Liverpool left it late and were prompted to act given the outcome of Joel Matip’s injury but they have signed two new centre backs in a bid to help the Reds retain the Premier League.
It was very much like London buses, waiting an eternity for Liverpool to do business and then signing two at once. A combined fee of around £2million once again looks like shrewd business from Michael Edwards.
Ben Davies from Preston North End was the first announced, signing a long-term deal with the club. The 25-year-old is an experienced Championship defender and has been applauded this season for his defensive quality and ability to play out from the back. Liverpool have greatly missed this following Virgil van Dijk’s injury.
Ozan Kabak was the second centre back to be welcomed at Liverpool and signed a loan deal until the end of the season with an option to sign a permanent deal if the Reds see fit. Despite previously being at Schalke who are currently bottom of the Bundesliga, winning just one game and conceding the most goals in the league by nine, Kabak does seem to have good potential. Former Schalke manager and good friend of Jurgen Klopp, David Wagner, has reassured Liverpool fans, stating that he can deliver and could be a future captain one day.
Greater defensive options
With Matip’s ligament injury meaning that he will miss the rest of the season, Liverpool had no choice other than to bring in defensive options. If Liverpool plan to retain the league or aim to win the Champions League, they would not be able to do so with Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams as their cover.
Fabinho and Henderson have both done fantastic jobs in the defence but to expect them to continue to play there for the remainder of the season and be successful would be ludicrous.
It is a similar scenario with Williams and Phillips; people simply cannot expect them to play in defence for a prolonged period. Williams is only 19-years-old and as expected for someone of his age, not at the level required for Liverpool. Although Phillips has looked good in the two previous games against Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United, again not too much can be expected from him.
With Davies and Kabak options now too, Klopp can begin to work out his best partnership and rotate when needed.
With how impressive Fabinho has looked playing in defence, it would not be a surprise to see him continue to play there for this season when he has recovered from his own injury situation. Alongside him it will be interesting to see if Phillips is given the chance to extend his positive form or if Davies or Kabak are thrown straight in.
Henderson likely to move back into midfield
Another promising scenario from signing centre backs will be freeing up Henderson to play in midfield once again. The captain has had a short stint at centre back and although he too has done an admirable job there, Liverpool have missed his energy in midfield.
It does not come as a real surprise that Liverpool’s stutter in the league coincided with Henderson either playing at centre back or being missing through injury.
Henderson is extremely important to the midfield and it will be nice to see him return to his favoured position. Of course, there is enough cover in defence now for Fabinho to move into midfield also should Klopp choose to. This would enable Liverpool to play Henderson, Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara in midfield, which would probably now be Liverpool’s best midfield.