After surging to six-straight wins in the Premier League as well as a major scalp in the Champions League – taking the form of the fearsome Paris Saint-Germain – Liverpool slumped, somewhat, entering the October international break.
After crushing feeder club Southampton 3-0 at Anfield, the Reds lost to Chelsea 2-1 in the League Cup, redeeming themselves with a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge a few days later. But then, October started with a 1-0 loss to Napoli and then a lucky – due to a missed penalty – 0-0 draw against Manchester City at home.
These are by no means disastrous results, and leaving the early cup competition could help Liverpool coming towards the crowded fixtures scheduled for the winter, but going without a win in four games isn’t expected from a club as formidable as Liverpool this season.
Regardless of this slight skid, Liverpool are still the most feared team in the Premier League, with their closest competitor, Pep Guardiola of Manchester City, proclaiming that the Reds are the best team in the world when it comes to attacking and defending transitions and now boast a strong defensive corps, per the Liverpool Echo.
But, as is the case every season, injuries can derail an optimistic campaign. Luckily for Liverpool, the team is rife with talented depth, giving them very little by way of weaknesses.
Immense depth in Liverpool’s ranks
For many teams, losing an influential playmaker like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for an entire season would be detrimental to their title aspirations without a big-money signing to cover, but Liverpool have continued to excel in the English midfielder’s absence.
However, against the champions, midfield stalwart James Milner suffered a hamstring injury, potentially ruling him out until November. But, Liverpool have enough talent to cover for both Milner in the short term and Oxlade-Chamberlain in the long term.
One such player who could see more game time is the £40.5 million summer signing from AS Monaco, Fabinho. He hasn’t seen much game time so far because Jurgen Klopp is intent on easing him into the team’s space-squeezing style of play, but with over three months as a Red since his 1st of July 2018 switch, Fabinho should be tuned-in enough to cover in the middle of the park.
It’s this elite-level depth that has Liverpool labelled as the challengers to Manchester City this season. But it’s not just in the Premier League where Liverpool has been tipped to contend thanks to their strong squad. As of the 12th of October, Liverpool are at 14/1 to win the Premier League and Champions League with Betway, showing how much belief there is in Klopp’s hard-to-beat style of play, super strike force, greatly improved defensive corps, and strength in depth.
Another grand example of Liverpool’s depth comes in the form of diminutive £13.23 million summer signing Xherdan Shaqiri. While the Swiss whizz only played in six of the team’s 11 contests before the international break – due to the likes of Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, and Sadio Mane leading the front line – he says that he’s relaxed playing the waiting game and ready to perform when called upon, as reported by The Independent.
Is there a chink in Liverpool’s armour?
In the 0-0 draw against Manchester City at Anfield on the 7th of October, Liverpool came very close to losing the game after Virgil van Dijk’s challenge in the box resulted in a penalty. Luckily for the Reds, City’s £61 million summer signing, Riyad Mahrez, blazed the ball over the bar.
While Virgil van Dijk is the decisive factor in the Liverpool defence transforming from being as porous as cheesecloth to a respected backline, sometimes his strength and power get the better of him, as was the case against City. Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman says that his captain needs to be less laid back because of his physical attributes.
But, this isn’t Liverpool’s biggest potential weakness; their weakness is what they’d do without Virgil van Dijk. The only game that Van Dijk hasn’t played this season is the League Cup match against Chelsea, which Liverpool lost 2-1 with Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip at centre back.
Joe Gomez has played remarkably well alongside the big Dutchman this season, creating a cohesive and effective duo with Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold down the flanks. But, if the Englishman were to be saddled with Matip or Lovren, the defence would certainly struggle.
An extended injury to Virgil van Dijk would put Liverpool’s trophy hopes in jeopardy, but, one of the many great aspects of Van Dijk is that he’s very hard to break. According to Transfermarkt, the Netherlands captain has only ever suffered two prolonged injury stints, missing 18 games with Southampton due to an ankle injury in 2017, and seven games with Groningen in 2012 following an appendectomy.
Jurgen Klopp has built a team that’s deep with class, able to weather a slew of injuries and the winter fixtures list. Liverpool look primed for a run at both the Champions League and Premier League this season thanks to this strength in depth.