By Chris Rowland.
These are confusing times to be a Liverpool supporter, and we were curious to know what people thought our best XI is (not that it can’t be flexible), in formations if preferred, and who are the seven to make the bench. We assumed everyone is fit and those on loan are unavailable for selection.
Here’s what our esteemed symposium members thought:
Dave Cronin: So many of our players are unknown quantities right now. Someone like Firmino was clearly bought to be in the XI but on performances to date, you wouldn’t pick him. You would assume Sturridge would be the first name on the teamsheet and yet we don’t yet know if he can re-become the player he was in 2013/14. And then there’s Jon Flanagan who became first choice left-back during 2013/14 and hasn’t kicked a ball for the first team since. Is a solitary campaign the season before last sufficient evidence to assess his credentials for a first team place?
I feel we have to play 3-5-2. The 3 is because we don’t have a left-back at the club. Moreno is clearly better as a wing-back. Gomez is a centre-back. Even Flanagan is right-footed. And Enrique is in purgatory. Also the 3 because I don’t want to see Can in midfield or right-back (ever) but I rate him in a back 3. It also gives us a chance to bring in Gomez as a centre-half without putting him under as much pressure as he’d face in the middle of a back 4. Clyne is an out-and-out right-back but I feel he’s capable of performing at wing-back.
My centre-halves would be Can, Skrtel and Sakho. I’d have Gomez on the bench with Toure as back up and Lovren as far away from the club as possible.
In the absence of an elite level goalkeeper, I’d select Mignolet over Bogdan. I can’t give any assessment of Bogdan so I’m sticking with the devil I know.
In central mid, you have to have Coutinho and Henderson in there so it’s one from Lucas, Milner or Allen to join them and it’s absolutely not Allen. But for the last two performances, I’d have picked Milner but his form has bombed. Based on my belief that these were atypical performances, I’m selecting him.
I’m picking two goalscorers up front because (a) I’m sick of seeing an isolated frontman and (b) I simply believe the more goalscorers you can get into your team, the better your chances of scoring goals. Of the first nine selections, only Coutinho and Henderson are likely to notch five or more goals over a season. That puts quite a reliance on your front two to get goals and so you need players up to that task.
Sturridge would be my first pick. Assuming he’s still the player he was and can stay fit, he’s a safe bet to notch 20+ League goals over a campaign. It’s then a toss-up between Benteke and Ings. Based on numerous factors such as career goals:game records, international pedigree, top flight experience, price tag, etc. I feel Benteke is the ‘better’ player. He already has 2 goals this season including that belter at Old Trafford. He feels a better bet to bag 20 League goals than Ings. And yet I like how Ings harries and harasses the life out of defences and I like his movement in contrast to the fairly static Benteke we’ve seen thus far. It boils down to who would forge the best partnership with Sturridge. I’m selecting Benteke but with that caveat.
My seven for the bench would be: Bogdan, Gomez, Lucas, Lallana, Ibe, Firmino and Ings. Though bereft of form, Ibe is there to add pace late in games when needed and as cover for right wing-back. Henderson can also flip to right wing-back with Lucas or Lallana coming on if needed. Lallana gets the nod over Allen based on goal threat. Firmino will flip with Coutinho on 60’ until he earns a starting berth and Ings allows us to wrap Sturridge in cotton wool after the latter gets his goal per game.
Andrew Fanko (TTT subscriber Arisesirrafa): I think you always have to find a way to get your best players on the pitch. For me, our current squad lacks any real quality in wide attacking areas, so the 4-diamond-2 looks to be the way to go:
Clyne Skrtel Sakho Moreno
We have two proven Premier League goalscorers in our squad, and this is one way of getting them both in the team. It also puts the clearly talented Firmino in a central position, from where he has already shown he is capable of shooting from long range. I think Henderson and Coutinho played on the outside of the diamond when we were at our brilliant best in the second half of 2013/14. They have the legs to play there and both love to press high. Allen seems to be the ‘least bad option’ as the holding player at the moment. He lacks Lucas’s aerial ability, but is far more mobile and can be trusted on the ball.
The back four picks itself. Clyne is a full-back, not a wing-back, and Moreno definitely looks the better option at Anfield (I’d probably play Flanagan at left-back for the harder away games). Sakho isn’t quite the panacea he’s made out to be by some, but it’s clear that he is a far superior player to Lovren and is crucial to our preferred method of playing out from the back. Skrtel will never be perfect, and I’d like to take a close look at Gomez at centre-back in the EL and domestic cup games this season, but the Slovakian is solid enough for now. We all know Mignolet has his flaws, but again there isn’t a viable alternative at this stage.
Alex Tate (TTT Subscriber Tattva): As new wave crept through suburban England and the last detritus of punk found its way in to the now emptied rubbish bins, I used to wait eagerly for Monday lunchtime. This is when the school First XI would appear on the wall outside my classroom. My eyes would be drawn to number 3, as next to it, in blue ink from a fountain pen, would be written Alex Tate. For I was the school’s left-back.Not a big surprise, as our teacher, Mr Story, young Yorkshireman with dark red hair and thick beard, would write the same XI names down each week and the three accompanying subs, maybe with minor tinkering in case someone had a runny nose or their mum was about to cart them off to the dentist.
Unfortunately Brendan Rogers doesn’t have it so easy, and therefore with this symposium, neither do we. I’ve not a great mind for tactics nor how our group of players best fit on any given day, so I’m picking my XI on what I feel are our best players in certain positions which will offer at least some resistance to the opposition.
Mignolet is an easy pick for goalie. He’s the best at the club. Bogdan will be on the bench as he’s the second toughest in the infants, sorry, second best goalie at the club.
Across the back four: Clyne, Skrtel, Sakho, Gomez
Taking up room in the middle: Can, Milner, Henderson
Spearheading the attack: Coutinho, Benteke, Sturridge
Playing dominos: Firmino, Ings, Lallana, Ibe, Lucas, Moreno and the be-gloved Bogdan.
This, if not much more, gives us silk and steel, beast and ballet, Benteke and Ben Wiltshire – he was a very small kid at our school who wanted to play in goal. Regardless, this balance should be able to cope with Stoke whilst unpicking Chelsea’s lock. The bench offers credible replacements, in certain areas very similar ones so not as to disrupt the on field XI.
But its limitations – maybe the lack of something different? Should we not be enjoying our trip to the Potteries or are being caught red-handed by the Keystone Cops at the Bridge, such is our inability to carry out a smash and grab then fresh legs maybe the best on offer.
This is where the current Liverpool team are lacking in comparison to the richer teams; options. These are limited each week beyond a main hardcore of regulars. If our regulars are world class, brilliant. But they’re not. And our subs are worse. Which seems harsh but let’s face it, you’d be warming up your muscles rather than the bench come 3pm Saturday if you were shit hot.
Omissions are part and parcel of squad games. Lovren is missing, so, no change there. And Allen, well despite his small size, I couldn’t seem to fit him in.
This selection was easier than expected and I’m worried I’ve committed glaring faux pas. But, now if you ask me how this XI will function down either flank if Coutinho is shackled and Sturridge has been isolated, then I’ve gone AWOL with Dejan.
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