Squad depth. A once terrifying thought that has been terrorising Anfield for years. Now the mist has settled and the gloom all-but disappeared. The much-adored Jurgen Klopp has finally restored an element to football that is crucial to any form of success on the pitch.
Liverpool can finally boast a more than promising squad of talented players, all the way from the starting number one to the youngest and least experienced youth team members that have forced their way into the German’s long-term plans.
Liverpool’s squad was once a cause of concern rather than optimism. Yet now, as the Reds lie top of the table with six wins from six, 14 goals scored, just two conceded and a Champions League victory over Paris Saint Germain to their name, fans may finally breathe a huge sigh of relief.
With crucial summer signings now well and truly settled into life on Merseyside, now may be the time that we see the Liverpool that every fan knows are there, the Liverpool that has been dormant for far too long. It is, of course, Klopp who deserves a hefty majority of the praise for gathering such an impressive and hopeful squad of players.
The charismatic manager has indeed utilised his squad in recent matches given the congested fixture list, with the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Xherdan Shaqiri and Joel Matip coming into the frame in both the Premier League and the Champions League. On a positive note for the Reds, such players have come into the fore and have done more than enough, with all three having crucial impacts on the games they played. Excitingly, it shows that players are remaining hungry despite a lack of game time. And more encouragingly, it shows just how far Liverpool have come in recent seasons under Klopp.
When the German arrived, most fans would want to cover their ears and eyes at even the thought of several players in the starting line-up, never mind those named on the substitute’s bench. Jerome Sinclair, Adam Bogdan, and Jordon Ibe all featured on Klopp’s first ever bench in a goalless draw at Spurs three years ago. Three years on and the manager travelled to London to beat the same opposition 2-1, with Jordan Henderson, Sturridge, and Shaqiri headlining a bench also including summer signing Fabinho. How times have changed at the Merseyside club.
On a more worrying note, however, while the Reds have progressed, their squad may not be on the same level as their Premier League counterparts. Fortunately, at the minute, this is an idea that resides solely on paper. Considering their latest encounter at West Ham, the Blues boast a hugely talented squad, with players like Cesc Fabregas, Ross Barkley, Gary Cahill, and Alvaro Morata all waiting in the wings ready to impress. With Chelsea’s squad perhaps resembling that of Liverpool’s, it’s more than fair to suggest that the Manchester City squad is a cut above the rest.
Pep Guardiola has the freedom to switch his starting 11 as often as he wishes, with Vincent Kompany, John Stones, David Silva, Riyad Mahrez, and Gabriel Jesus all comprising a simply mesmerising bench. It may just be the most talented squad that English football has ever witnessed, yet the current league table may suggest otherwise. It may prove once again that unity and determination can overcome all the riches in the world.
For Liverpool and their title rivals Man City and Chelsea, a long and demanding season involving numerous cups and endless travel will inevitably take its toll. And so, it will more than likely all boil down to squad depth as injuries and other issues hit each of the clubs throughout the challenging year ahead.
Last night’s Carabao Cup meeting between the Reds and the Blues may just prove that the latter are slightly ahead. Although star man Hazard came to their rescue, the goal would undeniably have been avoided had Liverpool had their first team defenders on hand to deal with the situation.
Can Liverpool go the distance this time around with an accomplished and gifted group of players? Or will they be hit hard with the same old issues that have caused so much pain for the Anfield faithful over recent years?