By Christian Evans.
Liverpool’s defensive injury concerns were further compounded in recent weeks when stand-in centre-back Fabinho went down with a suspected hamstring injury. However, despite the setbacks, Liverpool have now put together an unbeaten run of seven games, winning five.
Joel Matip out early in the season, and Virgil van Dijk now out for the season with an ACL injury, Jürgen Klopp had been forced to shift Fabinho into defence, but the Brazilian went on to pick up an injury of his own against FC Midtjylland.
The departure of Dejan Lovren in the summer left the club shorthanded in the position, and with Matip unreliable in terms of his availability, the club will need to look at their young prospects to cover in the short-term.
Premier League and Champions League fixtures will continue to come thick and fast after the international break, and with a large chunk of games still facing the club ahead of the January transfer window, Klopp needs a temporary solution.
Many believed Van Dijk’s injury would derail Liverpool’s title challenge, but that’s not been the case so far. Klopp’s men have won five of the six games Van Dijk has missed, drawing the other against Manchester City, with the stand-in players often contributing impressively.
Nathaniel Phillips replaced Fabinho against West Ham and was named Man of the Match after a superb display on only his second senior appearance at Anfield.
With Phillips not registered in the Champions League squad, 19-yar-old Rhys Williams got the nod against a free-scoring Atalanta and had an outstanding game, marshalling Duván Zapata and Luis Muriel throughout.
With Joe Gomez injured on international duty and set to miss much of the season, the club are left with Matip, Sepp van den Berg, Williams, Phillips and 17-year-old Billy Koumetio in the position.
Liverpool are likely to face sterner challenges going forward, and Klopp has already said that he might have to use one of the more experienced midfielders in the position.
“We still, obviously, have other options like Hendo, or Gini or James [Milner] and Robbo can play centre-half as well,” Klopp said in October.
“They are all not smaller than [Javier] Mascherano, for example, and he played pretty well in that position.”
Prior to the January transfer window Klopp’s team face many tough tests including Ajax and Atalanta again, Leicester City, Wolverhampton Wanderers, and Tottenham Hotspur.
Performances in these late-2020 fixtures may determine whether Klopp needs to dip into the transfer market in January, but he could do so regardless of the performances and results between now and then.