Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has some decision-making to do in the build-up to next weekend’s trip to Bournemouth (Sunday 21st January, 4.30pm kick-off). The Reds enjoy an 11-day break between their Carabao Cup semi-final first-leg win over Fulham and their journey down to the south coast to take on Andoni Iraola’s Cherries.
Liverpool have now gone two matches without Mohamed Salah and have won them both. A Jakub Kiwior own goal and Luis Diaz’s strike put Arsenal to the sword in the FA Cup before Curtis Jones and Cody Gakpo scored in the win over Fulham, where Trent Alexander-Arnold was also unavailable.
And Klopp will be mulling over exactly how he sets up his forward line at Bournemouth. Away at Arsenal, Gakpo started in midfield with Harvey Elliott on the right wing, Darwin Nunez the No 9 and Diaz on the left wing.
For the visit of Fulham to Anfield, Nunez and Gakpo both dropped to the bench and Diogo Jota played through the middle. But it was the Uruguayan off the bench who managed two assists while Gakpo managed more shots on target, more key passes and more dribbles than Jota.
Given his impact against Fulham and the fact he’s got a goal and three assists in his last four outings, Nunez will be hopeful of starting at the Vitality Stadium. But where? Luis Diaz has rediscovered some spark on the left – although he has played 90 minutes in both of the last two.
Yet the 11-day break means perhaps that won’t come into consideration. The Colombian, so lively in his last Premier League match against Newcastle, might therefore start up against Adam Smith.
Klopp then has to pick between Nunez, Gakpo, Jota and Elliott in the other two positions. Through the middle, Nunez might get the nod even though Gakpo has only started one of the last three matches.
The Dutchman scored off the bench in both of his substitute cameos and has not started as a striker since the Boxing Day win at Burnley when he earned an assist and was harshly denied a disallowed goal. But he might have to settle for another spot on the bench.
That could perhaps be with the view to him then starting the second leg at Fulham days later. Jota meanwhile completed his first 90 minutes since his injury comeback against the Cottagers on Wednesday night.
The Portuguese didn’t contribute a goal or an assist, unlike his cameos against Burnley, Newcastle and Arsenal, but was typically lively. He helped win the ball back for Jones’ goal and came close to scoring a couple of times.
While Elliott has a great engine, he does not offer the same pace in transition as the likes of Diaz, Nunez and Jota do. He might be deployed in midfield instead with Curtis Jones and Alexis Mac Allister, unless Dominik Szoboszlai is fit enough to start.
In the front three, Klopp will be looking to Nunez to find the kind of finishing he produced in Liverpool’s Carabao Cup win at this same stadium in November. It would help if Diaz and Jota can be ruthless too in the absence of creator-in-chief Alexander-Arnold.