Transfer Talk: Five midfielders Liverpool could Kop in January
For so long one of their strengths, Liverpool’s midfield was exposed in their entertaining 2-2 draw with Chelsea.
The Reds lacked control and were no match for Blues pair N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic.
The trio of Fabinho, James Milner and Jordan Henderson struggled to cope and with Naby Keita heading to the Africa Cup of Nations, Jurgen Klopp is light on options to switch things up.
A coronavirus outbreak at the Anfield club has resulted in tonight's Carabao Cup tie against Arsenal being rescheduled for later in the month.
Klopp's side are due to face Shrewsbury in the FA Cup on Sunday but are not in league action until January 16.
With time to dwell on future acquisitions, we have identified five targets the German coach could sign to bolster his midfield this month.
Brazilian midfielder Fabinho is the only specialist defensive midfielder at Liverpool — and it is a long-standing problem for Klopp.
Borussia Monchengladbach star Denis Zakaria, 25, is out of contract this summer and would be a suitable deputy for the Brazilian in the deep-lying role.
His availability should mean he is on the market at a knock-down price — something Liverpool’s recruitment department are fond of.
Zakaria ranks third among all Bundesliga central midfielders for possession regains in the defensive third (3.93 per 90 minutes).
But the Swiss is not one-dimensional. He is an excellent ball carrier, evidenced by two successful take-ons per 90 minutes — putting him fourth in the Bundesliga.
Rivals Manchester United are reportedly keen on the 6ft 3in midfielder which could see a transfer battle develop.
Though Henderson and Milner struggled against Chelsea, the experience and leadership they provide is important.
At 36, Milner will leave Liverpool sooner rather than later, while Henderson will be 32 next season.
One player who could replace such experienced operators is Croatian midfielder Marcelo Brozovic, 29.
Inter Milan are unlikely to want to let him leave and there is talk of a new contract. But with his current deal expiring in June, Liverpool could make a move.
He is exactly the type of hard-working midfielder who would fit Klopp’s system.
Brozovic ranks 11th versus all central midfielders in Serie A for possession regains in the middle third (4.28 per 90 minutes) and is also an astute user of the ball.
With 73.27 completed passes per 90 minutes, the Croatian is third in Serie A overall and comes out on top for long passes — perfect for quick transitions.
Marseille midfielder Boubacar Kamara, 22, has attracted interest from across Europe.
He is another whose current deal expires this summer and is one of the more valuable players soon to be available for nothing.
Kamara is yet to reach his full potential, which would be attractive to Liverpool as they like to sign players who can still improve.
A ball winner who can press, read the play and intercept or win tackles, Kamara typically operates at the base of Marseille’s midfield but can also operate at centre-back.
Comfortable in possession — evidenced by 64.48 completed passes per 90 minutes (sixth in Ligue 1) — diagonal balls from left to right are his trademark.
In terms of age, quality, versatility and availability, Kamara would seem like a favourable option for a January signing.
Brazilian midfielder Bruno Guimaraes, 24, has been one of the standout players in Europe for the past year.
He has been able to show his talents despite playing in a Lyon side which struggled this season — they currently sit in the bottom half of the table.
Despite that, Guimaraes ranks third among Ligue 1 central midfielders for successful take-ons (2.24 per 90 minutes) and is second for final-third completions (19.01). Furthermore, he is 12th for chances created (1.71).
Guimaraes will be looking to break into the Brazil team on a more regular basis, adding to the three Selecao caps he has already won. In order to do so, he might seek a move to a bigger side.
He has the quality to play Champions League football on a regular basis and this might also be the best time for Lyon to cash in if they are to rebuild for next season.
Monaco prospect Aurelien Tchouameni, 21, would be another good option for Liverpool if they want an alternative to Fabinho.
After all, it was from Les Monegasques that Liverpool signed Fabinho in 2018 and the 28-year-old has been a revelation.
The Frenchman would be useful for the high press Klopp likes from his deepest midfielder and could even play slightly more advanced if Liverpool needed a more defensively-minded player further forward.
With a contract that runs until 2024, he would command a much higher fee than many of the other players mentioned here.
But if Liverpool are serious about improving their squad to challenge Manchester City and give Klopp the tools he needs, they could combine their sound scouting with shrewd spending on the right players.