The Anfield Wrap’s match preview before Wolves v Liverpool in the Premier League at Molineux, as a crucial month lies ahead for The Reds…
HERE we go again, then.
I’ll admit I don’t particularly look forward to the footy at the moment.
There are times when you just have to admit it’s a season of transition and Liverpool are currently enduring theirs. Ninth in the league and out of the FA and Carabao Cup, the chances of getting some sort of salvation are running thin.
The focus now will be ensuring Champions League football for next season. It’s a challenge that leaves little room for manoeuvre with Newcastle, Tottenham, Manchester United and Chelsea all strengthening, but one the manager has proven in the past he can solve.
He will no doubt have taken positives from the performance against Brighton despite the result. Indeed, for 75 minutes, Liverpool felt more coherent. They maintained more of a shape than we’ve seen all season and they were largely sensible. Whether that says more about the performance itself or the bar that’s been set shall be left entirely to your interpretation, but it was an improvement and at this point any small wins will do.
Liverpool will know they have work to do, but a few positive results can change the mood quickly. Wolves would seem the perfect fixture to kickstart that run, having struggled themselves this season. They are a team desperately lacking in creativity and cutting edge and the hope will be that our patched-up defence can muddle through.
Ibrahima Konate’s recent injury leaves options thin on the ground, meaning Joel Matip will likely partner Joe Gomez. Trent-Alexander Arnold and Andy Robertson complete the back four, with the former hoping to see out the 90 minutes after being subbed last week.
Onto the midfield, then. Everyone’s favourite topic. In an ideal world Liverpool would’ve brought in new blood in January to provide a lift like Luis Diaz did last season, but for whatever reason or circumstance we’ve decided to stick, leaving Jürgen Klopp and his staff to find solutions from within.
That means keeping faith in young Stefan Bajcetic, who has been a breath of fresh air in midfield as Fabinho continues his slump. The Reds have looked their most assured when the 18-year-old has acted as anchor, giving Thiago Alcantara and Naby Keita more freedom to influence proceedings.
It’s far from perfect, but in them Liverpool have a midfield that has legs, they work together as a unit and there are remnants of a press. Keeping a consistent three and establishing some rhythm will be key with some big games ahead.
In attack, it feels as though changes are needed. For all the work put in to try and solve the ongoing defensive and midfield riddle, the front three continues to misfire.
Cody Gakpo hasn’t had the ideal start to life at Liverpool but for whatever reason has yet to be played in his most natural position while Mohamed Salah has been crowded out. Shifting the Dutchman out to the left and playing Darwin Nunez through the middle would appear an obvious solution, providing a focal point upfront.
It’s harsh on Harvey Elliott, who has been a rare bright spark in recent weeks, but the 19-year-old can make a difference from the bench if required.
That 11 should have more than enough to get past Wolves and hopefully kickstart our campaign with Diogo Jota, Virgil van Dijk and Roberto Firmino all soon to return.
Five matches in February. Five chances to begin righting the wrongs.
Wolves up first. Only three points will do.
Predicted 11: Alisson; Trent, Matip, Gomez, Robertson; Bajcetic, Keita, Thiago; Salah, Gakpo, Nunez