There were serious questions over the state of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool squad as they toiled to a fifth-place finish last season, but they’ve bounced back emphatically in 2023-24 and now their strength in depth looks outrageous.
It’s debatable what Liverpool’s best XI is now, given the number of quality options available to Klopp. The Reds boss has multiple players performing in every position so far this season, which inspired us to put together a full back-up team that might just be the best second-string XI in all of Europe.
This XI is assuming that Klopp’s best current first team is Alisson; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Ibrahima Konate, Andy Robertson; Alexis Mac Allister, Curtis Jones, Dominik Szoboszlai; Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez, Luis Diaz.
GK: Caoimhin Kelleher
The Republic of Ireland international is a key reason that Liverpool have been able to compete on multiple fronts.
Kelleher has rarely put a foot (hand?) wrong called upon to deputise for Alisson. He played a key role in the quadruple chase of 2021-22, the hero of Liverpool’s League Cup final victory over Chelsea, and will continue to be rotated in as Klopp’s Reds once again compete on four fronts this season.
RB: Conor Bradley
What a start the 20-year-old has made to his Liverpool career. One goal and three assists in his first two Premier League games.
In fact, Bradley’s first few appearances have been so good that we’re already questioning whether he gets fast-tracked into Klopp’s first-choice XI already. Bradley at right-back and Alexander-Arnold permanently moving into midfield is a tantalising idea.
CB: Joe Gomez
We could’ve put Gomez in any position across the backline, as Klopp has this season.
The defender has looked a player reborn this season – once again a key squad player after a long while on the fringes following his injury struggles. Ultra-reliable. The remedy to any number of injury headaches and a solid rotation option.
CB: Jarell Quansah
“That couldn’t be better news for the club, to be honest,” Klopp told reporters following Quansah’s emergence.
“I think before this season a lot of people told us we should buy a centre-half. We knew we had Jarell. Did we know that he will show up like this? No, not exactly, but we were pretty hopeful, so the future is bright. It’s cool.”
The 21-year-old has been excellent whenever he’s been called upon this season. It feels ridiculously harsh not even including Joel Matip for our back-up XI, but the Cameroonian is sidelined for the foreseeable future and out of contract in the summer. As Klopp says, Quansah is the future.
LB: Kostas Tsimikas
The Greek defender suffered a broken collarbone against Arsenal in December and will remain sidelined for a good while yet.
He’s by no means the flashiest or most exciting full-back around but has grown into a sturdy and dependable deputy to Robertson.
DM: Wataru Endo
There was a period before the Asian Cup that Endo looked to have a strong claim to be the go-to option for the base of Klopp’s midfield.
But he might have to settle for being a rotation option after Alexis Mac Allister’s midfield masterclass against Chelsea’s £200million double pivot. People questioned whether the Japan international is a natural No.6 but he’s swiftly adapting his game.
Endo is due to return to Merseyside following Japan’s elimination to Iran in the Asian Cup. He’ll be a really helpful player to have in the cup competitions, but you suspect that Mac Allister has nailed his place in the Reds’ Premier League title charge for now.
CM: Ryan Gravenberch
Having left Bayern Munich in search of more regular opportunities, Gravenberch may be a tad disappointed to have only been used as a squad player by Klopp. But with Liverpool into the League Cup final and going deep in the Europa League and FA Cup, there are still lots of minutes available for the Dutchman.
“Technically, he is incredibly good,” Klopp said following Gravenberch’s first goal for the club against Union SG back in October.
“His first touch is insane; speed is top class; really good shooter, which we saw with the Darwin (Nunez) goal that was disallowed, but the ball was a fire ball before. He is a really good player.”
CM: Harvey Elliott
The vast majority of Elliott’s appearances for Liverpool this season have been off the bench, yet he’s still contributed his fair share of big moments. And he has a positive attitude to the competition for places.
“You see the talent that we’ve brought in and the talent already around the club, and you can go through many, many names,” Elliott said in December.
“But it’s a healthy competition, healthy relationships between the players, and we are always wanting to drive each other on. No-one is being selfish in that aspect of ‘I want to play’, we are all there to support each other and make a difference when called upon.
“I feel like that’s what is good about this team, we are as a team throughout the whole season, and we’re all together 1,000 per cent. That’s what makes it special.”
"There's no better feeling than winning the game for your boyhood club…"
Harvey Elliott's favourite moment of 2023 🗣️ pic.twitter.com/4TXX0UPPu7
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 30, 2023
FWR: Ben Doak
The one player in this XI that’s yet to get considerable gametime this season, many expected this to be Doak’s breakthrough season. But he required surgery on a knee injury in December and faces a race to return before the end of the season.
It might be next year when Doak really makes a name for himself, but whoever succeeds Klopp has a special talent to work with.
ST: Cody Gakpo
The Dutch forward hasn’t exactly been a revelation since signing from PSV for a £37million fee last January. But nine goals in 31 appearances in all competitions is a respectable if not stellar return, particularly when you consider that 13 of those appearances have been off the bench.
We’re still waiting for Gakpo to catch fire and show the kind of goalscoring form he displayed for the Netherlands at the last World Cup, but even undercooked he’s been a useful addition to Klopp’s squad.
FWL: Diogo Jota
Possibly our most controversial pick in this back-up teamsheet. Many would argue that Jota gets into Klopp’s best XI all day long, which just goes to show how stacked Liverpool’s squad is when it comes to forwards.
The Portugal international has been on fire since returning from injury, and ensured that Liverpool have barely missed talisman Salah while he’s been out. Jota has five goals and three assists in seven appearances since Christmas.
What Klopp goes with once Salah returns, assuming everyone stays fit, is the definition of a good problem to have.