, it was a striking piece of ingenuity and flexibility – the kind that they need to demonstrate now and isn’t the ‘panicking’ sign of weakness they seem to think it is.

If Liverpool sit by and hope three injury-prone midfielders can prop up a midfield alongside a permanently leggy Henderson and a defensive-minded Fabinho, then they will lose the physical vice they’ve held over the Premier League.

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They don’t need to dismiss any hope of signing Bellingham in the future, but they have to reach a compromise to keep their short-term progress going. Even when everyone is fit (which is more of a ‘big if’ at any given moment), Klopp has nine bench spots and five substitutes to call on. There’ll be a place for everyone who deserves it.

Any new player will obviously have to be the right fit, but it’s impossible that Liverpool’s midfield shortlist simply ends with Bellingham. They will be aware of other players of all sorts of moulds. If there’s even one they really like the look of, then the club need to explore a deal this month.

Whatever Liverpool do will probably prove to be right, but there’s only so long anyone can go being almost exclusively right.

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