Liverpool trio among five ‘irreplaceable’ stars the title challengers could do without next season

Will Ford
Alisson De Bruyne Zinchenko
Are Alisson, Kevin De Bruyne and Oleksandr Zinchenko still 'irreplaceable'?

Not long ago it would have been inconceivable to imagine Liverpool without Trent Alexander-Arnold or a Kevin De Bruyne-less Manchester City, but their absences this season haven’t stopped their sides from challenging for the title.

They join three others in this list of players deemed ‘irreplaceable’ last season but the title challengers could do without next term.


Trent Alexander-Arnold
No Liverpool player owes a greater debt of gratitude to Jurgen Klopp than Trent Alexander-Arnold. His style of football has allowed a player with extraordinary attacking quality but significant defensive issues to thrive at full-back. Few managers – if any – would have had the bottle to play him there, and though Alexander-Arnold’s ability would presumably have seen him break through in midfield in any case, it almost certainly wouldn’t have come with the same success that’s seen him win every trophy on offer and now has him linked with a move to Real Madrid.

And bizarre though it sounds to suggest the Liverpool lad should consider leaving Merseyside, it may well be a move to suit all parties. He gets to play for Real Madrid and Liverpool get £80m+ of pure profit to spend on other areas of the squad, safe in the knowledge that Conor Bradley has right-back on lock.

The 20-year-old doesn’t have the delivery or passing range of Alexander-Arnold, because literally no-one else does, but he’s quicker, better at dribbling and doesn’t treat defensive work like it’s a pesky distraction from the actual football.

While Alexander-Arnold is a better footballer, Bradley may already be a better full-back, and he’s five years younger than his rival for the position.


“Without Caoimh Kelleher, [there is] no chance to be in the position we are,” Klopp said ahead of Liverpool’s clash with Sheffield United, which brought the Irishman level with Alisson on 24 appearances apiece this season.

Kelleher has conceded 27 goals to Alisson’s 21, while the Brazilian has a marginally superior save percentage. But the backup has the better post-shot expected goals minus goals allowed score, which suggests either more luck, a better ability to stop shots, or – most likely – a combination of the two.

We’re by no means suggesting Kelleher is a better goalkeeper than Alisson, who has been a huge part of Liverpool’s success in his six years at the club. But given he’s 31 and Kelleher’s 25, and considering the difference in quality is nowhere near as significant as we were all expecting, Richard Hughes and Michael Edwards may well be tempted by offers for Alisson this summer that they would previously have dismissed out of hand.

Having had a taste of consistent football, Kelleher will surely be gunning for more next season, and Liverpool won’t want to lose a goalkeeper who’s proven he’s a suitable replacement for Alisson no more than two or three years before the Brazilian will likely need replacing.


Andy Robertson
Kostas Tsimikas filled in admirably before Joe Gomez replaced him at left-back and filled in even more admirably. Some may suggest Liverpool have missed some attacking thrust from their left but that’s more to do with a change in style as a result of their midfield overhaul rather an enforced change due to the absence of Robertson.

Liverpool now play football in midfield. Rather than having Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson as energetic bodies whose primary purpose is to disrupt and give the ball to the full-backs to deliver, Liverpool now have Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai to open up opposition defences. It means having a superior defender in Gomez at full-back makes sense, both in terms of open play and set pieces, where his stature pays dividends.

And that also appears to be Klopp’s thinking, given Robertson started just three of the seven games he was available for having recovered from his shoulder injury, before another knock kept him out of the win over Brighton.


Kevin De Bruyne
He’s obviously still a ridiculously good footballer, with the 20-minute cameo against Newcastle to turn that game on its head, and the four assists he got in the dismantling of Luton in the FA Cup clear evidence of that.

But he’ll be 33 by the start of next season and missing 35 games over the last year through four separate injuries suggests his body may be starting to give up on him. With his contract expiring in 2026, City may well view this summer as a decent opportunity to get a sizeable fee for De Bruyne, whose absence hasn’t been too keenly felt this term, thanks in large part due to Phil Foden’s outstanding form playing in his stead.

De Bruyne Guardiola Man City
Kevin De Bruyne was not happy about being substituted for Man City against Liverpool.


Oleksandr Zinchenko
He was outstanding for much of last season, becoming the extra man in midfield, creating from that role and in general making Arsenal feel far more like a serious team than they had done before. But he was one of their foremost bottlejobs at the end of the campaign and may well have been again had a timely injury not seen him replaced in the starting lineup by Jakub Kiwior.

Reports claim Newcastle and Bayern Munich are keen on making a move for the Ukraine star this summer, and Arsenal are said to be willing to listen to offers of around £33million – roughly the same price they paid Manchester City in 2022.