While Liverpool were handed another gargantuan injury setback following the long-term knee injury to Joe Gomez, it has subsequently left a recently vacated position in the defence that is in urgent need of cover. Nat Phillips could be Jurgen Klopp’s best immediate solution.
Phillips, 23, other than Joel Matip is the manager’s oldest and most experienced central defensive option. He had been out on loan with Stuttgart last term. And the ECHO reported during the summer that he had attracted serious interest from a number of clubs in the Championship.
But he ultimately stayed. And he has proven to be an important squad player for Klopp, particularly during the ongoing injury crisis at Anfield that currently sees the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold all nursing casualties.
Phillips was handed his inaugural Premier League appearance during the 2-1 victory against West Ham last month, a match in which Jamie Carragher lauded the debutant as his MOTM.
Klopp also has a number of young talent that are desperate to showcase their quality in the form of Rhys Williams and Billy Koumetio.
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Both players have seriously impressed the manager in some capacity this season with Williams clocking up two appearances in the Champions League earlier this month while Koumetio was lauded as ‘big talent’ by Klopp during pre-season following an interview with the club’s official website.
However, asking a 19 or a 17-year-old to fill in for the English champions over a sustained period is a daunting proposition.
Koumetio is still to settle at under-23 level, let alone senior, while Williams was playing in National League North as recently as March. The jump is huge.
Klopp, then, will have to juggle his squad like never before. He must rest, rotate, chop and change, give chances to youngsters as the manager looks to make it to January as unscathed as possible before potentially investing in defensive reinforcements in the transfer market.
The Premier League champions have 12 games between November 21 and January 2, taking on the likes of Leicester City and Tottenham, the current top-two, as well as Ajax, Atalanta, Wolves and Southampton among others.
With that said, Phillips represents Klopp’s best option in the Premier League to partner Matip and it is the opportunity the Bolton-born defender has been waiting for.
It could vindicate to Klopp that Phillips is deserving of a contract extension, especially when you consider the fact is current deal runs out at the end of the season according to Transfermarkt.
He is ineligible to feature in the Champions League having been overlooked in the manager’s squad to compete in Europe. This could see Klopp regularly rotate Phillips and Williams between domestic and European participation.
The fact Liverpool are where they are – a point off the top of the Premier League and one win away from Champions League knockout qualification – is testament to the mentality, and the squad that Klopp has meticulously constructed at Anfield.
The Premier League champions have become masters at dealing with adversity, at taking setbacks in their stride and continuously finding a way to make it to the other side. The manner in which players such as Phillips and Williams can step in and step up, speaks volumes.
Liverpool may be down, but they are certainly not out. It just isn’t in Klopp’s nor the club’s DNA.
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