Jurgen Klopp picked out Nat Phillips for praise after an imperious performance for Liverpool in the heart of the defence on his Premier League debut against West Ham.
The 23-year-old was utterly outstanding and was totally dominant in the air, and it was Phillips’ aerial supremacy to shut out the visitors which particularly impressed his manager.
Klopp said he was pleased with how effortlessly Phillips slotted into his defensive quartet, who from a statistical outlook, was by far Liverpool’s most influential player.
Speaking after the match, he said: “He’s a brilliant guy, smart guy, intelligent, everything. He’s not easy on the eye, he’s not Messi but who cares? In the air, he’s a monster! He was incredible.”
Crucial to Liverpool’s win
Klopp handed Phillips his first Liverpool appearance in nearly a year after he partnered the Englishman alongside Joe Gomez. It was the same central defensive partnership that inspired victory in his last Anfield match against Everton following a 1-0 FA Cup third-round victory back in January.
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Phillips didn’t shy away from the occasion and wasn’t phased by the fact it was his inaugural bout in England’s top-flight.
According to WhoScored, he had 96 touches, made two interceptions and nine clearences for his team – more than any other player on the pitch.
Right now Liverpool aren’t exactly blessed with an array of defensive options following the injuries to Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Fabinho, yet the club’s fringe players have proven they can still do a job for the team when called upon.
He was deserving of Klopp’s praise, and while this wasn’t a performance to get too carried away with, his efforts in getting his team over the line in yet another important win typify how Klopp’s relentless winning mentality has spread throughout all aspects of the club from the academy to the first team.
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