EOTK Insider Opinion: Depth is a fickle concept & it perhaps proves that Liverpool have the most underrated squad in the world 🤔
Without any warning, Liverpool and Manchester City appeared to trade places overnight
It’s not quite clear how it happened but happen it did: Liverpool and Manchester City have traded places.
Quite literally in the sense of the league table standings (at the time of writing), with the Reds’ 4-0 victory over domestic rivals Manchester United allowing the former to leapfrog the Cityzens to the summit of the English top-flight.
That all changed very quickly after Pep Guardiola’s men welcomed Brighton and Hove Albion to the Etihad, of course.
But my point does not revolve around the title race specifically - a surprising statement in light of how enthralled many are (and not without good reason) with both sides’ respective sprint to the finish line.
Rather, I’d like to focus on the notion put forward by Jack Gaughan for the Daily Mail that Manchester City are lacking in the depth necessary to compete on all fronts as we would currently appear capable of doing.
“If City really want to win the lot in a single season, as Liverpool might this time, they need a bigger squad. No laughing at the back — check the numbers,” the reporter wrote for the publication.
We know. City. A financial juggernaut powered by oil and questionable sponsorships supported by the Premier League’s averted gaze.
To Gaughan’s credit, he does make a relatively convincing case (at least as convincing as one can make for a club that has dominated English football in recent years thanks in large part to its superb squad depth).
Admittedly, looking at the subs bench fielded by either side in the 2-2 draw at the Etihad, it could most certainly be argued that Liverpool had the superior options to call upon.
Man City: Ake, Gündoğan, Grealish, Zinchenko, Steffen, Fernandinho, Mahrez, McAtee, Lavia
Liverpool: Konaté, Milner, Keïta, Firmino, Gomez, Jones, Tsimikas, Díaz, Kelleher
The situation was reversed, however, for our 3-2 win at Wembley to knock the Sky Blues out of the FA Cup, with Guardiola opting to experiment with Zack Steffen in goal whilst Kevin De Bruyne and Rúben Dias both recovered from injuries.
Man City: Dias, Gündoğan, Laporte, Rodri, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Ederson, Delap, Lavia
Liverpool: Milner, Firmino, Gomez, Henderson, Jones, Jota, Tsimikas, Matip, Kelleher
But what’s changed since the start of the season when pundits were falling on top of each other to wince at our supposed lack of depth compared to the mighty title-winning powerhouse that is Manchester City?
Injuries haven’t been the incumbent champions’ friend, with the loss of Ferran Torres to Barcelona in the middle of the season hardly helping matters.
On Liverpool’s end, though, our recruitment team only added Luis Diaz to a squad (that was not deemed good enough by some to challenge for one of the top two places) in the middle of the season.
Surely, the difference between sound squad depth and a lack thereof wasn’t just one signing?
There’s no room for the argument either that Liverpool simply have plenty of time for rest and preparation given the fact that we continue to fight on all fronts for silverware after having already secured the Carabao Cup.
That being said, our fortunes as far as injuries are concerned have dramatically flipped when compared to the traumatic campaign of 2020/21.
Thiago Alcantara, for one, has been a major beneficiary of our full-strength squad, with perceptions on the classy Spaniard completely transforming now that our No.6 has been given the freedom to play his natural game.
Such is the nature of the turnaround in injury fortunes that the likes of League Cup sensation Taki Minamino and cult hero Divock Origi, as Gaughan rightly pointed out, couldn’t make the squad for our last two meetings with Manchester City.
With that in mind, it raises serious questions around perceptions of squad depth.
Why were so many convinced that Liverpool were lacking in that department prior to the signing of Luis Diaz? Has luck played a role? Or must we accept first that Klopp’s men had sufficient options to call upon to begin with?
For City’s part, in-season losses have hardly helped their efforts, though it seems farcical beyond belief to suggest that roles have been magically swapped around during the campaign when talking about a side that has long been able to outspend on transfer fees and wages to secure a squad capable of challenging on all fronts.
Liverpool have, admittedly, raised the bar and perhaps challenged the idea of what is seen as viable squad depth by virtue of our ongoing bid to secure a famous quadruple.
Should we be successful in that regard, you can bank on the notion of ‘squad depth’ being skewed for quite some time as analysts and commentators pour in to scrutinise our prospective slither of history.
Regardless, if the impossible is achieved, it’s only fair that we recognise this Liverpool squad as being potentially not only the best in the club’s history but also the most underrated following several pundits’ predictions at the start of the term.
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