·9 June 2023
·9 June 2023
So much recent talk has surrounded Liverpool’s midfield additions this summer, not to mention the tweak in system and Trent Alexander-Arnold’s role, but what about the attack?
Despite Roberto Firmino departing this summer, the Reds still look well-stocked in the attacking area of the pitch, so it would be a surprise to see a new signing come in.
In Mo Salah, Luis Diaz, Cody Gakpo, Diogo Jota and Darwin Nunez, there are five excellent options at Jurgen Klopp’s disposal, while youngster Ben Doak could also potentially enjoy more of a breakthrough season, especially in the Europa League.
Harvey Elliott can be deployed on the right-hand side, too, even though it isn’t necessarily his best role, while Fabio Carvalho is a squad option on the opposite flank, should he stay put.
When the players return from their much-needed summer holiday next month, there is going to be a fierce battle for competition in Liverpool’s attack.
While Salah is the biggest shoo-in imaginable, those other two places look fairly up for grabs, in what could be a fascinating four-way fight to impress Klopp the most.
On the left wing, there is no question that Diaz is in pole position to be the regular starter, though, even though he endured an injury-prone 2022/23 campaign.
The Colombian was a huge loss for many months – he had been one of their best players before he was forced off at Arsenal in October – and Liverpool’s below-par season could have been different without him around for longer.
A proper pre-season should see Diaz back to his best ahead of August, and there is no reason why he can’t return to the form he was in when he first arrived at Anfield.
His pace, directness and unpredictability scare the life out of defenders, although the one thing that could do with going up a gear is his overall end product.
That is something that some of his (very few) detractors could use against him, and in fairness, 11 goals and six assists in 47 appearances aren’t exactly Salah-esque numbers.
Diaz’s brilliance is not in question, however, and at 26, he could be about to his prime.
Gakpo was one of the few positives to take from 2022/23, arriving in January and not taking long to find his feet, almost playing a Firmino-type role leading the line.
His physicality, intelligence and link-up play make him an excellent foil for Salah and Diaz, with his ability to drop deep and create space for them such a key attribute.
Gakpo is quicker and more powerful than Firmino, however, and he is someone who could explode next season, scoring and providing at will, as well as doing the dirty work out of possession.
Then there’s Jota, who was another big miss for so much of the campaign but ended it impressively, scoring seven goals in April and May combined.
While the Portuguese may not always be as easy on the eye as a Diaz or a Gakpo, not always retaining possession as well or being a huge creator for others, his work-rate and finishing make him such a valuable asset.
There arguably isn’t a more nerveless player in front of goal at Liverpool than Jota, including Salah, and it is never a bad thing seeing his name in the starting lineup.
Whether he is as naturally effective as Diaz on the left, or as strong a linkman as Gakpo down the middle, is certainly up for debate, though.
Last but not least is Nunez, who arrived as such an exciting and big-name signing at Anfield last summer, but who flattered to deceive in his first year as a Reds player.
Some of the criticism that has come his way has been both laughable and typically knee-jerk of the modern football fan – he still scored 15 goals in 42 appearances – but there is also no arguing that he has struggled in facets of his game.
He looks raw as a player, and has taken longer to adapt than Gakpo, despite joining earlier, and he needs to become more polished moving forward.
Nunez has the pace and power to cause havoc, however, and all the ingredients are there for him to become a world-class attacker, if he can improve tactically.
Of course, there is no definitive ‘best’ XI, with injuries, form and rotation all coming into play, but if Liverpool had a huge game tomorrow, Diaz and Gakpo feel like Salah’s go-to partners in attack.
They bring the most balance to the team, with the former hugging the touchline and the latter linking nicely with the midfield and wide men, so Klopp should use them and Salah as his first-choice front-three.
That’s not to say that Jota and Nunez can’t oust them and that the picture won’t look different after pre-season, but it is hard to justify leaving Diaz and Gakpo out, as things stand.
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