Liverpool actually improved the last time a key defensive player was out with injury. The Reds will be without Virgil van Dijk for some time.
It’s certainly easy to run to the panic stations now Virgil van Dijk is out for a long time. And perhaps people should. Van Dijk is the world’s best defender and Liverpool will be worse off without him.
But it’s worth considering the last time a key defensive player was missing. That happened last season in late November when Fabinho went off against Napoli.
He didn’t play again until January, meaning he missed the busiest period of the season in December. Despite that, Liverpool actually improved without the £39m man.
Fabinho started last season in fantastic form. He was, in our opinion, the best defensive midfielder in the world before his injury. Although, Liverpool weren’t that good defensively at that time.
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In the 18 games Fabinho played before the injury, Liverpool kept just two clean sheets. Clearly, there was reason to panic. The Reds were struggling to defend as it was and now Fabinho was out. Things could only get worse.
But Jordan Henderson took over the holding midfield role and things improved. In fact, they improved significantly. In the ten games that followed, Liverpool kept eight clean sheets.
The team rallied, found a way to win, and kept it going through a brilliant December. It was as though the injury spurred them on. That feels particularly relevant now.
So here we are, nearly a year later, and a similar situation arises. Now, Van Dijk will be out for far longer and he’s a better player than Fabinho.
But it still stands that Liverpool found a way to improve the last time they were a man down. And much like then, the side haven’t been good defensively this season as it is.
Hopefully, then, we see a repeat. Perhaps Joe Gomez or Joel Matip step up and put in the form of their lives. Perhaps the midfield can become the most solid in the league.
However they do it, Liverpool have beaten adversity before and they can do it again.