During the Merseyside derby a few days ago, Virgil Van Dijk went off injured in the first half after a poorly timed tackle from Everton keeper Jordan Pickford. Liverpool have lost arguably the best center-back in the world to a long-term injury. This puts a massive hole in an already leaky Liverpool defence. Van Dijk has been a crucial player for the reds’ recent success and is almost irreplaceable.
Without Van Dijk and an already shaky start to their Premier League campaign, let’s have a look at how Liverpool can cope this season.
Sign a new centre back in January:
With the January transfer window not far away, Liverpool could look to find an idle replacement for Van Dijk. But a practical problem arises here as there is no decent centre available who is directly capable of replacing the Dutchman.
A player who has already started running in the rumour mill once again is Kalidou Koulibaly, the Senegalese centre back is one of the best centre backs in the world right now and is the closest Liverpool can get to replacing Van Dijk. Moreover, once Van Dijk returns from injury, this centre back duo could be really strong and be a smart fix to Liverpool’s surprisingly leaky defence. Napoli value Koulibaly very highly and will certainly demand in excess of $80 million for the 29-year-old. This would not be a very smart move and very uncharacteristic of Liverpool given they haven’t made any major sale this summer too.
A really smart move by Liverpool would be to sign highly-rated English defender Ben White. He is young and commands a strong aerial presence similar to Van Dijk. He can also act as a nice competitor to Joe Gomez, who has been very inconsistent of late. Although the fact that he is English and Brighton are desperate to hold on to him, Liverpool would have to price him away for a fee in the region of $70 million, which seems ridiculously expensive for a player who is just playing his first season the Premier League.
The likes of Upamecano and Pau Torres have also emerged as suitable candidates for the job, but with these young talents with enormous potential, Liverpool will like have to pay a hefty premium to secure these talents, which just might be out of their budget.
Signing a replacement in the January transfer window is always a complicated task, with the top talents mentioned above would just become a little more expensive as teams are reluctant to lose their star players in the middle of a season. Whilst budget centre back options like Dunk, Tarkowski, Coady can come in handy, they all come with their set of weaknesses and aren’t really suitable for Liverpool’s style of play.
Keeping trust in current players:
The centre back duo of Matip and Gomez would be the idle replacement for Van Dijk. Although both of these defenders have a history of making mistakes. After a poor performance against Aston Villa, Joe Gomez was rightly dropped against Everton. Coming on to replace Van Dijk against Everton, Gomez looked solid at times, but his lack of aerial ability was exploited by Everton and was outjumped in both of the goals conceded by Liverpool. Matip, on the other hand, is a solid defender on his day but is fairly inconsistent when played without Van Dijk in the side.
A really smart choice for Klopp would be to play Fabinho at centre back. The Brazilian has played at that position earlier in his career and has looked very solid whenever asked to cover up in the centre for Liverpool. With the luxury of having a lot of midfield options, Klopp could play Fabinho at centre back especially after an impressive performance against Chelsea, where Fabinho managed to effectively shut down the pacey threat of Timo Werner. He also commands a strong aerial presence, unlike Joe Gomez.
Having said all this, Klopp currently has only Joe Gomez as the senior center-back player; owing to the injuries to Matip and Fabinho. Talk about adding salt to the wounds.
It will be interesting to see how Klopp will line up his defense against West Ham on Sunday. Maybe we will get to see new academy players or even Henderson dropping back to central defense.
The Hammers have had a very bright start to the season, with their draws against Spurs and Man City likely to boost their confidence for their trip to Anfield. They will surely try to test Liverpool’s backline consi
As for the long term, instead of spending millions on a new centre back, it would be beneficial to Liverpool to use the flexibility that Fabinho offers and play him at centre back. A very experienced player, Fabinho has looked excellent every time he’s played at centre back for the Reds.
Van Dijk is a big dent in the Liverpool side but with the attacking prowess that they have, Liverpool will still be title contenders this season. And there won’t be any surprise if we see a slight tactical change in the way Liverpool play without Van Dijk too.