Let’s rewind to May 18th, earlier this year – a date that would be embedded in Liverpool’s history if it wasn’t for a second-half capitulation in the Europa League Final against Sevilla.
The man (or boy) who took most of the flak was Alberto Moreno, the constantly out of position Spaniard with a penchant for a defensive brain-freeze. His shoddy performance in that second-half contributed to our 3-1 defeat. He was shocking, and his performance confirmed to many the increasing belief that he simply isn’t up to scratch.
So angry was the fanbase, club legend Jamie Carragher even took to Twitter begging: “Jurgen, transfer committee, anyone – sign a f*cking left-back.” Other supporters were not so polite.
But ten weeks later, Moreno hasn’t been offloaded. Liverpool haven’t even signed a replacement. They haven’t signed a backup either, and have just sold Brad Smith – his talented Aussie understudy – for £6m. Moreno, somehow, remains; in an even stronger position than before because he’s the only senior natural left-back now at the club.
But we’re going to buy someone, right? If not Jonas Hector or Ricardo Rodriguez, at least Ben Chilwell…?
Jurgen Klopp today told ESPN that he predicts Liverpool’s summer business is done, and we’ll only enter the market should a squad player become unhappy with his role. Read these quotes carefully – that is what he means.
“If I had to guess I would say rather no, but I don’t know actually because it’s a long time until the 31st of August and I have no idea,” he began.
“So we will see. We will see how the players react to my decisions again because we will have more players than 11 for sure, and then you have to accept a few decisions and you have to take it as an opportunity.”
Whether Klopp is right or wrong to keep faith with Moreno is irrelevant. That’s his choice and he’ll live or die by it. But it does suggest he’s looking internally rather than externally for fullback reinforcements.
Connor Randall is a decent young right-back, and Ragnar Klavan has played left-back before – but vice-captain James Milner provides a more interesting option…
The Englishman came on in this position for Randall in Liverpool’s friendly with Chelsea last night, displaying his versatility but also an insight into Klopp’s thinking.
With Sadio Mane signed to play out wide on the right, Milner’s chances of a spot in the attacking midfield trio look slim… With Marko Grujic arriving to compete with fit again Jordan Henderson for the role next to Emre Can in the double-pivot, Milner’s chances here don’t look great either. If Klopp goes 4-3-3 there’s a spot for him somewhere in the middle, but could the 30-year-old now move to fullback, instead?
We badly need players in both positions and his preferred positions are covered.
His lungs and fitness are unrivalled, and he can swing in a cross on his right-foot expertly. Milner is strong, sensible and physical. He has all the traits a good fullback requires, and the ability to perform just as well on the left as the right. In fact, It’d be fair to say in a big game, many would trust Milner over Moreno at left-back – which says lots about both players.
Without an obvious natural fullback signing, and no European football – Klopp may be gambling on Milner providing support in the these areas. The former Manchester City man moved to Anfield to play central midfield for Brendan Rodgers, but one year down the line, he might be used in an even less favoured position than the right-wing he toiled in Sky Blue.
Still, his professionalism means he’s unlikely to kick up a fuss. If Klopp’s adamant that Moreno doesn’t need replacing, we might just have the required upgrade right under our noses.