Selection Crisis Means Liverpool Must Get Creative to Ruin Arsenal's Anfield Visit

Will Arsenal bother going home on Monday night?

The 2020/21 English football schedule being what it is, can throw up some funny propositions. Less than 72 hours after Liverpool face Arsenal at Anfield, Liverpool will face Anfield.

It's the fixture that has become the bane of Jürgen Klopp's existence, always lurking somewhere on the horizon of his immediate schedule. Thursday's EFL Cup tie will represent the eighth time the two sides have met in less than two years, and the fifth meeting since July.

The recent history between the clubs has yielded some memorable moments. Who can forget last season's record-breaking 5-5 draw, or July's clash to the Emirates when the Gunners dispelled the myth, and ended the champions' hopes of a record points haul?

It's the fixture that seems to come about more often than any other, but from a Liverpool perspective, Monday's meeting might be the most important of the lot.

Heading into this one, Liverpool have a point to prove. They've had a perfect start to their title defence, forcibly outlasting Leeds before swatting ten-man Chelsea like a fly, but there has been enough ambiguity in their performances to encourage the challengers to their throne.

The Leeds performance in particular would have had Mikel Arteta licking his lips, and the Gunners boss will be further heartened by the news of a selection crisis facing Klopp. The Times were quick out with the news that Alisson Becker and Thiago Alcantara haven't trained over the weekend, and each face a race against time to overcome minor injury problems.

Things were stretched anyway; Jordan Henderson is out, as is Joel Matip, while Joe Gomez remains doubtful himself.

What does Klopp do, then, without his captain, two of his centre-backs, and the midfielder who was just signed to avoid such a selection dilemma?

Assuming that Gomez isn't up to speed yet, Fabinho will once again partner Virgil van Dijk at the heart of defence. He's the only available option that Klopp can trust - Rhys Williams isn't at Premier League level yet, Nat Phillips is unfancied, and Billy 'the Kid' Koumetio, who might otherwise have been in consideration, is out with a knock.

Fabinho at centre-back isn't a problem in itself - quite the contrary, in fact. His aggression and distribution make him a serious asset, and the way he filled his back pockets with Timo Werner and Kai Havertz a week ago showed that he will be up to the challenge.

Pulling Fabinho out of position solves one problem, but it lays bare another. Who plays in the 'six'?

The deepest midfield role had looked as if it would be a strength for Liverpool, with three diverse, yet excellent options. But with Henderson and Thiago unfit and Fabinho covering elsewhere, there is a real conundrum.

It's a problem Klopp may have to get creative to solve. Only he will know who he sees as fourth choice; the safe option might be James Milner, who can famously cover anywhere on the pitch for 90 minutes and would fill the void of leadership, experience and grit left by Henderson.

Marko Grujic may be the most natural option but his lack of league experience more or less rules him out. Naby Keita has played there in the past, but his vision, dribbling ability and ball retention are better suited to a more advanced role.

There's always the ineffable Gini Wijnaldum, who we're yet to see playing in a deep-lying role, possibly because Klopp sees him as immovable from one of the two higher positions. Since the beginning of the 2018/19 season, he's played 74 of 78 games in the functional position he has perfected.

Outside of the two big issues facing Klopp, the team more or less picks itself. The solution to Alisson's absence is a straightforward one; the front three, all rested during the week, will be the front three; Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, as usual, will occupy the flanks.

It wouldn't be the Liverpool job without its challenges, and facing up to a flying, savvy Arsenal with a depleted squad is certainly a challenge. The Reds' prospects will depend on whether the German tinkerer can use what he has to cover what he hasn't, and find a way to keep the kettle boiling for another week in this long slog towards title 20.

Source : 90min