Jurgen Klopp has already dropped a major Liverpool selection hint ahead of Arsenal clash
Liverpool face Premier League title rivals Arsenal and Jurgen Klopp has some decisions to make.
There might have been some Liverpool fans weren’t fully aware who Conor Bradley was until a month ago. Now supporters aplenty outside of Merseyside will know the Reds defender’s name – and his prowess.
Bradley is the toast of Anfield after his man-of-the-match display in the 4-1 victory over Chelsea. The 20-year-old scored his maiden Reds goal and registered two assists as Jurgen Klopp’s side’s es-established a five-point advantage at the summit of the Premier League table.
It was a performance that will long be heralded. Not only did Bradley impress on the front foot, but his defensive duties were impeccable. Raheem Sterling and Mykhaylo Mudryk – signed by Chelsea for a combined fee of £146.5 million – were nullified throughout.
Bradley’s performance did not come unexpected to those who have surveyed him of late, however. Making a fifth successive start, having thrived against Fulham over two legs in the Carabao Cup to help Liverpool reach the final, as well as earn a 4-0 league win over Bournemouth and a 5-2 triumph against Norwich in the FA Cup, his stellar wasn’t a bolt from the blue. Granted, the opposition was tougher but he stepped up duly.
Now ahead of a clash against title rivals Arsenal on Sunday, Bradley’s berth is an intriguing one. After a barnstorming performance and being involved in five goals in the past four games, his position should – as footballing theory goes – be insurmountable. But the Northern Ireland international plays in the same role as one of the highest-ranking Liverpool players.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is not only regarded among the most talented members of the Anfield squad but also in the Premier League. The 25-year-old has enjoyed a tremendous season since being switched to operate in a hybrid right-back/ midfield role, recording two goals and nine assists in 27 matches.
His performance in the 2-0 FA Cup win at Arsenal in the FA Cup at the start of January was immense. Yet a knee injury sustained in that third-round tie meant he was forced on the sidelines for a brief period.
During that time, Bradley deputised with aplomb. What’s more, his impressive performances enabled Alexander-Arnold to be eased back into action as he came off the bench against Norwich and Chelsea. The perfect return to fitness. The cobwebs have been blown out and the England international will feel he’s now fully up to speed.
Jamie Carragher reckons that Klopp has a selection dilemma – and Bradley will keep his spot. But, in truth, for all of the rightful plaudits and adulation Bradley has received, Alexander-Arnold is the superior player – and Klopp must deploy his best team against the Gunners.
Changes could well be made at the Emirates Stadium. The Liverpool boss admitted after Chelsea that some of his troops looked knackered in the dressing room. One of those could have been Bradley. Following the 2-1 Carabao Cup semi-final first-leg win over Fulham, Klopp quipped someone would have to drive the former Bolton loanee home given the energy he expended and the gusto he played with. Given his body is still developing, the busy schedule may just start to catch up.
On the left-hand side, Klopp has another decision to make. Joe Gomez’s form covering has been herculean while both senior left-backs Andy Robertson and Kostas Tsimikas were on the treatment table with respective shoulder and collarbone injuries. The 26-year-old has rejuvenated his Anfield career after a couple of indifferent seasons after a serious knee problem and has scarcely weakened the Reds despite playing out of position.
However, Gomez has started the past eight games due to the lack of cover. Like Alexander-Arnold, Robertson has been handed substitute cameos in the previous two games. The Scotland international is also first choice on the left-hand side of the rearguard.
Klopp won’t see this as a problem in the slightest. Managerial headaches are not when they have close decisions to make but when there are too few players to select from. One thing is clear, though. Fans won’t be grumbling about whoever is selected after the stylish Chelsea win.