Liverpool’s Europa League run is over and Premier League dreams are fading, so where do Reds go from here?

In January when Jurgen Klopp announced his intentions to leave Liverpool at the end of the season, taking a step back from day-to-day management, it felt like the club would use that news as a rallying cry to win a treble, taking part in the Premier League, EFL Cup, FA Cup and Europa Leauge. Thursday, as the Reds crashed out of the Europa League at the hands of Atalanta, winning the second leg 1-0 but falling on aggregate 3-1, it means the EFL Cup victory over Chelsea may be their only silverware of the season. Despite only being two points behind Manchester City in the league, there’s a feeling of inevitability now that the league lead has now slipped out of the Red’s hands.

Lacking defensively and with their third choice option playing defensive midfield in Wataru Endo, Liverpool’s lack of depth in critical positions has shown, playing important games twice a week where they’re not able to rotate the squad effectively. Mohamed Salah has again been among the best attackers in the Premier League with 17 goals and nine assists in only 26 matches played but even with the third highest goals scored tally, the Reds trail Arsenal in goal difference with the duo level on points. 

The schedule left is a kind one but history suggests that when City sticks their noses in the front of the Premier League, they don’t let up. It’s one thing in a knockout competition but in a test of endurance, few can beat Pep Guardiola’s machine. Liverpool have come close but failing to do so again this season will see Klopp’s tenure end with many wondering what is next.  

Linked to Sporting Club Portugal manager Ruben Amorim, it would seem as if Liverpool will be toning down the heavy metal soccer approach over the next few years but Amorim’s system is one that can help paper over some of the club’s weaknesses. Set to win the Portuguese league with an impressive Sporting side, Amorin favors a 3-4-3 setup although he can be flexible with his approach depending on what a specific game calls for.

Here’s what to know:

What is needed for this to work?

Moving to a 3-4-3 allows Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson to showcase their excellent creative skills while also replacing a midfielder with an additional center back. This would mean that a new defender would be needed but there’s a pretty easy target who could follow Amorim from Sporting. Managers love to bring in players who know their systems and Goncalo Inacio is someone who could be Premier League-ready.

Thriving all over a back three, Inacio wouldn’t stop Liverpool from doing more business along the defense because he can be slid wherever he is most needed while still providing quality ball progression. Breaking into Sporting’s senior squad under Amorim in 2020, the 22-year-old’s rise has come at the same time as his manager’s. Also fitting into a standard Liverpool mode of targeting younger players, this is a move that would make sense all around.

Amorim ended a 19-year drought for a title at Sporting breaking into Benfica and Porto’s dominance in the league and has the chance to pull off a double this season with the league and Taca de Portugal in his sights. It takes a lot to carve into Manchester City’s domestic dominance but Amorim has the necessary experience with fewer resources at his disposal. 

One of the lone down moments of this impressive season for Sporting is also in the Europa League where they fell to the same Atalanta side as Liverpool but there were questions about Amorim’s lineup decisions in the match. It’s something that he will learn from as even away in Italy, it was one goal that made the difference but with a deeper team in England, even rotation will be easier to get the best out of his side with wide center backs pushing the pace of the game.

What happens to Mohamed Salah?

After already receiving offers to move to Saudi Arabia, questions will loom around Salah’s future without Klopp at Liverpool. While the Egyptian has been legendary for the club, the team is in a position where there are enough strong attackers to field a formidable attack while trying to get the best out of Darwin Nunez in attack.

The Uruguayan has been an enigma since joining Liverpool as both his goals and misses have been spectacular but when the attack runs through him, the issues with his finishing don’t look as bad. Nunez is doing exactly what is expected when Salah doesn’t start matches, making it seem like he’s just not comfortable working as a secondary option in an attack as opposed to being the primary option. For Benfica and Uruguay, Nunez developed into being the guy whereas at Liverpool, everything runs through Salah, and for good reason.

Looking specifically at the Europa League and the Premier League ahead of the second leg, here are Nunez’s stats split with and without Salah:

Games

26

13

xG 12.48 8.73

Goals

7

9

Assists

7

2

13 games may be a small sample size but it’s not an insignificant one either as it clearly shows that Nunez can finish the chances that he’s expected to, it’s just down to getting the balance right. In half of the amount of games he’s managed more goals. 

There will be wobbles but whoever the new manager of Liverpool is will be walking into a dream scenario. Most of the team is set up to succeed and if players like Salah and Virgil van Dijk need to be replaced, there will be funds to do so. Following a manager as ingrained as Klopp will leave them with big shoes to fill but with the proper tweaks, this is a team that can soar to new heights with a strong foundation in place. We could see a new more passive version of Liverpool defensively but that may not be a bad thing either as they look to get back to winning major silverware.


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