Faced with early season fixture congestion, Jurgen Klopp made no fewer than 10 changes to his Liverpool line-up for last week’s Carabao Cup second round tie against Lincoln City. There was a time not so long ago when this turnover, even against lower league opposition, would have concerned fans of the Anfield club. Now, though, that is not the case. Despite the changes, Liverpool had no trouble in sweeping aside Lincoln City, putting seven goals past the League One outfit. Marko Grujic, Curtis Jones, Divock Origi, Takumi Minamino and Xherdan Shaqiri all found the back of the net, with Virgil Van Dijk the only first team figure to start the match at Sincil Bank. It was an illustration of the squad depth Liverpool now boast. That depth has also been evident in Liverpool’s start to the 2020/21 Premier League season, with Klopp already fielding 17 different players in just two games so far this season. The Reds boast a number of different options and the German is willing to use them all. Liverpool’s strongest XI has been settled for the last two seasons. The addition of Thiago Alcantara this summer is in fact the first time a player has shaken up Klopp’s favoured lineup since the signing of Alisson Becker from Roma two summers ago. Before that, it was Van Dijk who last disrupted the Liverpool first team.
Keepy ups, flicks and training ground tricks
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) September 26, 2020
Underneath that first team, though, Klopp and the recruitment staff at Anfield have focused on adding quality. They have done this through the cultivation of academy graduates like Jones and Neco Williams, and through the transfer market, where Liverpool have proved themselves as shrewd operators in recent years. The latter continued this summer, with Kostas Tsimikas signed from Olympiacos to provide cover for Andy Robertson and £45 million paid to Wolves for Diogo Jota, the Portuguese forward who has given Klopp another option in the attacking third. Jota’s skillset is very much line with that of his new colleagues at Anfield and so Liverpool should now be able to rotate their forwards more freely without having to change their approach. See how Klopp withdrew Sadio Mane for Jota late on against Arsenal, with the newbie scoring the Reds’ third goal. Last Thursday’s performance against Lincoln City underlined how the tactical framework put in place by Klopp sustains Liverpool’s squad as a whole and not just the first team. This is a sign of good coaching. Look at how Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United side are frequently incapable of playing the same way when they make only two or three changes to their first team. Liverpool don’t have that problem. Klopp’s philosophy has been instilled in every senior squad figure at Anfield. Thiago’s signing wasn’t made with squad depth in mind, but the 29-year-old’s arrival on Merseyside has turned Liverpool into a more adaptable team. While the Reds were previously a side built around their full backs (Trent Alexander-Arnold and Robertson) as primary creators, Thiago means they can now create more through the centre of the pitch. Between Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita, Thiago and Georgino Wijnaldum, not to mention James Milner and Jones, Liverpool have scope to rest and rotate their midfielders without fear of any significant drop off.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) September 26, 2020
There are still some areas in which Liverpool are a little short. Primarily, the failure to replace Dejan Lovren, who left the club for Zenit St Petersburg earlier in the summer, means Klopp could be forced to use Fabinho as a central defender should Van Dijk or Joe Gomez be sidelined through injury or suspension. That is far from an ideal scenario. Nonetheless, Liverpool’s squad is deeper than it has been in decades. That hasn’t happened by accident. It is the result of a long process which has demanded the synchronisation of several club figures and departments. Klopp won’t make 10 changes for a single game many times over the course of a season, but when he does he can now rest a little easier.