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Monday, May 27, 2024

Liverpool’s centre back options – ranked

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Gone our the days when Liverpool’s defence was the most stringent in the Premier League.

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The Reds’ pomp under Jurgen Klopp – between 2018 and 2020 – saw them boast the best defensive record in the division for back-to-back seasons as they claimed their maiden Premier League crown in 2019/20.

A fierce press, compact midfield, impressive recovery defenders and an excellent goalkeeper all played major roles in their stellar defensive peak. Nowadays, Liverpool are anything but secure and their woes will surely be exacerbated by Virgil van Dijk’s absence.

The Dutchman picked up a hamstring injury in the 3-1 defeat to Brentford on Monday evening and is expected to be out of action for a prolonged period. In his absence, Klopp has a couple of options who could step up and replace Liverpool’s star centre-back while he’s sidelined.

Here’s a ranking of those options.

Liverpool v Derby County - Carabao Cup Third Round

Liverpool fans will not be wanting to see Nat Phillips anytime soon / MB Media/GettyImages

Phillips was thrust into a prominent role during the 2020/21 campaign when Van Dijk tore his ACL. The 25-year-old made 17 appearances for the Reds that season but he’s since just played 66 league minutes.

In short, Phillips is a throwback defender who doesn’t boast the requisite athleticism to excel in a high defensive line.

Given the issues Liverpool have had out of possession higher up the field, it’d be nothing short of disastrous if Phillips was a member of the Liverpool backline that’s constantly been exposed this season.

Joe Gomez - Soccer Player

Injuries have taken their toll on Joe Gomez / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Gomez was once one of England’s brightest defensive talents, but he’s now only used sparingly by Klopp. Often, the former Charlton man is brought on as a substitute to provide cover or even replace Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back.

His development has been halted by a couple of big injuries, and he’s currently a fair distance off where many projected him to be at this point in his career.

In truth, Gomez has emerged as a bit of a liability in the Liverpool defence. He’s error-prone and doesn’t look comfortable defending space despite his impressive athleticism.

Joel Matip

Joel Matip has an awful injury record / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

Matip is a fine defender who partnered Van Dijk throughout Liverpool’s impressive 2021/22 campaign.

The veteran defender had evolved into one of the Premier League’s most underrated performers given his difficult role in the Liverpool defence, but boy is he unreliable.

Matip has missed over 100 games due to various injuries and illnesses since he joined the club in 2016. So, while Matip has proven his competence at the highest level, there are no guarantees that he’ll keep himself fit while Van Dijk is out.

Brentford FC v Liverpool FC - Premier League

Ibrahima Konate needs to step up in Virgil van Dijk’s absence / Sebastian Frej/MB Media/GettyImages

Unfortunately, Liverpool appear to have signed another injury-prone defender in Konate, but his talent is undeniable.

The Frenchman is a behemoth of a centre-back who could soon evolve into one of the world’s very best in his position. His physical and technical attributes are second to none, and his performance in the World Cup semi-final against Morocco depicted just how good he is.

Konate has certainly been aided by Van Dijk since joining Liverpool, but now’s his time to take charge of the Reds backline in the Dutchman’s absence.

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