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Liverpool need to sign midfielder urgently after Thiago injury

The Liverpool midfield debate has rumbled on all summer long.

By Charles Cornwall

The Liverpool midfield debate has rumbled on all summer long.
The Liverpool midfield debate has rumbled on all summer long.
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The debate about Liverpool’s midfield has rumbled on throughout the summer. “The last thing that would have crossed my mind is that we have to do this. I really don’t understand the discussion,” said Jurgen Klopp on the eve of the pre-season tour of Asia last month when the conversation turned to whether he would be further strengthening that department of his squad.

The manager went on to eulogise the array of talent already at his disposal. Liverpool were adamant their business was complete in terms of incomings after the arrival of full-back Calvin Ramsay from Aberdeen followed the signings of Fabio Carvalho and Darwin Nunez. The message was clear: the midfield was sufficiently stacked until 2023 when trying to prise Jude Bellingham away from Borussia Dortmund would become a much more realistic ambition.

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However, over the past month, the debate has gradually intensified. It was cranked up another level after Thiago limped off early in the second half at Craven Cottage on Saturday, clutching his left hamstring.A scan will determine the full extent of the damage but the initial prognosis wasn’t positive. He’s facing another lay-off — the latest in a long line of agonising setbacks that have hampered the Spain international’s time at Liverpool.

His quality isn’t in doubt. He plays with a swagger. He was immense for periods of last season and was deservedly named in the PFA’s team of the year, but he still only featured in 25 out of 38 league matches after playing 24 in 2020-21. Durability isn’t one of his greatest strengths. Too often, he’s watching from afar.

The Thiago blow follows hot on the heels of injuries to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring) and Curtis Jones (calf), and Klopp’s midfield has been further depleted by Naby Keita’s illness. That meant that, as Liverpool twice came from behind in the second half to avoid an embarrassing defeat against promoted Fulham, they were without four of their eight senior midfielders.

Yes, they’ve been dogged by some cruel misfortune but it wasn’t entirely unpredictable, especially given the amount of football Thiago, Keita and Oxlade-Chamberlain have previously missed. Keita only clocked up 2,083 minutes in all competitions for Liverpool last season (Jordan Henderson led the way in terms of the midfielders with 3,869), and Oxlade-Chamberlain featured even less (1,524).

Klopp opens the door for further signings

“We can’t solve problems we have for four weeks with a transfer. It makes no sense to us,” insisted Klopp at Kirkby on Friday. However, Klopp and sporting director Julian Ward will surely need to reassess if the worst fears about Thiago’s spell on the sidelines are confirmed.

“A transfer must make sense now and in the long term,” said Klopp post-game at Craven Cottage. “We still have enough midfielders. We have to see how we react on that, but for sure, not panic.” It certainly didn’t help on Saturday that the starting midfield trio of Fabinho, Thiago and Henderson performed so poorly. In the first half alone, they lost possession 22 times between them.

There was no semblance of control as Fulham’s combative approach rattled Klopp’s side. The lack of composure shown was alarming and it became one of the rare occasions that the manager has publicly questioned his players’ attitude. Henderson’s passing accuracy was just 74 per cent (66 per cent in the opponents’ half), while Thiago won a third of his nine duels. Fabinho, usually so reliable in the holding role, was so out of sorts that he was substituted before the hour mark.

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