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Liverpool could unleash a bold new formation with Jude Bellingham and the strong Premier League midfielder – Liverpool Echo

Liverpool could unleash a bold new formation with Jude Bellingham and the strong Premier League midfielder - Liverpool Echo

Liverpool’s obvious need for reinforcements in midfield means players in the position from across Europe are being linked with a summer move to Anfield. But if we are to believe the rumors, Jurgen Klopp could expand his squad with someone from a well-known club.

Where Southampton was once Liverpool’s de-facto feeder club for players, it could soon be Fulham. The Reds brought in Harvey Elliott and Fabio Carvalho from the West London side and they are now heavily linked with their midfielder Joao Palhinha.

According to Sami Mokbel in the Mail, “Liverpool are regarded as the most serious suitors, but there are others.” He added that “Fulham are confident they can keep Palhinha for at least another year”.

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The 27-year-old, who has earned eight of his 18 caps for Portugal with Diogo Jota, has a contract until 2027 having only moved to Craven Cottage last year. With four years left on his deal, securing his signature would come at a significant cost.

However, he would add a layer of safety and steel to the Reds midfield that has often been lacking this season. Would that make his hefty fee worth a price?

Palhinha’s greatest strength is his tackling. He’s in the 99th percentile of midfielders in Europe’s top five leagues for six stats in FBRef’s scouting report, and they all involve tackles in some way. Since he ranks in the top eight percent for other stats, including blocked passes, clearances, and percentage of aerial duels won, the defensive side of his game is emphatically strong.

The Fulham man’s position as the leading midfield tackler in the attacking third will certainly make him attractive for Klopp. Liverpool saw evidence of Palhinha’s tackling ability in all thirds of the field as they drew 2-2 against Fulham on the opening weekend of 2022/23. He made six tackles, the most of any player on either side, from the seventh to the 93rd minute. The Portugal international also took the ball from five different Reds, with Thiago Alcantara falling victim twice.

While the obvious goal of tackles is to put the opponent on the heels, they occasionally also have an offensive advantage. According to FBRef, Palhinha has made four defensive plays this season that have resulted in shots fired in the Premier League. None resulted in a goal, but it is the most joint goal a player has ever scored in the major leagues in 2022-23. These actions make it clear that the former Sporting midfielder could add to the back pressure that Klopp prefers as his playmaker.

However, tackling can be a somewhat reckless method of getting the ball back, and there is a cost involved. Palhinha has accumulated 10 yellow cards, making him the most yellow cards in the Premier League, while only three players in France, Germany, Italy or Spain (including Ozan Kabak) have received more. With Liverpool averaging over 13 per cent more possession than Fulham, Palhinha shouldn’t have to tackle as often, but his record is a minor concern.

Apart from the two suspensions he has accumulated due to bookings, he has always been present at the heart of the Fulham midfield. While it’s not a sample size that can prove anything, Fulham lost all three games that Palhinha missed.

The Whites have used the same starting line-up in every game this season, with former Everton manager Marco Silva favoring a 4-2-3-1 system. Interestingly, The Reds are associated with players who thrive in that context, Jude Bellingham being the most obvious example. If Klopp plans a tactical change, it is probably too much to hope that his central duo consists of the Dortmund man and Palhinha. It is, however, a delightful prospect.

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Written by Ft7Ball

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