Liverpool

Liverpool could finally unleash summer signing as injury blow threatens £110m plan

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Liverpool could finally unleash summer signing as injury blow threatens £110m plan

 

The return of Wataru Endo is a welcome boost for Jurgen Klopp but Liverpool have rarely had the option of fielding a new-look midfield.

 

It is the midfield Liverpool spent more than £110million to construct. And it has seen the light of day for less than two hours of competitive action.

 

Even then, the total of 115 minutes that summer arrivals Alexis Mac Allister, Wataru Endo and Dominik Szoboszlai have spent on the field together in the Reds’ engine room is somewhat misleading.

 

In their first outing at Newcastle United back in August, Jurgen Klopp’s side were reduced to 10 men after only 28 minutes when Virgil van Dijk was sent off. And in the only other game the trio have started together at Sheffield United in early December, Mac Allister suffered a knee injury after only five minutes that hampered his performance and, while playing on until shortly before the hour, ended up sidelining him for a month.

 

The trio simply haven’t had the opportunity to demonstrate their capability as a unit. Indeed, the Argentine’s return from the bench in the reverse fixture against Newcastle on New Year’s Day coincided with Szoboszlai picking up a hamstring problem that sidelined him for most of January, and Endo waving goodbye for Asia Cup duty in Qatar.

 

The Hungarian missed Sunday’s defeat at Arsenal and is also expected to be absent for Saturday’s Premier League visit of relegation-threatened Burnley. Beyond that, though, the prognosis is unclear. There were mixed messages coming out of Szoboszlai’s native Hungary that suggested he could be out for up to a month – making him a major doubt for the League Cup final against Chelsea on February 25 – before such claims were softened. Liverpool have not yet made public a timescale for the player’s recovery.

 

The return of Endo, then, is timely. And as well as solving a midfield problem for Klopp, it opens up the possibility of Mac Allister finally being released once again into the number eight role in which he impressed hugely during pre-season.

 

The Argentina international’s start at the Emirates was his 21st for Liverpool and an 18th in the number six role. With Endo having shown he has adapted to life in the Premier League with a strong run of form in the defensive midfield role during Mac Allister’s absence throughout December, there would be no qualms in throwing the Japanese straight in against Burnley.

 

Of course, the increased importance of Curtis Jones since the switch last April to utilising an inverted full-back – usually but not entirely exclusively Trent Alexander-Arnold – has allowed Liverpool to atone for not having Mac Allister further up the field as was initially anticipated. Just four defeats in all competitions this season is evidence the Reds have been finding a way.

 

While Mac Allister could play either side of Endo, he would ideally be on the left. Jones, a regular in that position this season, could then move to the right, as when scoring against Fulham in the League Cup semi-final first leg last month. Klopp, though, has other alternatives. Harvey Elliott has performed there this campaign – albeit with starts largely limited to cup games – but Ryan Gravenberch, Liverpool’s other summer midfield arrival, was poor on the right at Arsenal having recently shown signs of improvement when on a more accustomed left edge.

 

Having Endo available would also, at the very least, give Klopp more scope to rotate Mac Allister, who has played every minute of Liverpool’s last three Premier League games. Indeed, the Reds were compelled to hand teenager James McConnell a full senior debut in the FA Cup fourth round win over Norwich City two weekends ago.

 

But with Szoboszlai on the sidelines, reuniting last summer’s new midfield intake will have to be placed on the back-burner once again

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