Dejan Lovren’s Anfield departure has raised more complications than initially thought given Liverpool are now a central defender light.
Brighton and Hove Albion defender Ben White had recently been drawn up as a long-term viable replacement yet the 22-year-old’s recent contract extension has in effect ruled out the possibility of a move this summer.
The ECHO reports that Liverpool could look to return to the table in 2021 with scouts set to monitor White’s progress in the Premier League to ensure his development remains in an upward trajectory.
This leaves Jurgen Klopp with just three senior options at central defence in the form of Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip.
Billy Koumetio’s involvement in pre-season showcases he could be a potential fourth choice option although the fact he is still only 17 suggests that Koumetio will most likely feature under Barry Lewtas and the under-23s as opposed to Klopp and the first team.
While Fabinho can cover when required in defence, moving the Brazilian international from midfield removes that assurance and stability in front of Liverpool’s back-line that proved pivotal in the club’s title procession last season.
However, given the recent injury record of Gomez and Matip, Fabinho could become a more likely central defensive partner for Van Dijk as the season goes on.
This would make Fabinho’s availability on a weekly basis potentially fundamental to Liverpool’s title defence next season.
We’ve been here before
Virgil van Dijk has demonstrated that he can consistently be relied on to stay fit having played every minute of Liverpool’s Premier League winning season and there is every confidence that the Dutchman will remain durable in each of the club’s 38 league matches for a third consecutive season.
Both Van Dijk and Fabinho were partnered together during Liverpool’s Community Shield defeat against Arsenal last weekend during the second half and it seemed as if it were Klopp accepting that this could be a scenario that supporters could get used to unfolding.
Klopp also was forced to make the same tactical reshuffle when Liverpool suffered against Manchester City in early July. Gomez had a terrible first half and so the German manager took him off and moved Fabinho into the middle of the defence.
Jordan Henderson has demonstrated he can fill in the defensive hole in midfield when Fabinho is unavailable while Liverpool’s array of options in midfield showcase the club should never be short in that particular area of the squad.
With that said, Fabinho’s ability to take up two positions next season arguably makes him one of if not the most important squad player to Klopp next season.
Matip has only started nine matches in over a year while Gomez has spent large periods on the sidelines during four of his five seasons with the club.
The reality is that an injury is likely to hit both of the aforementioned players more than any other player in the squad if the past is an indication which makes Fabinho’s role in the team even more crucial next season.
If Klopp trusts Fabinho there, then potentially is reduces the urge to sign anyone. Liverpool have the numbers to cover his absence in midfield and as fourth-choice, he won’t need to move very often.
Liverpool will be confidence Fabinho can cope with the physical demands of two positions before the Reds look to move for White again next summer.
Having an all action versatile option such as Fabinho appears Klopp’s best option if he is to prepare his team for the rigours and physically sapping experiences the 2020/21 schedule is set to bring.
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