Frankly, we could publish a new article every week giving a reason why Liverpool should target a new centre-back. Other than Gini Wijnaldum’s contract and whether or not we’ll ever see Thiago again, it’s pretty much all Kopites talk about.
Long-term injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez early in the season left Joël Matip as the only senior central defender standing.
It also changed Fabinho’s job for the season. Instead of his usual role as the midfield enforcer, he has instead been needed as an auxiliary part of the defensive line – similar to the majority of a season James Milner played at left-back while Alberto Moreno recovered from injury.
The hope was that the Brazilian would partner Matip in the heart of the Liverpool defence for most games, while younger players Rhys Williams and Nathaniel Phillips would play a bit-part role where the congested fixture schedule demanded it.
But it hasn’t worked that way. Matip has missed far too many games through an unfortunate combination of niggling injuries and fitness issues, with Jürgen Klopp having to manage the Cameroonian’s game time to avoid a more serious injury.
As brilliant as Matip is – he was a key part of the 2019/20 Premier League title campaign, and no player in Europe’s top five leagues had a better success rate in aerial duels than him – no reasonable person can say that the club can rely on him to stay fit and hold the fort on his own.
And that is why, after his latest setback, when he hobbled off the Anfield pitch against West Brom with a suspected adductor problem, Liverpool no longer have a choice – they must dip into the transfer market this January.
The likes of Williams and Phillips have done an admirable job when called upon, especially considering neither would have expected to have played such an active role in the first team.
This is by no means an attack on either of them. They have performed well, but if the Reds want to ensure that this season is a successful one, then more depth at the back is required.Embed from Getty Images
Chances are, it will come out of nowhere. I don’t need to check the Liverpool Echo website to know they will have said that the club “currently has no plans to make any signings in the January transfer window”, or words to that effect.
And that’s because they rarely speculate and tend to simply report what they know. As far as Liverpool is concerned, journalists of all stripes know comparably little about the goings-on in the scouting department – because that’s exactly how the club’s recruitment bosses want it.
It’s how they were able to spring the Fabinho surprise just days after Champions League heartbreak in Kiev. The same goes for Diogo Jota’s arrival at the club, a move which was confirmed just 24 hours after the first solid reporting of interest came out.
The Thiago saga was much more public, but that was leaked to the German press initially and became a long, drawn-out saga as the player weighed up his future in a longer-than-usual summer transfer window.
So I wouldn’t worry too much over repeated reports stating that Liverpool will do no business in January. While it may ultimately be the case, I cannot believe that Klopp can look at his squad, with one available central defender in Matip – who himself is struggling to maintain fitness – and be satisfied that it is enough for a Premier League title charge.
We recently took a look at the statistics which are generally the most important for how the German likes his centre-backs to play, and came up with a four-man shortlist of defenders playing in Europe who could slot in nicely at Anfield.
We don’t know if any of them are being considered as serious options by the club’s recruitment team, but we likely won’t know anything at all until just before a signing is announced.
As a supporter it’s a bit frustrating – but you can’t deny it’s exciting!
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