Jurgen Klopp fielded an alternative eleven against Exeter in an entertaining FA Cup draw that sees a replay at Anfield in a few weeks, but now Liverpool turn focus back to the Premier League with successive games against two big rivals at Anfield. The Hype Train analyses the extent of their problems and risks or rewards of backing the Reds to results and crucial FPL points in the coming weeks.
Liverpool have beaten Stoke twice at home this season by the same score line each time, things are looking good for the Red's to return to Wembley in March but in the process have been hit with an injury dilemma like none other. This article emphasizes the foul mood the FPL community have with extended breaks and fixtures that don't revolve around the thirty eight games of the season.
Teams can be rotated, players can be injured, and players may drop off or lose their places in the starting team by the drop of a pin. Jürgen Klopp is at a crossroads as Liverpool manager as he weighs up his defensive options with another cup fixture on the horizon, and two crucial games in the league following that up. You have to remember as well that this could be a long term thing for the Red's as they are still in every competition, including the dreaded Europa League which is a form killer for teams.
The big reason for the concern is that Liverpool has two games of significance after the cup period with Arsenal and Manchester United in a row, both at home. Here are their key injuries, and it doesn't just include their defence but also their more attacking players too.
Martin Skrtel - Returning in February
Mamadou Sakho - unknown return
Kolo Toure - state of injury unknown
Dejan Lovren - Hamstring injury
Phillipe Coutinho - Hamstring Injury
Jordan Henderson - Foot injury
Divock Origi - Hamstring injury
Daniel Sturridge - Based on character from 'Unbreakable'
Jordan Ibe – Hamstring injury
This list also doesn't include Danny Ings or Joe Gomez whose absence has hurt Liverpool. Here is the state of their injuries. James Milner has just returned from injury which may also cause problems.
FA Cup vs Exeter & Schedule
There was also a FA Cup tie against Exeter to be concerned with as things could go from bad to worse with an additional fixture thrown in after an experimental squad drew with a resilient and deserving Exeter. Liverpool played the following team:-
Shey Ojo was also used, but we mention the line up as some of these players may be called up to feature in the busy period for Liverpool in some capacity.
Tiago Ilori: The only fit centre back available to Liverpool, would be stupid not to him.
Brad Smith: Left-back who actually replaced Moreno against West Ham, scored against Exeter.
Shey Ojo: A winger in the same class of Jordan Ibe and could be a like for like inclusion.
Ryan Kent: Shined on loan at Coventry, is a natural winger and may be used to ease pressure.
Jerome Sinclair: Scored a good poachers goal, is a natural striker and could help come in if Benteke is unfit.
This isn’t a bad situation for Liverpool but a pinch of salt must be taken because when a club starts delving into its academy ranks for players things aren’t great. The first team has been blighted and others must want to step up, this increases the risk of rotation at Liverpool and FPL manager will want to steer clear of Klopp using what is at his disposal. Based on his time at Dortmund he was prolific for elevating young talent, Liverpool supporters would endorse it on one hand, but FPL managers will be sighing under their breath.
Liverpool is in desperate need of reinforcements, particularly if their injury problems do persist for the rest of the season. The areas where they need reinforcement are clear as crystal: striker cover, a new centre back, and perhaps a winger as Liverpool have no width in their squad. They can recalled a couple of academy prospects such as Ryan Kent and Ojo who can plan on the wings, as well as Tiago Ilori who is the only fit centre back, but it isn’t enough if Liverpool are to endure the next few months.
Should Liverpool sign anyone that they won’t immediately loan out again it will change their team dynamic, so if they do buy their status as a wildcard further increases. They have been linked with the likes of Alexandre Pato, Neven Subotic, and Sydney Sam, all of which are realistic targets and players Klopp is familiar with. Should Liverpool sign anyone the likelihood of a complete change of fortune is unlikely, more players just complicates things even further and actually creates even more uncertainty for starting line ups. It is not all good when it comes to the transfer market, on paper it is there to improve teams but there is also bad that comes with the good for every team.
I think the core reason for Klopp dipping into the market is to sort out his defensive problems that appear to be everlasting. Nobody wants to see Jose Enrique playing centre back.
Starting Eleven vs Arsenal
Currently Lucas and Emre Can could fill in at the central defensive positions but this has many Liverpool supporters and FPL managers gritting their teeth if they have Nathaniel Clyne or Alberto Moreno in their squads, the only plus is that Tiago Ilori has been recalled from loan at Aston Villa and could fill in at the centre.
Any Liverpool fan who would be asked if Toure and Ilori would become centre back partners would have told you it’d never happen. Liverpool is a wildcard team this season and key injuries to their defense might doom them against any teams. Unfortunately rivals Man Utd and title hopefuls Arsenal should be setting off alarm bells about the extent of their injury crisis.
The best FPL options from Liverpool are Nathaniel Clyne, Alberto Moreno, and Christian Benteke. They aren’t the strongest options as Benteke can go missing from time to time and Liverpool’s defence has been consistently problematic. You don’t know from game-to-game if Liverpool are going to show up or not, but usually they fare well in big games and with these two occasions on the horizons FPL managers may have a sense of caution creeping in the back of their heads.
Long Term Problems
This has massive FPL repercussions because Liverpool's injury concerns means you won't trust any player out of fear that at any point they will catch the disease Sturridge has spread at Anfield. Lovren lasted less than a third of the game before he was off, the same with Coutinho. The bigger problem is that once a player has returned from injury doesn't mean they will stay fit for the rest of the season, so Liverpool are left with the same problem with fit players. A more permanent solution is needed, and if one isn't found then confidence from the FPL community may diminish. However, with all bad news gives way to opportunity.
If you had Arsenal and Manchester United players in your squads for these two consecutive gameweek's the natural thing is to feel confident. Attackers are a valid option from both these teams so from the ashes of the Red's injury woes spurns the oppurtunity to exploit that. Martial, Giroud, Walcott, and perhaps even Rooney might be good value for money in the coming weeks if things don't improve for Liverpool.
Can Liverpool beat Arsenal and Manchester United? Maybe, draws in these fixtures are more likely, particularly in the latter fixture. Arsenal have struggled getting a win at Anfield in a few years and some trends don’t buck, but on paper both of the visiting teams would be considered favourites.
For now Liverpool should be avoided for your transfers for the next gameweek. They are wildcards and may surprise everyone, and that goes both ways if your back against them or supporting them. You never know what you get with the Red's, but, should their injury crisis continue it may mean player stacking against Liverpool will become the norm.