Liverpool need a rebuild but they’re far from being back at square one.
Jurgen Klopp might consider an upgrade for this lot but should build his new team around these five.
The January signing of last season started 2022 rather better than Cody Gakpo has started 2023. Diaz was electric when he first arrived at Liverpool, and eased what at the time were grave concerns over losing one or both of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah. As they did with Diogo Jota – who similarly disrupted the Fab Three’s dominance up top – Liverpool hit gold with Diaz.
The Colombian was also perhaps fortunate compared to Gakpo that he arrived at a time when Liverpool were playing some brilliant football with confidence as high as it could be, but he also feels more like a Jurgen Klopp wide forward than the Netherlands international – small and nippy with a low centre of gravity.
He’s inexperienced enough that his qualities go missing relatively frequently, but he does have everything. And he’s played outstandingly well on more than the odd occasion, which proves he can bring all of those qualities together at once. It definitely feels as though it’s a case of when Konate becomes a consistently dominant force for Liverpool rather than if.
With Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk on a downward trajectory, it’s a positive that Konate is moving in the opposite direction towards a peak which Klopp will hope matches that of the duo he’s replacing.
This season he’s on +8.0 for post-shot expected goals minus goals allowed, which is expected goals based on how likely the goalkeeper is to save the shot, which is the best in the Premier League by quite some distance. More than half of the goalkeepers in the Premier League have a negative score.
Liverpool would not have a hope in hell of a top-four finish without him and at just 30 years old, in goalkeeping terms Alisson may not yet have reached his peak.
He’s been forced to defend more than he ever has, which isn’t good. It’s not that he can’t defend, it’s that he appears to either forget he needs to or simply can’t be arsed, and that’s more obvious now as those brain-farts are costing Liverpool goals when before the outstanding defenders alongside him would get him out of jail.
Alexander-Arnold will continue to be mocked on social media and criticised by pundits until he can be arsed, or Liverpool sign at least one new world-class centre-back/Alexander-Arnold minder to play with him.
But despite a relatively fallow season in terms of assists and creativity in general, Alexander-Arnold remains Liverpool’s best passer and crosser of a football, and given his defending has got no worse, it perhaps shouldn’t be on him to change his game, which has been so key to the football Klopp’s side have been playing and want to again.
We keep being told – by ex-striker pundits in particular – that although it’s not good that Nunez is missing chances, they would be more concerned if he wasn’t getting the chances to miss. It’s a bit strange that a player with fewer chances but the same number of goals wouldn’t be seen as such a promising prospect as Nunez, but it’s down to the consensus that ‘being in the right place’ is a far more innate skill than shooting.
Nunez also has the God-given benefits of being very big and very quick, and has shown off all the tools required to be a world class striker since he joined in the summer, except the most important determiner in being a world-class striker. Let’s not sugar-coat it – his shooting has been woeful.
But actually it does feel as though there’s quite a simple fix that will make a huge difference, and that’s Klopp or Pep Lijnders taking him to one side in training and telling him not to kick the ball as hard as he f***ing can all the time.