On paper, the combination of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson in central defence for Liverpool looked a promising one. In truth, the reality was quite different, to say the least.
The absence of two of midfield generals in their preferred positions was telling. Liverpool lacked their usual bite and intensity without them.
Fabinho and Henderson a fix, not a solution
Fabihno has effectively become Klopp’s first-choice centre-back. Liverpool are still without Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, after all.
The Brazil international has become indispensable to Jurgen Klopp’s defensive set-up having played the full 90 minutes in Liverpool’s previous nine league matches.
Subscribe to Rousing The Kop TV now
Meanwhile, Henderson was chosen ahead of Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams. This suggests the Liverpool academy duo are yet to fully convince Klopp of their quality.
With that said, how do Liverpool build a long-term partnership in defence without their first-choice centre-back duo?
Klopp’s strategy in the coming weeks will likely involve regular rotation. The Liverpool boss has utilised alternate centre-back partnerships in the Reds’ previous three matches, after all.
Luckily for Liverpool, Matip is expected to return for the clash against Manchester United on January 17. That’s according to reports from The Athletic.
This would ensure the reinstatement of Fabinho and Matip at the back and will enable Henderson to return to midfield. All problems solved then?
Well, not exactly.
Matip still a concern
The main issue ahead of Matip’s return, is the Cameroonian’s inability to stay fit. He has started just seven of Liverpool’s 17 league matches this season, in fact.
The reality is that he is not reliable enough nor has the durability to put supporters’ minds at ease. With that said, the need for further defensive reinforcements becomes apparent.
But how does Klopp solve this? The current market isn’t exactly screaming out with viable and attainable options to combat Liverpool’s defensive void.
Still, a number of things are certain. For one, Henderson and Fabinho aren’t a sustainable long-term solution, as we saw at Southampton.
Both players, particularly Henderson, are too important in their naturally-suited roles to cover elsewhere.
So, this effectively leaves Klopp with three potential solutions. One option is he bites the bullet and brings in a short-term fix from the market, an unfavourable approach from the club’s perspective.
On the other hand, Liverpool continue to place their faith in Matip and pray he stays fit for the duration of the season. Again, a risky alternative given his unfavourable record with injury.
Consequently, Klopp could place further trust in the likes of Williams and Phillips to step-up when needs be. Both players are naturally suited to that position, after all.
This is something Klopp could look to put to the test against Aston Villa on Friday. Let’s hope it does, both players need a platform to showcase their credentials.
What’s clear at this moment in time, however, is that Klopp is still a long way off finding a long-term solution to Liverpool’s defensive concerns.