Liverpool should take a bold approach following the departure of Jordan Henderson, buoyed by Manchester City’s example and a likely solution to a ‘freak’ issue.
In a development very few would have predicted before the summer transfer window opened, Liverpool is set to lose both Fabinho and Jordan Henderson in the coming days.
Saudi Pro League club Al-Ittihad is poised to land Fabinho for a fee of $52m (£40m/€46m), while rival Al-Ettifaq is closing in on a $15m (£12m/€14m) deal for Henderson.
In response, many supporters have called for Liverpool to recruit two more new midfielders in addition to earlier arrivals Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai.
The Reds categorically need to sign a defensive midfielder, because there are no other specialist, established number sixes at Jürgen Klopp’s disposal. Fabinho’s exit leaves a hole not just in the squad but in the starting XI too.
However, you can call into question the necessity of acquiring another number eight to replace Henderson. The table below outlines the options that could already be available to Klopp, with Trent Alexander-Arnold left out because he’ll likely play a hybrid role as he did last season.
It gives Klopp a total of seven full-time midfielders, which is more than Pep Guardiola has available at Manchester City, even if you include Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva, who also figure out wide. This may actually be enough.
Anywhere else in the team, Liverpool fans would be content with two players per position (they have more than that here), but you can understand why they view the midfield situation differently.
With James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keïta leaving on free transfers, Fabinho and Henderson sold, Fábio Carvalho loaned out and Arthur returning to Juventus following his loan, Liverpool would have lost seven midfielders and only brought in three, which seems inherently flawed.
And what’s more, the Reds saw last year that even 10 midfield options may be enough when injuries strike.
But fans need to get used to players with strong availability records, rather than pitiful injury histories like Keïta, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Arthur.
Mac Allister — and yes we’re touching wood as we say this — only missed four games during his time at Brighton and Szoboszlai has only been sidelined for one in the last two seasons.
Some may have concerns about Jones given that he’s missed a cumulative four months of action in the last two campaigns, but the key point to stress here is that this is down to ‘freak’ injuries, in the player’s own words (via Goal). First, he was poked in the eye in training, and second, he had to grapple with a stress response of the bone.
And crucially, Harvey Elliott, who would be the de facto replacement for Henderson, looks like a dependable option.
While he only ranked ninth in the Liverpool ranks for total minutes played last season (2,265), he was fifth for appearances (46) and joint-first alongside Mohamed Salah for matchday squad involvements (51).
He also appeared in 41 consecutive games, more than any other player managed over the course of the campaign (via This is Anfield).
If Liverpool signs another player for that position, he may either block Elliott’s path or find opportunities hard to come by with two durable options in front of him.
The club already knows its new starting six will be expensive — Crystal Palace’s Cheick Doucouré is reportedly valued at $90m (£70m/€81m), for example (according to the Daily Mail) —and it’s worth pointing out that an elite young center-half talent is still needed too.
In the circumstances, foregoing a direct replacement for Henderson may actually be a smart move.