Ozan Kabak analysis: Defender’s deal confirmed as Klopp finally gets his man

JAMES NOBLE takes a look at the Liverpool Deadline Day loan signing, with Kabak expected to play a big role this season in the absence of the Reds’ other centre-backs.

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Ozan Kabak’s move from Schalke 04 – on loan with an option to buy in the summer – was completed on Monday evening, hours before the 11pm GMT transfer deadline.

The Galatasaray academy graduate underwent his medical at Schalke’s Gelsenkirchen medical centre earlier on Monday in order to help ensure any deal could go through on time.

It’s been a turbulent season for Die Königsblauen. Significant financial difficulties have been compounded by them registering just one win from 19 Bundesliga games so far, which has left them bottom of the table and ten points from safety.

That is, of course, not something that reflects especially well on any of the players involved – but it certainly shouldn’t see those individuals written off, either. Many have offered a certain Andy Robertson as evidence of that, given the Scottish left-back joined the Reds from recently relegated Hull City in 2017.

Kabak isn’t being written off. It seems he remains widely liked by several clubs across Europe and the fact, at the age of 20, that he already has over 75 senior club appearances and seven Turkey caps to his name perhaps offers a hint at why.

Attributes

Kabak appears proactive, strong in the air and dynamic in much of his defending.

All centre-back traits that are highly valued within Liverpool’s system.


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He regularly steps out of defence to make interceptions or to challenge opponents, and that is something which could be honed to see him thrive in counter-pressing situations.

On top of that, quite literally, is his impressive ability in the air. He’s won 77pc of his aerial duels in 14 Bundesliga appearances so far this term.

That ranks strongly against the Merseysiders’ current senior centre-backs, with Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joël Matip registering 63pc, 54pc and 68pc respectively in that category during their admittedly limited 2020/21 appearances so far.

Winning battles in the air is also crucial in the context of the Reds’ system, given teams will often look to play the ball over their press, rather than through it.

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Which brings us onto his dynamism. Kabak looks to have good recovery pace and a healthy ability to make key interventions while getting back into position.

Considering the high defensive line that Liverpool like to employ in order to squeeze the play and press aggressively, centre-backs having the capacity to defend that space when the ball is played into it considerably enhances the game plan.

Crucially, his distribution also looks accomplished.

Thus far this Bundesliga season, the Turk – who consistently plays on the right side of central defence – has completed 94pc of his passes in his own half and 88pc in the opposition half.

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An area for possible improvement in this regard, though, is his long passing. He’s completed 43pc of those in 2020/21, although that is only 15pc off Van Dijk’s completion rate this term, 14pc off Gomez’s and 6pc higher than Matip’s.

Alongside technical improvement, the amount of possession the Reds tend to have and the intricacies of their system could see this stat enhanced.

Possible concerns?

The five Bundesliga matches that Kabak missed earlier this season were as a result of suspension.

On top of a one-game ban for being sent off, for two yellow cards, in Schalke’s 3-1 home defeat to Werder Bremen on September 26, he was suspended for an additional four matches after he appeared to spit on Bremen’s Ludwig Augustinsson during the contest.

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Kabak tweeted an apology to the Swedish international that evening, where he stated: “It was not my intention, it was an accident. The TV angle gives a deceptive view of the incident. I never did that before and won’t do it IN THE FUTURE, as it’s unsporting. This was very unlucky.”

The German football association did, nonetheless, find him guilty of unsporting behaviour.

Such incidents are, inevitably, not what anyone wants to see but Kabak’s insistence that it was an accident shouldn’t be ignored. Only he, presumably, will know for certain whether it was intentional.

Klopp’s long-time friend David Wagner – who left his position as Schalke head coach in September – has reportedly recommended Kabak to Klopp.

So too, apparently, has Christian Heidel – who was the club’s sporting director between 2016 and 2019 and held the same role at Mainz during Klopp’s time in charge there.

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Such observations will likely reassure the Liverpool boss while, as This is Anfield’s Karl Matchett has pointed out, the recently appointed Dr Andreas Schlumberger joined from Schalke, and will likely possess additional insight into the context of the incident and Kabak’s wider character.

Overall, the 20-year-old’s arrival looks an intriguing – and exciting – prospect.


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