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Liverpool v Fulham player ratings:Salah 7, Alexander-Arnold 8; Willian 7, Diop 5


Liverpool v Fulham player ratings:Salah 7, Alexander-Arnold 8; Willian 7, Diop 5

Salah’s 39th-minute penalty earned the Merseyside club a fifth straight league win to keep alive the Reds’ slim hopes of Champions League qualification

LIVERPOOL RATINGS: Alisson – 7. Largely untroubled but made two fine stops from Carlos Vinicius after the Brazilian was played through on goal. Kept things neat and tidy in possession. EPA

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Liverpool moved to within four points of fourth-place Manchester United with a 1-0 win over Fulham in the Premier League on Wednesday.

Mohamed Salah’s 39th-minute penalty earned the Merseyside club a fifth straight league win to keep alive the Reds’ slim hopes of Champions League qualification.

United has two games in hand over Liverpool. Third-place Newcastle lead Liverpool by six points with one game in hand.

It was the first time Liverpool has won five successive matches since April 2022.

Salah’s penalty, his second in consecutive games after back-to-back misses, took him to 185 goals for Liverpool, one behind club great Steven Gerrard. He also moved to fifth on Liverpool’s list of all-time league scorers with 136.

The breakthrough came after Issa Diop took down Darwin Nunez in the box.

Referee Stuart Attwell pointed to the spot and Salah scored an identical penalty to the one against Spurs — blasted straight down the middle.

Alisson had to save from Carlos Vinicius to prevent an equaliser with 13 minutes remaining to keep Liverpool’s top four bid alive — even if it the team is still relying on United or Newcastle to drop points.

Updated: May 04, 2023, 5am


Thiago injury answers transfer question for Liverpool as Jürgen Klopp gets new ‘luxury player’

We know that Liverpool will look to bring two to three midfielders this summer as part of its rebuild, but what type of players will the Reds actually target?

Well, we can say with some certainty, based on the long-running pursuit of Jude Bellingham, that a right-sided number eight will be high on the agenda.

With Jordan Henderson and Harvey Elliott at opposite ends of the declining/inexperienced scale, the new player will likely be a starter.

READ MORE: Liverpool transfer target addresses ‘nice’ links as Jürgen Klopp ‘to speak directly’ with family

READ MORE: Trent Alexander-Arnold fumes at Liverpool teammate as duo produce perfect Fulham response

The defensive midfield issue is a little more complex for Jürgen Klopp, given that Fabinho is only 29 and was until this season seen as one of the very best in his position.

After a poor campaign for the Brazilian, it probably makes sense to fill a hole in the squad with an established player who can at the very least seriously compete. That way, if the best version of Fabinho has been and gone, Liverpool will be protected.

The biggest dilemma up to this point has been the left-sided number eight (LCM) role. That’s because, while Henderson and Fabinho have struggled, Thiago has been Liverpool’s best midfielder this season when he’s played. On that basis, there may have been some inside Anfield who saw him as part of the first XI vision for 2023/24.

With a finite budget to revamp the department, perhaps it made sense to simply pursue a reliable deputy for Thiago instead.

Liverpool will be without Thiago for the rest of the season

(Image: Photo by John Powell/John Powell)

His latest injury woes, though, have laid bare the Reds’ transfer need. A new, first-choice-level LCM is required.

Thiago has been ruled out for the remainder of the season after Liverpool took the decision to address an ongoing hip problem with a small operation.

The Spaniard was sidelined with the issue between mid-February and early April, but the pain has not subsided even after his return.

He hasn’t been heavily involved in the past few weeks, limited to a substitute role amid the strong form of Curtis Jones.

But as well as the 22-year-old has done, he’s not yet reached first-XI standard, certainly for a side that will have aspirations of winning the Premier League title. Liverpool needs an upgrade.

Thiago will end the 2022/23 season having started just 14 out of 38 Premier League matches, three fewer than he managed last year. Only once has he ticked past the 50 per cent mark, and that was in his debut campaign (20).

Overall, his record since his move from Bayern Munich will stand at 51 starts from 114 games, a rate of 44.7 per cent.

You can safely assume then, based on precedent, that Thiago will miss around half a season through injury.

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And it simply wouldn’t be wise for Klopp to rely on a nominal second-choice option for such a long period. He would almost be setting himself up to underachieve.

What Liverpool needs to do is reduce its reliance on Thiago, and limit the damage of his inevitable injuries by bringing in a player who’s just as impactful.

This would be a smart idea in the short-term, preserving the club’s 2023/24 ambitions, but also in the long-term, for Thiago has just turned 32 and is about to enter the final year of his contract.

Next season would effectively be a transitional year in the LCM position, with the torch passed to a new, younger and more reliable player.

If Thiago stays at Liverpool, and even that has been cast into some degree of doubt by this latest setback, then he should be treated by Klopp as nothing more than a luxury player.

When he’s fit, he’s clearly capable of stepping in and producing world-class performances.

But Liverpool needs to be prepared to achieve its goals without him. At this stage, there’s no point pretending otherwise.