If Liverpool’s midfield is not already in greater need of investment than it ever has been before, it soon will be. The Reds are the only club in the Premier League who haven’t had a single minute from midfielders aged between 22 and 28 this season.
If that peak age vacuum wasn’t bad enough, three of the current options are out of contract at the end of this season, while Arthur Melo’s injury makes it all-but-certain his option to buy will not be invoked at the conclusion of his loan spell either.
As for the soon-to-be-Bosman players, if James Milner moves on then the veteran will not be overly missed in the sense he rarely starts back-to-back games anymore. But what of Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain? They are Liverpool’s closest to prime age midfielders yet have played just 15 Premier League minutes between them this season (with Keita yet to feature at all).
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With records like that, and injuries having been a fairly constant issue for both players during their time with the Reds, they will probably leave the club next summer too. A midfield rebuild that was already looking sizeable is on the brink of becoming gargantuan.
The transfer business required will not be cheap, particularly if Liverpool are able to complete a deal for the much sought-after Jude Bellingham. He’s currently rated as the fifth most valuable player in the world by Transfermarkt, and their estimate of 100m euros is below what Borussia Dortmund will hope to receive.
Another player with a potential nine-figure price tag could be a very useful acquisition for Liverpool: Pedri. Neither talented teenager would obviously address the unusual age profile of the Reds’ midfield, but the Barcelona man could tick two boxes. According to FBRef, he is statistically like both Keita and Oxlade-Chamberlain.
And he possesses a durability of which they can only dream. Since the start of the 2020/21 season, Pedri has played over 6,000 minutes for Barcelona. Remarkably, this is more than either of the aforementioned Liverpool duo have logged in total for the club despite both being with the Reds for over twice as long.
Bear in mind too that Pedri’s total only represents 57 per cent of the possible time he could have played. That puts the corresponding figures for Keita (27.6 per cent) and Oxlade-Chamberlain (23) in particularly damning context.
As fun as it is to dream, Liverpool won’t be signing both Bellingham and Pedri next summer. However, there may be a cheaper alternative to the latter with whom they have been linked before.
Florian Neuhaus is the one other player who shows up in the data as similar to both of the Reds’ most injury-prone midfielders, and unlike Pedri he will only have 12 months remaining on his contract at the end of 2022/23. He himself is currently side-lined with a cruciate ligament injury, in fairness, but since making his Borussia Monchengladbach debut in 2018, he has played 11,600 minutes for the club. That’s over 1,800 more than Keita and Oxlade-Chamberlain have recorded between them in the same period.
He can offer everything they do and history suggests he should remain fit enough to do so more regularly too. The 25-year-old – another tick – has mostly played in central midfield in his career but is also capable of featuring further forward. If Jurgen Klopp plans to continue using formations other than 4-3-3, as he has recently, a player who can fulfil a variety of roles would be an excellent asset.
Neuhaus’ profile on FBRef illustrates that he is something of a hybrid. He is at the top end of the metrics for shots, expected goals and assists on the midfielder template, but in the top five percent of attacking midfielders and wingers in Europe’s top five leagues for the defensive data.
If this sounds like he might fall between the two stools of each midfield position somewhat, perhaps that would be no bad thing for Liverpool. Versatility is a desirable attribute, and so is being available for selection more often than not. When it comes to replacing ‘Naby lad’ and ‘the Ox’, Neuhaus might have the most important quality of all.