Bellingham 2023! Can Liverpool really afford to wait for the ‘perfect’ midfield signing?
Of course, plenty will depend upon the performance of those already at the club, and whether the questions mentioned above can be definitively answered.
Elliott, for example, showed signs at the start of last season that he could hold down a place on the right of a midfield three – his combination with Mo Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold, in particular, was promising – while Jones has performed well in spells, though needs to influence games more consistently if he is to stay in the team, long-term.
A lot of Henderson’s best work last season came as a No.6, so perhaps he and Fabinho will share duties there going forward, while the decision to hand Milner a new one-year extension is a smart one, and speaks perhaps to next summer’s plans for a more significant revamp.
Perhaps most interesting of all is Keita, who made more appearances (40) last season than in any of his previous three campaigns on Merseyside. At his best, the Guinean is the kind of creative, game-changing presence Liverpool are looking for, but consistency has been an issue.
He is likely to get a new contract, and the challenge then will be to make more than the 25 starts he managed in all competitions last term, and to become the guaranteed starter we all expected he would be when arriving from Leipzig in 2018.
As for Oxlade-Chamberlain, the word from inside Liverpool is that he’s likely to stay, but his contract expires next summer and an offer of £12m ($15m) would surely offer plenty of temptation.
Oxlade-Chamberlain didn’t feature at all in the final two months of last season, though he did make valuable contributions throughout the campaign, not least in January when Salah, Keita and Sadio Mane were away at AFCON.
With games coming thick and fast, especially ahead of the World Cup, it is no surprise that managers are looking to give themselves as many options as possible. The more pertinent question, where Liverpool’s midfield is concerned, is whether those options can deliver.