Premier League • England

Five Liverpool players who could benefit from Xabi Alonso replacing Jurgen Klopp as manager

Ryan Baldi
Xabi Alonso, Darwin Nunez and Trent Alexander-Arnold

Darwin Nunez and Trent Alexander-Arnold are two players Xabi Alonso might be able to improve

Liverpool fans might still be reeling from the shocking revelation that Jurgen Klopp has decided to leave the club at the end of the season, but speculation over who will replace the German icon in the Anfield dugout has already begun.

Former Reds midfielder Xabi Alonso is the clear favourite with the oddsmakers. And, given the success he in enjoying in charge of Bayer Leverkusen this season – top of the Bundesliga and still unbeaten – he would represent a logical choice.

Should Alonso be appointed, he’d surely expect to be armed with a sizeable transfer kitty to shape the squad in his image during the summer transfer window, but there are several stars already in place at Liverpool who could thrive under the Basque tactician.

Trent Alexander-Arnold

Along with Mohamed Salah and Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold has been one of Liverpool’s most impressive performers this season. He has thrived in a hybrid right-back/midfield role, with Klopp making full use of the England international’s generational technical abilities in his position.

It’s also a role in which Alonso could further aid Alexander-Arnold’s improvement. Calling upon his experience as one of Europe’s finest midfield playmakers, Alonso is well positioned to help the 25-year-old star further thrive when moving centrally, influencing games with his vision and breath-taking passing technique.

Alonso also played alongside Philipp Lahm at Bayern Munich during a period when then-manager Pep Guardiola was utilising the legendary German full-back in a hybrid role not dissimilar to Alexander-Arnold’s.

Darwin Nunez

There is arguably no current Liverpool player who could benefit more from Alonso’s coaching than Nunez.

The Uruguayan striker’s physical and technical gifts are almost limitless. Almost. He remains a frustratingly erratic finisher, leading the Premier League so far this season in big chances missed (18) and ranking third in the same category last term (20).

Last summer, Leverkusen signed Nigerian striker Victor Boniface from Union SG in Belgium. The 23-year-old stood out at his previous club for his tremendous speed, fearlessness in taking on defenders and skill in carving out chances. But, with just nine goals from 37 league appearances, he was not a prolific finisher.

Fast-forward to the mid-point of the Bundesliga season, with half a year under Alonso’s watch, Boniface is one of the deadliest and most sought-after strikers in Europe, with 10 league goals – plus seven assists – in 16 games.

Could Alonso work similar wonders with Nunez?

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Alexis Mac Allister

From the moment his move from Brighton – and its surprisingly modest fee of just £35 million – was announced this summer, Mac Allister looked like being one of the most astute Premier League purchases of the season.

The World Cup winner has slotted seamlessly into the Liverpool midfield, providing calmness and quality on the ball in abundance.

If there have been any difficulties for Mac Allister since his Anfield switch, they have come when he has been fielded as a No.6, as the sole deep-lying playmaker and defensive shield at the base of Liverpool’s midfield.

Given the similarities between their skillsets, it hard to imagine a coach whose guidance could better help Mac Allister thrive in that or any midfield role – from one ginger-bearded conductor to another.

Ryan Gravenberch

A £35 million summer signing from one of Alonso’s former clubs, Bayern Munich, Gravenberch has yet to fully assert himself as a Liverpool player, with a combination of injuries and indifferent form contributing to his meagre tally of just seven Premier League starts.

But the 21-year-old Dutchman’s talent is not in question. In his time with Ajax, he marked himself out as one of the most promising midfielders in Europe thanks to his athleticism, control and ability to drive with the ball through the middle third.

Under Alonso’s tutelage, Gravenberch could make leaps toward fulfilling his potential and justifying his transfer fee. With his physical and technical tools, he could thrive within a similar all-action midfield role to the one in which Alonso has deployed veteran Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka at the BayArena this season.

Harvey Elliott

Elliott doesn’t turn 21 until April. The gifted young midfielder has, on several occasions, demonstrated the vast talent that convinced Liverpool to sign him from Fulham back in 2019 and there is plenty of time yet for him to fulfil his potential at Anfield.

But Alonso might be the perfect coach to accelerate Elliott toward the next phase of his development.

The England under-21 international’s versatility has been a strength in the sense of enabling him to accumulate valuable first-team minutes in a variety of roles to date, but there will soon come a time when Elliott will need to focus on a single role.

The success Alonso has enjoyed with talented German playmaker Florian Wirtz this season could serve at the perfect template.

Like Elliott, Wertz is young – indeed, he is almost exactly a month younger than the Liverpool man – plays with a low centre of gravity, is a fearless dribbler and a dynamic creator inside the final third. In replicating his use of Wirtz, Alonso could unlock a new dimension in Elliott’s game.

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