Liverpool won’t sign a defensive midfielder today and will instead bring in Arthur Melo from Juventus. Here’s our reasoning as to why.
There is little question that Liverpool have looked defensively vulnerable in recent weeks. In fact, their record of conceding first in games dates back to last season.
That vulnerability has led to calls for a defensive midfielder – the most obvious way to fix Liverpool’s problems. But it’s not the way they’re going on transfer deadline day. Instead, the Reds will sign Arthur Melo on loan from Juventus.
So why aren’t Liverpool signing a defensive midfielder? The reasons are apparent in their latest games.
Liverpool won’t sign a defensive midfielder
Liverpool are a strange club in a lot of ways. They have a very specific view of things, particularly in how they see players. If someone isn’t exactly what they want, they won’t sign him. And what they want can be unique at times.
The ‘right player’, when it comes to midfield, plays in the Reds’ playing style. Fabinho, for instance, is the only actual defensive midfielder at the club and there’s never been an effort to change that outside of Aurélin Tchouaméni. But it’s a sign that the Brazilian – and the Frenchman – is a unique player. One who is a defensive midfielder but, more importantly, can operate as a pivot from defence to midfield. Liverpool are happy for Fabinho to move forward with the ball and want him playing risky passes.
Not every defensive midfielder can do that. But it stands to reason that Liverpool value the ability on the ball more, which is why they’re happy for Jordan Henderson to cover Fabinho. The ‘defensive midfielder’ role doesn’t really exist at the club.
And there’s a good reason for that – Liverpool’s defending is done with a high press and a high line. A very high line, in fact, as the Reds seek to push teams as far back as they can in possession. That means breaking the first line of press. Do that and suddenly the opposition must drop deeper and their attackers are running towards their own goal.
It’s a system that works wonderfully. Once teams are pushed back, Liverpool can press aggressively once they’ve lost the ball and force poor long passes for the centre-backs to clear up. There’s little need for a pure defensive midfielder in that system – especially if they can’t help push teams back.
There is a real problem at the moment, though. With Thiago out of the side, Liverpool are struggling to resist pressing. Teams are pushing quite high against them in an attempt to win the ball back before the Reds move it through midfield. It’s working.
In fact, go back and watch the second Manchester United goal and Newcastle United’s goal last night. You see the same thing. Liverpool struggle to beat the press, resulting in Trent Alexander-Arnold attempting a very risky pass to get the team moving. It goes wrong, the opposition get the ball back in front of the back-four and can move it into a dangerous area.
It’s not necessarily Alexander-Arnold’s fault – Liverpool just didn’t have a player sitting deep who could resist the press. Thiago can do it, Gini Wijnaldum could do it, but neither are there.
Arthur, though, can do it and that’s what Liverpool are buying. They’ll hope he’s bringing the quality to push teams back and take away that quick counter-attack from aggressive opponents.
It’s a far more valuable signing than a defensive midfielder. Someone who fits the gameplan and importantly, can play alongside Fabinho or another holding player. Liverpool are getting the right player – if Arthur delivers as advertised.