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James Pearce backs Rhys Williams to step up in the absence of Van Dijk

Liverpool’s injury setback following the loss of Virgil van Dijk is arguably the most significant fitness blow the Reds have been dealt in the Premier League era. To lose a player of his quality for such a lengthy period is an unquantifiable detriment to the club’s title aspirations. It does, however, present opportunities to an array of young talent at Anfield. According to James Pearce, Rhys Williams could be the greatest beneficiary following the loss of the Dutchman to injury.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 01: Rhys Williams of Liverpool battles with Eddie Nketiah of Arsenal during the Carabao Cup Fourth Round match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on October 1, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Football Stadiums around United Kingdom remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

The next breakout star?

Jurgen Klopp really does appear to have a star on his hands in the form of Rhys Williams.

The 19-year-old only made his senior debut last month yet is now on course for further appearances with the first team.

Having impressed in both Carabao Cup matches against Lincoln and Arsenal, Williams has demonstrated to Klopp that he can been entrusted to step-up when given the opportunity.

Williams’ form has come at a timely moment for the academy graduate as with central defensive options currently worryingly thin, he looks set to be one of Klopp’s first picks to be called upon from the academy.

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He has already been added to Liverpool’s Champions League squad to face Ajax on Wednesday and has travelled with the squad to Amsterdam. According to FMDataba, Williams comes in at a towering 6ft 5 in.

LINCOLN, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 24: Liverpools Rhys Williams during the Carabao Cup Third Round match between Lincoln City and Liverpool at LNER Stadium on September 24, 2020 in Lincoln, England. (Photo by Andrew Vaughan – CameraSport via Getty Images)

Pearce on Williams

Reputable Liverpool journalist James Pearce has been singing the praises of Williams since his Reds debut at Sincil Bank during the 7-2 victory against Lincoln back in September.

Pearce didn’t fail to underplay just how much of a challenge Klopp and Liverpool have been thrown to cope in the absence of the irreplaceable Van Dijk but he did go on to add that it does give plenty of opportunities for other players such as Williams to step up to the mark.

Speaking on The Athletic’s Red Agenda podcast, Pearce said: “Van Dijk’s setback is bound to reignite the debate as to why Liverpool didn’t get a replacement for Dejan Lovren in the summer.

“This is one area of the squad where they were left light and is going to force a rejig in midfield a fair bit this season as we are going to see Fabinho playing centre back a lot of times.

“It may even present some amazing opportunities to some of the young players. Of course, we saw Rhys Williams really step up and deliver in the Carabao Cup games although it still a huge leap to go on and do it in the Premier League and the Champions League.

“For the most part, this season really does hinge on those already there trying to step up and ensure that Van Dijk isn’t as missed as we all fear he will be.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 01: Bukayo Saka of Arsenal is challenged by Rhys Williams of Liverpool during the Carabao Cup fourth round match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on October 01, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Football Stadiums around United Kingdom remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Peter Byrne – Pool/Getty Images)

What RTK has to say

It certainly is an exciting prospect to see a player as talented as Williams come into the mix yet it does oppose numerous risks at the same time.

Williams has never featured in either the Premier League or Champions League for Liverpool which would suggest if he is to clock up some appearances in the distant future, it will be a serious step-up to anything he has experienced at this present moment.

We saw against Arsenal just how composed and assured Williams was when faced against elite opposition and the only way he is going to get better is to sometimes throw a player of his quality in at the deep end.

The towering England under-21’s international possesses all the tools to become a top player, whether rushing him into the first team will help him or not remains to be seen.

While there isn’t any player in world football who could fill the same gargantuan void left by the Dutchman, it is reassuring to see the array of talent Liverpool can rely on to step up to the mark.

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