By Daniel Moxon – @dmoxon_
It was pretty much inevitable that Liverpool would suffer a mini-injury ‘crisis’, and what a time to have one.
Top spot in the Premier League finally wrestled from Manchester City’s grasp (even if it is just for a week), still unbeaten after 16 games in the league having made the best start in the club’s 126-year history and qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League in the bag – there’s a very good feeling around Anfield at the moment.
On the flip side to all that, though, are injuries to Joe Gomez and Joel Matip that will keep them out until January and a dodgy foot for Trent Alexander-Arnold that could see the Reds without their first-choice right back for however long, leaving something of a personnel shortage in defence.
The absences of English duo Gomez and Alexander-Arnold will surely mean that Nathaniel Clyne will be brought in from the cold, but Jurgen Klopp will not be able to effectively negotiate this busy period of the campaign with only one fit right back and just two central defenders in the first team – they will need some help.
At full back the Reds should be okay, as Fabinho has played at right back for both club and country in the past, and James Milner showed he too is comfortable playing there if needed. Plus, there’s 18-year-old Rafael Camacho to call upon should he be needed. They will be able to rotate with Clyne and ensure that this area of the pitch is covered.
At centre back, however, it is a different story. Central defenders don’t tend to have to move around an awful lot in comparison to other positions, so they will perhaps require less rotation than others, but Virgil van Dijk and Dejan Lovren will probably need a rest at some point, especially the latter who hasn’t been fully fit since the World Cup.
The days of being able to call upon Raggy Klavan have passed since his move to Italy in the summer, so Klopp will have to call upon some of the young guns to step up this month and show their ability.
Nathaniel Phillips will likely be top of that list, as the 21-year-old was very impressive in pre-season and many predicted then that he could get his big break at some point this season – perhaps this will be it.
But the Bolton boy is not the only one that could be called upon – Irishman Conor Masterson has made the bench a few times under Jurgen Klopp, and the 20-year-old could be called upon to help the first team over Christmas.
This opportunity has perhaps come a little too soon for highly-rated Dutchman Ki-Jana Hoever – he’s being touted as a star of the future despite not even turning 17 until January and put in a commanding performance in Liverpool u19s’ 5-0 win over Napoli u19s in the UEFA Youth League earlier this week, but isn’t ready yet to make the step up to the Premier League.
Whoever gets the nod to rotate with the first team defenders and get some senior Premier League football under their belts, they have a real opportunity to impress and give themselves the best chance of ‘making it’ at Liverpool.
From Jurgen Klopp’s point of view, he knows that he has the personnel to step up and cover the team during these tricky times.