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Liverpool could hand 6ft 2 “Rolls-Royce” his biggest chance yet

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Jurgen Klopp’s side have entered the crucial stage of their title-chasing campaign.

Imagine if Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp had succumbed to the pressure last season.

His dynasty was in disarray after a staggering nosedive from the high-octane, swift-breaking brand of football that had lifted the club toward illustrious heights. Heights that had restored a city, etched his name into Liverpool folklore.

The German decided that this was not to be the narrative that would define his tenure, and the sweeping summer changes to a sapped and sighing midfield have proved significant, altering the pathway Liverpool were headed.

Klopp is now leaving but the Merseysiders have been revived and are competing for the Premier League and Europa League titles after clinching the Carabao Cup earlier in the term.

On Sunday, Manchester City host Arsenal in a clash against first and third; Liverpool will be keenly watching. But first, the Reds will host Brighton & Hove Albion in a must-win top-flight clash.

Liverpool have been hit with a catalogue of injuries but there is golden light at the end of that storm, with key members of the squad filtering back through.

Liverpool team news

Andy Robertson has avoided serious injury after hurting his ankle on international duty with Scotland, though it’s likely that the 30-year-old left-back will be sidelined against the Seagulls.

Thiago Alcantara and Joel Matip remain long-term absentees, while Alisson Becker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Diogo Jota and Stefan Bajcetic will not be involved but edge closer to a return.

More positively, Ibrahima Konate is fit once again after missing the past few fixtures, while Curtis Jones could make his first appearance since the start of February.

A variety of senior options in the centre of the park is something Klopp has not quite had at his disposal over recent months, and he might now be tempted to make a tweak, with Dominik Szoboszlai, for all his quality, possibly moving to the bench against Roberto De Zerbi’s men.

Why Dominik Szoboszlai could be benched vs Brighton

Szoboszlai hit the ground running and then some on Merseyside after joining from RB Leipzig last summer, Liverpool meeting the Hungarian’s £60m release clause.

His power, skill and high-energy approach have been a perfect fit under Klopp’s wing and this is reflected through his metrics, ranking among the top 7% of midfielders across Europe’s top five leagues over the past year for goals, the top 3% for shot-creating actions, the top 19% for progressive passes, the top 4% for progressive carries, the top 17% for successful take-ons and the top 5% for blocks per 90, as per FBref.

Across 33 appearances for Liverpool, the 23-year-old has scored seven goals and added five assists, with his dynamic performances in the engine room leading talent scout Jacek Kulig to describe him as a “magician.”

These skilful, influential efforts have indeed been key to Liverpool’s success but he’s not the only star in that department and given that Wataru Endo and Alexis Mac Allister have been in such fine and fluid form across recent matches, Szoboszlai might find that he enters after the break against Brighton.

Especially when fellow summer signing Ryan Gravenberch is pushing for a starting berth after recovering from a setback before the international break.

Ryan Gravenberch’s season in numbers

Of the four midfielders welcomed to Anfield last summer, Gravenberch has probably made the least significant impact so far, though at 21 years old the Netherlands international has showcased the innate ability that may yet see him flower into a leading midfielder.

Completing a £34m transfer from Bayern Munich last summer, Gravenberch’s stock had taken a hit after a year in Germany offered little promise, with just three Bundesliga starts all season and criticism regarding his work rate off the ball and defensive deficiencies.

Still, Klopp saw the promise within this multi-functional player’s skill set and while he has ebbed and flowed during his maiden campaign in England, there has been plenty to get excited about.

And this has been reflected through his showings thus far, grabbing three goals and two assists across 31 appearances, starting nine games in the Premier League.

Why Ryan Gravenberch should start vs Brighton

As per FBref, Gravenberch ranks among the top 6% of midfielders across Europe’s top five leagues over the past year for shot-creating actions, the top 13% for progressive passes, the top 6% for progressive carries, the top 5% for successful take-ons and the top 6% for blocks per 90.

Ryan Gravenberch: Most Similar Players
# Player Club
1. Joelinton Newcastle United
2. Conor Gallagher Chelsea
3. Dominik Szoboszlai Liverpool
4. Leonardo Bittencourt Werder Bremen
5. Khephren Thuram OGC Nice
Stats via FBref

Given his stylistic similarities with Szoboszlai, added to the defensive security provided by Endo and Mac Allister, this might be the perfect opportunity to hand the Dutchman a starting role, especially with Liverpool hosting Sheffield United on Thursday evening before travelling to Old Trafford on Sunday.

Gravenberch, on his day, has been described as a “Rolls-Royce” of a midfielder by journalist Declan Carr, and while his displays in the Premier League have left much to be desired, Gravenberch need only take the soil of his efforts in the Europa League and cultivate a sustained level of performance on the domestic front.

As per Sofascore, Gravenberch has clinched three goal contributions from five games in Europe this term, averaging 2.2 key passes, 1.8 tackles, 5.0 ball recoveries and 4.6 successful duels per match.

Such an all-encompassing array of abilities is part of the natural ability that Klopp knows, as does Gravenberch himself, no doubt, is yet to be harnessed to its full, latent but waiting for a breakthrough.

This crucial late stage of the campaign will call for rotation as Liverpool fight across two fronts, and while Szoboszlai is unquestionably one of the finest players on Liverpool’s books, the 6 foot 2 Gravenberch must now take this opportunity to make his mark.

Jones and Bajcetic are both returning from injury layoffs and there is no better time for Gravenberch to prove that he has what it takes to make his mark and aid his outfit in the fight for silverware.

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