Last season marked the first time that Liverpool had ever won the Premier League. It was their first title since the 1989/90 season, so, it can hardly be classed as anything but a resounding success. But now, this season, the Premier League appears to be out-of-reach, they’ve been eliminated from all domestic cups, and the Champions League remains the only feasible option. Although this is being blamed on injuries, another factor may also be at play for Liverpool- an ageing squad.
In January 2021, Liverpool played Tottenham. Their starting line-up that day comprised a team with an average age of 29.1 years old. Only on two other occasions has Liverpool’s average age been higher in a league match, and only once has it been higher in a Premier League season.
An Ageing Squad Thwarting Liverpool Progress
Should Fans Be Worried?
Despite this, Liverpool fans should not be worried about their future squad, with the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold (aged 22); Curtis Jones (20), Harvey Elliott (17), and Caoimhín Kelleher (22) all having a promising future ahead of them at Liverpool.
Instead, Liverpool should be concerned about the lack of effective players aged in the prime-age bracket, 23-26 years old. In the current squad, only Naby Keita (25); Joe Gomez (23); Diogo Jota (24); Kostas Tsimikas (24); Andy Robertson (26); and Divock Origi (25) are aged in this bracket, along with others out on loan. How many of these players would be good enough, or be fit enough, to play 30+ games a season?
From this list, it would only be Gomez, Jota and Robertson who could play regularly, with Keita too injury-prone; Origi not good enough, and Tsimikas acting as understudy to Robertson.
The Front Three: Big Part of the Ageing Liverpool Squad
The problem for Liverpool though is not that they have an old squad; or that they have a young squad, but instead, it is one where there is not an even spread of ages.
Take the front three, for example, Firmino is aged 29, and Mané and Salah are 28. In three years time, provided they all remain loyal to Liverpool, will Salah and Mane still have their pace? Will they still be as sharp?
Over the past few seasons, Firmino’s goal return as reduced rapidly. At his peak, Firmino was averaging 0.4 goals per game in the 2017/18 season. Whereas, as of matchday 26 in the 2020/21 season, this has almost halved to 0.22 goals per 90 in all competitions.
As Jamie Carragher recently acknowledged, it is likely that the front-three will be rejigged in the coming seasons. Recently, Firmino has been the weakest link in a very strong attack and is a year older than Salah and Mané, so it is likely that he will be replaced the soonest.
This could see Jota come into the starting line-up, with Salah moved centrally. Or alternatively, Liverpool may make a new signing.
Harvey Elliott has enjoyed a fruitful spell on loan at Blackburn Rovers, scoring five goals and getting nine assists, but his young age means that there is no rush to bed him in too quickly.Although, when looking into the future, it is clear he has a place in this Liverpool side.
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