FSG’s 2022 Liverpool ‘refresh’ tends to invoke discussion surrounding the front line. As has been oft-mentioned by now, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané are all 29. However, there is a similar dynamic playing out in the midfield — while there are promising youngsters such as Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott, the likes of Thiago and Jordan Henderson are the wrong side of 30. A foray into the transfer market for at least one more young midfielder would probably be wise.
If the latest reports from Spain are to be believed, FSG are thinking along similar lines. Quite why Fichajes would be privy to this information is unclear, but the publication claims that Liverpool have already agreed a January transfer deal for Brighton midfielder Yves Bissouma. The 25-year-old has impressed since coming to the Premier League in 2018, and is undoubtedly one of the foremost central options outside of the top six.
Bissouma himself recently made the audacious claim that he is the very best midfielder in the league — this might be taking things a bit far, although Jürgen Klopp will no doubt admire the self-belief. The key question is whether the Malian is good enough to add something to the Liverpool midfield, and the answer is surely yes.
The report claims that FSG have sanctioned a £40m transfer for Bissouma, which for a player with a Premier League premium attached would represent reasonable value. Significantly, the Brighton man is more defensively-minded than a lot of the existing options. None of Jones, Elliott or Naby Keïta are in the same mould as Georginio Wijnaldum, who of course left for PSG in the summer. Bissouma is also a very different player to the Dutchman, but he has more defensive discipline than any of the other options at Klopp’s disposal.
This doesn’t mean he would be arriving from the Amex to play in the number six role. Fabinho has that one locked down. However, the Carabao Cup highlighted the complete lack of natural cover in this position: Tyler Morton impressed, but Bissouma’s experience playing as a defensive midfielder would add a senior rotation option. On a more regular basis, his blend of skills would allow him to carry out a modified version of Wijnaldum’s number eight role, providing robust protection to the back line while also contributing to the build-up.
In particular, Bissouma’s dribbling statistics are ideal for this kind of role. His 1.55 dribbles completed per 90 ( FBRef ) places him in the top 12% of midfielders across the continent’s top five leagues — for a defensive-minded player, this is highly notable. It points to an ability to offer a reliable defensive shield while also driving the side forward in possession: in short, the exact function of a Klopp midfield.
Keïta arguably already provides much of this, but his latest injury — sustained from kicking the grass against Norwich City — was a brutal reminder of the reliability issues that have plagued his Liverpool career. It is simply impossible to expect a full season from him, and with his contract running down there may soon come a point where FSG’s hand is forced. Even if he does stick around at Anfield, his defensive numbers do not match those of Bissouma, whose tackles and interceptions per 90 both place him well within the top 20% of midfielders in Europe (Keïta is below average in both statistics).
FSG will also quite like Bissouma’s age. The midfielder only turned 25 last month, so he is probably still yet to enter his peak. It’s an ideal blend of maturity and time to grow, perfect for maintaining high standards while the squad goes through a period of transition. Alongside Fabinho, he could help provide the bridge for the younger generation of Elliott and Jones, paving the way for their ascension to regular first-team status.
Whether Liverpool actually move for Bissouma remains to be seen: it’s certainly not a done deal yet. However, FSG could do far worse than making a transfer move for the Premier League star —he has the potential to bring balance to Klopp’s midfield, both in terms of skill-set and age profile.