The EFL Cup final on Sunday marks the beginning of the end for Jürgen Klopp at Liverpool. Between now and June, his attackers will have a major say in how successful his final months in charge are.

The final months of Jürgen Klopp’s reign as Liverpool manager could be as successful as they could be anti-climactic. Whichever way the pendulum swings, it’s fair to say player availability – or lack of – will likely have had an impact.

Sunday’s EFL Cup final against Chelsea is, in essence, the beginning of the end for Klopp at Liverpool. With the German departing at the conclusion of the season, this weekend’s trip to Wembley is the only title match they know they’re definitely in; more trophies could follow in the FA Cup, UEFA Europa League and Premier League, but the only certainty of a final they have is this one.

Considering the transformational effect Klopp has had on Liverpool and the rapport he has with supporters, it’s difficult to ignore the pressure the players are going to be under to deliver success over the coming months; but this side’s character has rarely come into question, and their depth in talent is the envy of many.

If Liverpool’s bid to end Klopp’s brilliant spell with multiple trophies does yield positive results, there’s a strong likelihood most will laud their attacking options as the difference makers.

Now, that might sound a little reductive or obvious; after all, forwards (are supposed to) score goals, goals win games and winning games can lead to lifting trophies. Fine. But the reason why they would be due special attention is because of the sheer number of Liverpool forwards making telling contributions.

Klopp was without 11 players for Wednesday’s 4-1 Premier League win over Luton Town, a game that was perhaps less comfortable than the scoreline suggests given the Reds were trailing at half-time.

Cody Gakpo and Luis Díaz were among those to score for the Reds during their second-half fight-back, with the latter seeing Liverpool pull off an exceptionally rare – one might even say “historic” – achievement.

Díaz’s goal was his 10th of the season in all competitions, becoming the fifth Liverpool player to reach that milestone in 2023-24; they are the only club in the top five European leagues to have five players reach 10 goals already this term, while it is also the earliest in the club’s history they’ve had as many players get to double digits in a single top-flight season.

Mohamed Salah (19), Diogo Jota (14), Darwin Núñez (13) and Gakpo (11) had already surpassed the 10-goal mark; the first three were all absent on Wednesday due to injury, meaning the Reds had to hope others would rise to the occasion. It might’ve taken a little longer than was ideal, with Díaz enduring quite a frustrating – albeit very lively – evening before netting against Luton, but they got the job done.

Liverpool now have six players averaging a goal or assist every other game at most across all competitions this term, while Salah (75 mins), Jota (87 mins) and Núñez (89 mins) are recording one every match. Trent Alexander-Arnold falls just outside that group of six, but his 11 goal involvements (2 goals, 9 assists) have come at a rate of one every 182 minutes – he too had been absent for a couple of weeks and won’t play at Wembley on Sunday.

Despite missing a host of key players against Luton, including arguably their three most dangerous forwards in Salah, Jota and Núñez, Liverpool still created chances that were worth 3.3 expected goals (xG); only once in the Premier League this season have they recorded more non-penalty xG in a single game (5.5 vs Newcastle United on 1 January).

Liverpool vs Luton xG map

While some might point to Luton not being one of the league’s better sides, let’s not forget that they ran Manchester United pretty close at the weekend, drew 4-4 with Newcastle and beat Brighton 4-0 inside the past month and also only lost by a single goal to Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal in December. In fact, Wednesday’s loss at Anfield was the first time Luton have been beaten by more than two goals since their first two games of the season.

In short, it was a fairly impressive attacking display when you consider how many of Liverpool’s best and most prolific creators were absent from the squad. Their starting XI was the youngest on average (25 years, 68 days) that Liverpool have named in the Premier League since February 2018 (24y, 355d), and it’ll have been even younger at full-time considering the late introductions of Jayden Danns (18), James McConnell and Bobby Clark (both 19).

Liverpool team vs Luton Town

Obviously the situation is far from ideal. Klopp and the fans would, of course, prefer to have a full-strength starting XI available, but the fact Liverpool are generally picking up positive results despite so many absences can only be a good thing.

Liverpool squad depth

Since the turn of the year, the Reds have played 11 times in all competitions, winning all but two of them and rising to the top of the Premier League. Over the same period, they’ve scored three goals or more seven times and been without key players practically throughout; Salah, who most would agree is their best player, has been available for only two of those matches, having a hand in five goals.

Liverpool’s utilisation of their bench has undoubtedly been a part of their successes to this point in 2023-24. Substitutes have accounted for 39 goal involvements (goals and assists) for Klopp’s men this season in all competitions; granted, they’re playing more games than most other teams, but it’s still a frankly ludicrous number when you consider it’s 17 more than any other Premier League side this term.

Unsurprisingly their forwards have been most responsible for this, with Núñez (7), Gakpo (6), Jota (5) and Salah (5) leading the way. It reflects very well on the team’s collective cohesion and character that their substitutes can be so effective so often; similarly, this helps explain how Liverpool have been able to win four more points (22) from losing positions than any other team in the Premier League this term. It also brings us back to the key topic, their attacking depth.

Most goal involements by substitutes Premier League clubs 2023-24

Spreading your goals across so many players is no easy feat. For starters, it obviously requires a group of high-quality players, but beyond that they all need to get enough minutes to have that impact. That in itself can require careful and precise management that allows for player X to be fit enough to provide maximum impact if player Y is absent.

It’s a tricky balancing act that Manchester City have been masters of under Pep Guardiola. In fact, the only season they’ve played under him (before 2023-24) and not had at least five players score 10 goals across all competitions was his first campaign in charge; in 2018-19 and 2021-22, they had seven reach 10. Otherwise, however, it’s not a hugely common feat.

Liverpool are the only other Premier League club to have achieved it in the past decade (City did also in 2013-14), with the Reds having five players reach double figures for goals in 2015-16, Klopp’s first season, and 2021-22 – though it should be noted that in 2015-16 none of the five players managed more than 13.

Last 10 Premier League teams with five or more players to score at least 10 goals

Attacking depth is often associated with many of the best teams we’ve seen in the Premier League era. Man City of the past few years come straight to mind, of course, but go back a while further and Arsenal’s title-winning side in 2001-02 included five players who scored 10 or more goals. Manchester United’s 1998-99 treble winners didn’t quite meet the threshold, but they still had Dwight Yorke (26), Andrew Cole (21), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (14) and Paul Scholes (10) all get to double digits.

Granted, as mentioned before, playing more games does provide greater opportunities for players to score more goals, but you also have to consider that the deeper a team goes into a tournament, the tougher the opposition gets. We’re also not even into March yet, so Liverpool could potentially see all five of these players reach 15 goals; no team’s ever managed that in the Premier League era.

Fitness and injury issues will determine whether that’s something they can achieve, however. Jota will be out for “months” with a knee problem sustained last weekend, so it’s uncertain if he’ll even play again this season. Salah and Núñez have been struggling with ailments of their own recently, with the club giving little away regarding their availability for the weekend. Admittedly that could just be smoke and mirrors.

But there aren’t many teams who’d still be able to call upon players with the ability of Díaz and Gakpo, with the latter also boasting an adaptability that has seen him make an impact in several different roles for Liverpool this season.

If Liverpool are to gobble up several of the trophies on offer over the course of the rest of the season, Klopp’s squad will be stretched to its limits. That’s just the nature of fighting on multiple fronts.

But there is a feeling that Sunday’s EFL Cup final has almost sprung up out of nowhere; because of the busy fixture schedule, there’s arguably not been a huge amount of time to dwell on its importance and significance in the context of Klopp’s Liverpool procession. Success, then, will be a very welcome psychological boost for their challenges in other competitions that go deeper into the season, with the players safe in the knowledge they’ve at least given their manager one last trophy.

Either way, if anyone’s got the depth in firepower to sustain challenges in four competitions, it’s Liverpool.

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