Jurgen Klopp has already seen the answer to his Liverpool midfield problem

Jurgen Klopp has long embraced a horses for courses approach to the composition of his midfield at Liverpool.

But never have there been as many hurdles to overcome as this season.

The rueful shake of the head from the Reds boss spoke volumes as he watched Naby Keita slump to the turf with a hamstring complaint after less than 20 minutes at Anfield on Saturday.

Once Keita disappeared down the tunnel, Klopp was left with his last men standing in the engine room, skipper Jordan Henderson and Curtis Jones joined by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from the bench.

The subsequent difficulties experienced by the trio as they tried in vain to gain a grip on proceedings were at the heart of a hugely underwhelming Liverpool performance that ultimately scraped a 2-2 Premier League draw against Brighton.

Change to the midfield, though, has been nothing new for Klopp this campaign.

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Proof of that is the fact the trio of Henderson, Jones and Keita that started at the weekend was the 11th different combination in 15 games.

It wasn’t until the ninth match – the Champions League trip to Porto – that Klopp repeated a midfield formula as Fabinho, Henderson and Jones lined up for the second of three games in succession.

And the triumvirate of Henderson, James Milner and Keita that began consecutive wins at Watford and Atletico Madrid last month is the only other midfield to have started more than once for Liverpool.

The impressive results that followed underlined the value of familiarity.

Injuries, of course, have been a chief factor in so much change, with Harvey Elliott absent since suffering a serious ankle injury at Leeds United in September, Thiago Alcantara out following a calf injury the following week, Fabinho sidelined after a knee issue at Atletico Madrid a fortnight ago, James Milner out since the win at United and now Keita also stricken.

The busy treatment room has prompted inevitable chatter of whether Liverpool made a mistake in not bolstering further the eight engine room options that emerged during pre-season once it became clear Gini Wijnaldum was departing on a free transfer.

For all Wijnaldum’s undoubted qualities, there is one few in the Reds midfield currently possess – durability.

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The Dutchman featured in all bar one matchday squad for Liverpool last season and was absent through injury for only 10 games throughout his Reds career.

Wijnaldum, though, is gone. Any possible strengthening in the January transfer window remains two months and, more pertinently, 15 games away.

And while the Reds will look to overhaul their midfield next summer, for now Klopp needs to find the right balance to prevent a temporary dip in performances in such a key area become a more permanent worry.

A tactical tweak to 4-2-3-1 to provide extra cover for the backline could be another option, but of far greater importance is a little less tumult in the centre of the field and a touch more consistency in terms of selection.

Indeed, when Liverpool defied the odds with a strong ending to last season to secure third place, they fielded the same midfield – Fabinho, Wijnaldum and Thiago – in six of the final seven games.

It’s likely at least one of Thiago and Fabinho will be available for the Champions League return against Atletico on Wednesday. They will be needed.

But whoever returns first, Klopp will hope they can stick around. After all, too much rotation – enforced or not – can make anyone dizzy.

About the author: Mark Witcher

Typical thinker. Devoted web specialist. Friendly troublemaker. Zombie maven. Music junkie. Twitter guru.

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