We haven’t had this problem for so long. We’ve so many excellent players that it’s getting to be a problem sorting out what actually is our ‘first’ team. I think it’s important to point out that it should probably read ‘starting’ team rather than ‘first’ as with five subs it’s more of a squad game than ever before.
Over the last couple of weeks the emergence of Conor Bradley has brought us a welcome dilemma. How can we drop the lad to the bench? He’s suddenly become a massive asset to the team both defensively and in attack. I think he’s won himself a starting position.
So to the next obvious question, what do we do about Trent Alexander-Arnold?
I argued earlier in the season that we needed a top right-back. Trent, I suggested, was being done no favours by shunting backwards and forwards from midfield to right-back. Teams were targeting the right side when attacking and Trent understandably struggled when in transition. He simply can’t be in two places at once! I really don’t think we can bench Trent. He’s a generational talent, has top class delivery and is an incredible passer of a ball. He simply has to play.
Well, we appear to have a solution – Bradley plays right-back, with Trent in midfield. The problem with that of course is we’ve only got two other midfield positions.
My vote would go for Alexis Mac Allister who was superb against Chelsea, having by far his best match. We’ve moaned about him being played out of position at number 6, but he broke play down remarkably well and looked highly impressive in the role. He has to start.
My other starting role I think I’m giving to Curtis Jones. He keeps the ball so well, and is still improving. He can be the cement that keeps the team together, and a link between midfield and attack. Dominik Szoboszlai had a brilliant start to the season, but then became a little quieter. At the moment, I think he has to take a place on the bench.
I’d tend to rely on Trent and MacAllister to take on responsibility of looking after the team as a whole. In transition in particular one of them has to be aware of needing to cover defensively. I’m looking at versatility rather than playing a ‘number 6’ as such.
What about the rest of the defence? After all Joe Gomez is in the form of his life. I’m going to ask Joe to be first-line defensive cover on the bench. Apart from Bradley, as discussed, I’m going for Virgil van Dijk, Ibou Konate and the ever reliable Andy Robertson.
Up front when all are fit, I’m playing Mo Salah wide right and Luis Diaz, who is getting better with each game, wide left. I’m playing Diogo Jota, who is in excellent form down the middle and is scoring goals for fun. Darwin Nunez is in good form, but hasn’t quite got his scoring boots on at the moment. His time will come, and he can be a top class impact player off the bench for the time being.
If we need energy in the middle of the park I’ll bring on Szoboszlai and, if we need more pushing forward, or even better linkage between midfield and the front, Cody Gakpo. If we’re ’under the cosh ’ or struggling to hold counter attacks, Wataru Endo will be back soon. He could possibly come on for Curtis in these situations. If we’re looking good, but need more energy and control in the middle, we also have the ever willing Harvey Elliott to come on.
So this is my starting team, with any number of top-class options from the bench that can cope with any mid game needs.
I know we’ll all have our own choices, and there will of course be different starting teams depending on fitness, availability and of course the opposition strengths and weaknesses.
Let me know your thoughts. What I do know is that it’s an amazing time to be a Red!
If you like Dr Andy Hershon’s writing, check out his book – 15 Minutes With You: Tips on Medical Consulation and Other Musings