Rhys Williams could not have asked for a tougher assignment following a chaotic start to the 2020/21 season.
Having spent last season on loan in National League North with Kidderminster Harriers, the 19-year-old will not have expected to make a sustained impact for the Premier League champions once the campaign kicked off last month.
However, in just five short weeks, Williams has already clocked up four appearances for Liverpool including two consecutive bouts in club football’s biggest competition.
Fortunately, manager, Jurgen Klopp has faith in him. He had no worries throwing the teenager straight in after Fabinho was forced off with a hamstring problem.
Williams partnered his fellow countryman Joe Gomez in the heart of the defence and together they helped secure Liverpool’s second consecutive clean sheet in Europe as the Reds maintained their 100 per cent start in the Champions League.
On a couple of occasions, Williams was forced to intervene with a number of vital blocks and interceptions to keep FC Midtjylland at bay before Mohamed Salah wrapped up proceedings in stoppage-time.
Williams has the physical attributes to be a top defender. He is quick, strong and is exceptional in the air. Ironically, his hulking frame and aerial prowess have already drawn comparisons to his Liverpool teammate and the world’s best defender Virgil van Dijk.
On Saturday, Williams was playing, and scoring, for Barry Lewtas’ under-23 side against Chelsea at Kirkby, but here he was, three days later, thrust into action on the big stage
This game can hopefully be a turning point for him. His ability to step in on the biggest stage showcased that Williams has the mental resilience for even more appearances in the first-team. It was another statement performance from the teenager.
In total, he made one tackle, one interception, won two of his aerial duels and completed 57 passes. He also enjoyed 60 touches on the ball, which was only bettered by four Liverpool players.
Former Liverpool striker Peter Crouch told BT Sport: “I’ve got to give a shoutout to Rhys Williams. He came on and didn’t put a foot wrong.”
Williams also received a referral of praise from his teammate and Liverpool vice-captain James Milner as well as his former side Kidderminster.
— James Milner (@JamesMilner) October 27, 2020
— Kidderminster Harriers 🦅 (@khfcofficial) October 27, 2020
Defence has been a huge problem for Liverpool and an injury to Fabinho was the worse possible outcome for Klopp who has already lost Van Dijk and Joel Matip in recent weeks.
However, despite the ongoing setbacks, Williams has shown he can be a real solution and is deserving of a chance to stake his claim in the team.
Trent Alexander-Arnold benefitted from a long-term injury to Nathaniel Clyne during his breakout season in 2017/18 which demonstrates if, given the platform, players from the academy can make the leap to the senior set-up.
There will be more big challenges to come, but Liverpool could not have asked for more from Williams, considering the circumstances.
Liverpool fans were left raving about his performance. Here is a look at some of the reaction on Twitter…
Rhys Williams very solid again tonight when he came on #LFC
— Jake Logan (@JakeLog18721892) October 27, 2020
Trent swam like a maniac when thrown in…. have some faith
Really like this kid. If you're good enough you're old enough etc. #LFC
Well done lad 👊 https://t.co/E8KtJ9brZc
— Dave Lyons (@DaveLyonsLFC) October 27, 2020
This is where Rhys Williams kills it and convinces klopp he doesn’t need to sign a Cb in January 😭 #LFC
— Craig Fisher (@1CraigFisher) October 27, 2020
Excellent performance Rhys, calm and assured. Kept everything simple. 👏👏👏👏👏
— Derek McLean (@DerektheKopRed) October 27, 2020
Well played big fella 👏 Huge respect… stepping up🙌 The new Van Dijk? 🤣
— CHAMPIONS OF ENGLAND 19TIMES🔴 (@LeonAnd38236123) October 27, 2020
Baby Van Dijk !
— Jordan Denton (@Jordan_Denton_) October 27, 2020
— E-yan Millz (@Eyan99sheikh) October 27, 2020
With our unfortunate CB crisis this now could be the making of our next homegrown superstar @rhyswilliams01 💪💪💪
— LFC CHAMPIONS OF THE WORLD 🏆 (@appydaze70) October 27, 2020
Rhys Williams deserves to start against West Ham. He has not put a foot wrong since he joined the team. Played a big role in a few clean sheets now too.
— Tom W🔴🔴 (@Valiant_Virgil) October 27, 2020
- Jamie Carragher’s instant reaction as Liverpool beat FC Midtjylland
- Five things we learned as Liverpool beat FC Midtjylland 2-0
- Reds now have an unpredictable approach which Klopp must master
- Klopp’s recent formation change offers Minamino long-term hope
- Reds fans react as club confirm move to Kirkby training complex
- Thiago back at Melwood and could feature against West Ham
- Diogo Jota is already threatening to disrupt Klopp’s pedigreed front-three
- Joe Gomez has been handed task that could define his Reds career
- Wijnaldum continues to prove why the club can’t let him go
- Curtis Jones could be Klopp’s 2020/21 Trent Alexander-Arnold at Anfield
- Fabinho and Gomez could provide perfect defensive solution