Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp just got an exciting glimpse of the ‘massive’ contribution reported transfer target Roméo Lavia could make in his midfield.
Right now, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp finds himself without a specialist number six, or even a player with meaningful experience in the position.
Fabinho has sealed a move to Al-Ittihad in Saudi Pro League, and Jordan Henderson, who occasionally covered for the Brazilian, has left for Al-Ettifaq too.
Thiago may be seen as a viable option but he didn’t travel to Singapore for the friendlies against Leicester City and Bayern Munich because he’s in the final stages of his recovery from a hip injury, and the same goes for youngster Stefan Bajčetić, who’s still not fully over an adductor issue.
In both of Liverpool’s Singapore matches, Klopp was forced to turn to Curtis Jones as a makeshift option, and the inadequacy of this solution was exposed against Bayern when Mathys Tel bypassed the 22-year-old all too easily in the build-up to the German champion’s second goal.
You can see why, even before the game, the manager had publicly acknowledged the need for a more natural defensive midfielder.
“In this actual set-up how we have it and how the squad looks, he [Jones] is one of the options definitely,” he said (via The Mirror). “I think it’s no secret that we are still looking for players to join us — that’s one thing — and the other is using what you have and I think Curtis can absolutely play that position.
“Can he play it when no one else is defending in the team? No, no chance. But then I don’t know any player who can do that. But if you really understand the situation how it is in this moment, a proven six is not available in the moment, do we make an excuse for that? During the season a lot of things can happen, it was always the case. We see it as a challenge and try to find a way to be compact anyway.”
If he can, Klopp should avoid using Jones as a six for a prolonged stretch of games, because it could halt the long-awaited momentum he’s built as an eight. Leaving him exposed at the base of midfield may damage his confidence, which had been higher than ever.
But that’s not to say Jones’ showing against Bayern was all bad. His qualities came to the fore too, most notably his ability to operate under pressure and receive the ball on the half-turn.
There were numerous times when he looked to be in trouble as Bayern swarmed (in a manner that suggested Thomas Tuchel was targeting him) but he managed to wriggle his way out, either finding a pass into space or maneuvering his way through the Bayern shirts.
That’s precisely what we could expect to see from Roméo Lavia, Liverpool’s primary target to replace Fabinho. The club has already seen two bids rejected and, as per David Lynch/This is Anfield, is ready to submit another in the coming days.
As explored here, Lavia is exceptionally press-resistant, but he also offers the kind of defensive nous required to preserve Liverpool’s balance. He can cover plenty of space and is adept at breaking up opposition attacks.
Klopp says that Jones could have a ‘massive impact’ in possession from a deep-lying role, and Lavia could too, while also stabilizing the Reds when they don’t have the ball.
Jones’ performance in the narrow defeat against Bayern, then, simultaneously highlighted the importance of signing the young Belgian, and the midfield exciting evolution he could spark.