Jurgen Klopp had one glaring decision in his starting XI to face Newcastle United. He opted to put Nat Phillips in defence – a clear test of Liverpool’s reported transfer policy.
The Liverpool Echo recently reported that the Reds won’t sign anyone in January. That could change but only through injury or a sale.
The plan, then, is to stick with what’s already at the club – i.e. no defensive signings.
That’s a big decision, given the injuries to Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and now Joel Matip. It leaves Liverpool with just Fabinho playing out of position and Rhys Williams & Nat Phillips to partner him.
Both of the latter two are very inexperienced. Williams played non-league last season, while Williams was in the German second division.
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It appeared that Williams was the preferred choice, though. He started that game against Tottenham Hotspur and came on against West Brom.
It certainly looked like the 19-year-old had the upper hand in the battle for a first-team spot. Then Klopp caught everyone off-guard against Newcastle.
He started Phillips for the first time in over a month. The only obvious reason to do that is a test of the transfer policy – are these two good enough to fill the gap?
Williams won’t be enough, given Matip’s injury. Liverpool will want two options alongside Fabinho at the back – it’s just sensible to do so.
You don’t want to put all of your eggs in one basket, after all. This way, Liverpool insure themselves further against more injuries or Williams suffering poor form.
But it’s still a test. Liverpool’s transfer policy only works if both players can deliver. How the Reds judged Phillips’ performance at Newcastle will have an effect, then.
If they liked it, they’ll feel more confident about signing no one. If he didn’t impress, perhaps they’ll change their minds.