Almost exactly a year ago, Liverpool were forced to play a centre-back duo of Jordan Henderson and Schalke loanee Ozan Kabak in the last 16 of the Champions League against RB Leipzig. For further context, Henderson is a central midfielder, and Kabak is now struggling for game-time at relegation candidates Norwich City. Time has since passed, however, and, as shown by Inter Milan v Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp now has a better squad than ever.
One year on, Liverpool were able to bring on Henderson, Naby Keita, Roberto Firmino, and recent big-money signing Luis Diaz, as they overcame initial struggles to defeat Inter Milan at the San Siro. In usual circumstance, the calibre of the aforementioned players coming on indicated that Klopp opted to field a weakened side. This was anything but the case on a foggy Wednesday evening in Milan, though. Klopp’s side was simply too good to advocate for those with a place on the bench. And that must only be seen as a positive.
Inter Milan v Liverpool: The Best Example Yet of Jurgen Klopp’s Newfound Squad Depth
More Options Than Ever
When Roberto Firmino and Luis Diaz are forced to watch on from the bench because of an overload in quality, it can only mean good things are happening. For the first time in his Liverpool tenure, Klopp has a group so talented that even finding a place on the bench is proving difficult for some.
It is squad depth finally similar to that of Chelsea’s or Manchester City’s. Almost every position now has two incredibly strong options. Take Sadio Mane away, and you’ve got Diaz. Take Diogo Jota away, and you’ve got Firmino. Take Fabinho, in comes Henderson. Keita for Thiago Alcantara. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for Harvey Elliott. Kostas Tsimikas for Andy Robertson. Joe Gomez and Ibrahima Konate for Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip.
There is no longer a major drop off in quality from A to B. It adds competition for places, too, and with that competition comes improvement. Look at Robertson, for example. Many were calling for the left-back to be dropped in the first-half of the season, with Tsimikas more than providing a well-fought battle. Since the beginning of that fight, though, Robertson has re-found his previously world class level of performance. It could be argued that, without Tsimikas’ push, that improvement would have never arrived.
It is a push that Diaz can provide Mane with, and a push that Elliott is giving Henderson, alongside the entirety of an ever-growing midfield.
Chance of Silverware Awaits
Still in every competition, with a fully fit and firing squad, Liverpool have every chance of securing silverware this season.
The Reds have already booked their place at Wembley for the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea on February 27 in what could be a battle to savour. Having defeated Inter 2-0 in the away leg of the Champions League last 16, too, they’ll be more than confident of reaching the last eight. Meanwhile, Norwich await in the next round of the FA Cup – another tie Liverpool should win.
Even the Premier League is far from over yet. Manchester City have continued to march on, but lose to Liverpool, and the gap will be down to six points, which could go down to three if the Reds win their game in hand. The Premier League script writers love a dramatic ending, as City know all too well. This time, however, it could be the Citizens on the receiving end.
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