Ben Davies analysis: Is signing from Preston the defender Liverpool are looking for?

SAM JONES takes a look at Liverpool’s Deadline Day signing, with Davies expected to play a big role this season in the absence of the Reds’ other centre-backs.

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Liverpool’s defensive injury crisis has been well-documented, ever since Virgil van Dijk tore his anterior cruciate ligament back in October.

Many fans thought a big name would be brought into the club in January, especially with Joe Gomez also being ruled out for the season after sustaining a knee injury while on England duty.

But January rolled around and no action was being taken by the Reds, much to the frustration of fans and manager Jürgen Klopp.


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“These decisions are not my decisions,” said the German. “If somebody thinks we should do something, I cannot decide if we do something in the transfer market or not. That must be clear.”

It looked as if the board were going to let the window end with no new acquisitions, until Joël Matip, the only centre-back not out with a long-term injury, went down at half-time in the Tottenham Hotspur game on Thursday.

It looked as if the defender was going to be set for a lengthy spell on the side lines so, finally, the board decided it was time to dip into the transfer market.

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It was set out by the board they would spend a small amount of money on someone who would most likely be a short-term option.

Names such as Shkodran Mustafi from Arsenal and Issa Diop from West Ham were thrown around the rumour mill but out of nowhere came Ben Davies from Preston North End.

A fee of around £2 million was agreed with the Lancashire side – it could end up being a real bargain buy – as the Reds snatched the defender from under the nose of Celtic.

Davies is a 25-year-old centre-back has a less than glamourous CV with teams such as Newport County and Fleetwood Town being the stand-out names on his list.

However, the Englishman has been putting in some good performances in the Championship for The Lilywhites, impressing fans with his speed and composure on the ball.

The defender has this season been completing an average of 2.6 tackles and interceptions per game with 4.3 clearances. Although Davies does play in a weaker league, this does beat the numbers of Gunners man Mustafi – another name linked with a move to Anfield – who puts up 2.4 tackles and interceptions and 1.8 clearances.

In the games he did play, Virgil van Dijk completed 5.6 long balls per game with a 90pc overall pass completion rate in the Premier League.

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Davies cannot match these numbers – he has completed 3.9 long balls per game with an overall 79pc pass completion rate. It does show he is comfortable playing from deep, something Liverpool have been missing in the absence of van Dijk.

But it isn’t about finding someone to replace their main man in defence. The new man is going to be there while the Dutchman recovers, and then he will offer cover in the future.

The thing that really makes Davies stand out from the crowd is the fact he is left-footed. Liverpool don’t have a naturally left-footed centre-back, something which can definitely be useful in tight situations.

It is believed that his price, age and ability to play left-back, as well as in the middle, were all key factors for the Reds’ transfer committee as to why Davies was in the end the target.

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It’s key to have versatility, especially when playing under Klopp as he has been known to make some interesting selection choices in the past. Steven Caulker as an auxiliary striker and Gini Wijnaldum at centre-back are examples which come to mind.

To be considered a success at Anfield, Davies has a simple job. All he needs to do is not be terrible and steady the ship until the regular crowd return from injury.

Beyond that it’s hard to foresee what his long-term role will be at Liverpool. But he will have opportunities to impress in the coming weeks and months, and if he does that then this may turn out to be a superb career move.


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