Ask any trophy-chasing manager what the most important part of their team is, and they’ll all give the same answer.
A good goalkeeper is important. So too a solid defence. Adventurous full-backs are becoming the norm, and then there are the forwards, both out wide and through the centre, that will look to wreak havoc.
But knitting it all together is the midfield. Not for nothing is it commonly regarded as the engine room, the place that produces the energy and drive to push the team on and dictate the play.
Liverpool are no different. And given the way in which Jurgen Klopp sets up his side, midfield is arguably the most demanding area for his players, both tactically and physically.
Yet listen to some of the observations of the Reds’ midfield, and it’s a wonder Klopp’s side have won anything at all over the last 18 months.
Consider Gary Neville’s latest critique of Liverpool’s Premier League title chances.
“Liverpool are not perfect,” he said. “They have a world-class goalkeeper, centre-back and strikers.
“They have really good midfield players with good work ethic but with Thiago would be another step. He would control the game with that weight of pass, that nous.”
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There is no doubt a move for Thiago Alcantara – even if the Spaniard remains very much a Bayern Munich player at present – would bolster the options of any Premier League side.
But the clear inference is the Liverpool midfielders run around a lot without offering the class and guile of some of their leading Premier League and European counterparts.
Neville is by no means alone in this thinking.
Consider, though, the facts. Liverpool have taken 196 points from the last two Premier League seasons, reached two of the last three Champions League finals – winning one – and in the last nine months been crowned world and English champions.
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Without a midfield engine running at consistently optimum capacity, none of that would have been possible, no matter how good the other areas of the team were.
And it’s not as though Klopp is unaware of the standard required in the central areas.
After the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid in Kiev two years ago, the Reds boss addressed midfield concerns by snapping up Fabinho having already ensured the arrival of Naby Keita.
The result? Fabinho, after a bedding in period, is established as one of Europe’s leading central midfielders. Jordan Henderson responded to the increased competition for places by producing the best football of his career to named Footballer of the Year, while Gini Wijnaldum’s all-action style has made him a regular.
Then there is the evergreen James Milner, the thrust of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, the eventual emergence of Keita and the growing reputation of young Curtis Jones.
While reluctant to overly rotate elsewhere, Klopp has always used a horses-for-courses approach in midfield, each player with a different style ensuring they are greater than the sum of their parts.
Liverpool’s midfielders may not always catch the eye compared to their team-mates, let alone other more vaunted if less successful central operators elsewhere.
But when it comes to realising Klopp’s trophy-winning gameplan, they deserve greater respect.
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