After what seems to be a never-ending list of defensive injuries in the Liverpool squad at the moment, and with the January transfer window open for business, would it be necessary for Liverpool to tip their toes in the cold and risky world in doing business halfway through the season?
The scouse medical report is a lengthy and significant one, with many key squad figureheads on the list that no football player wants to be on. No-one wants to be injured, especially when a side is playing at such a high level in their domestic league. Everyone wants to be involved in this Liverpool team at the moment. It is a great place to be and Jurgen Klopp has built a dynasty that hasn’t been seen since Liverpool’s Champions League runs in 2005 and 2007 with Rafael Benitez.
There is a lease of life in the club that has been injected by our very own Kaiser Chief in the two-time Bundesliga champion. Players will run through brick walls for him at this time and the performances on the pitch are evident of this fact.
In this defensive analysis, we will be looking at the current injury list and analysing the impact that those players have had on the side’s good fortunes this season. Also, we will assess and study January transfer windows of the past and investigate the destinies of Liverpool at the end of those seasons, and whether those signings had any sort of drastic impact on the team as a whole.
The most notable absentees in the Liverpool side currently are at the heart of defence, with the absences of Joe Gomez and Joel Matip proving to be a sour taste. In recent years, the back line has been a reccurring problem for the Reds during both brief title runs back in 2008/09 and 2013/14, where defensive errors cost the Reds the Premier League title on both occasions.
Gomez has averaged 1.3 tackles, 1.1 interceptions and three clearances per game his 12 Premier League appearances, according to WhoScored. His defensive capabilities have been noticed and rated highly by the Kop who place him ahead of Dejan Lovren in Liverpool’s starting XI.
Liverpool’s number 12 has been a revelation since he joined from Charlton Athletic in 2015, after sustaining a cruciate ligament injury after an enlightening performance against Stoke, which saw him miss the entire 2015/16 campaign. This was before he had issues with his Achilles and missed three months of the following season. Transfer Markt revealed that Gomez has had five different injuries in the space of three seasons.
Early signs show that the England international could have a career which is hampered with injuries, similar to his team-mate Daniel Sturridge. As the London-born youngster is still relatively young, there is time for Liverpool’s medical staff to ensure the best possible recovery for Gomez and to aim high with his fitness. He has the potential to become one of the best centre-backs in the country.
Joel Matip has surprised many with his performances in the games that he’s played in so far this season. After joining on a free transfer from Bundesliga side Schalke 04 in 2016, the Cameroonian international has not seen an awful lot of football since the arrival of record signing Virgil van Dijk from Southampton in the last January transfer window.
As you would expect, Matip’s form hasn’t been quite as prolific as his team-mate Gomez by any means. WhoScored have recorded an average of 0.8 tackles, 0.9 interceptions and 0.8 clearances per game over 275 minutes of playing time in the Premier League, accumulated from three starts and five appearances as a substitute.
Despite being evidently a third-choice centre-half, his performances have been impressive and consistent, with an average match rating of 7.52. Again, with the likes of Dejan Lovren falling drastically out of favour with a section of Liverpool fans, it could be a time to invest in January.
Fans are also forgetting a young man who had a remarkable pre-season for the Reds, featuring heavily as Liverpool prepared for the new Premier League season. The prospect is expected to potentially feature in the FA Cup this season.
Despite having not played a competitive game for Jurgen Klopp’s side as of yet, Nathaniel Phillips showed a lot of potential during the USA tour and the pre-season friendlies against the likes of Tranmere Rovers and Bury. He also impressed during victories over Manchester City and Manchester United in the International Champions Cup, putting himself firmly in the sights of the manager for a possible first-team call-up this season.
So there are options available for Klopp to utilise in his side on their returns from injury. One assumes the majority would choose Joe Gomez to jump right back with both feet after what was an impressive start to the season, forming an energetic, aggressive and effective partnership with Virgil van Dijk at the heart of the Liverpool backline.
The Reds have had a history of making significant investments in January, but some will have gone under the radar. Here’s a reminder of Liverpool’s previous business at the halfway point.
Getting the deal done
Liverpool have been notorious for getting transfer deals done at the halfway mark, especially the illustrious signings which will hold long in the memory for Liverpool. For example, Fernando Torres moved to Chelsea for £50 million from the Reds before manager Kenny Dalglish responded with a double swoop for Newcastle’s Andy Carroll and Ajax’s Luis Suarez for a combined £54 million.
However, in this analysis, we will just concentrate on the defensive additions to the side during the halfway point of the season.
One of the less memorable under the tenure of Rafael Benitez was during his second season as manager. The Champions League winner was always on the hunt for a good deal with the limited resources that he had at the time and moved to sign the Dutch full-back Jan Kromkamp. He fitted the bill as a back-up for Steve Finnan, with the Republic of Ireland international being the only right-back that was good enough at the time. Despite winning an FA Cup winners medal in 2006, his time at Anfield did not last long as a spell of terrible performances saw him leave the following summer.
Benitez then went through a business phase at Liverpool where he could not let a January transfer window pass without signing a full-back. The season after the Reds’ FA Cup triumph, Liverpool made the move for Alvaro Arbeloa who was initially recognised as a squad player at Anfield. Of course, he went on to feature for Real Madrid and Spain.
Some fans may have forgotten that Martin Skrtel was also a January signing. Known as “Captain Mad Face” by a section of Liverpool fans, the Slovakian centre-back repaid the faith that Benitez shown in him with his long-service at the club. He would eventually leave to join the Turkish-outfit Fenerbahce in 2016 after eight years at Anfield.
Another individual that would go to be loved by Liverpool fans up and down the land was Daniel Agger. The Telegraph revealed that Benitez had the choice at the time between bringing the Danish centre-back or Serbian Nemanja Vidic, who of course went on to play for Manchester United. The Dane was a class act who left his heart on the pitch. He left in 2014 as another Scandinavian cult hero at Anfield alongside the likes of Jan Molby.
So it begs the question once more, do Liverpool need to dip into the transfer market? It’s evident looking at recent years that it’s possible to find some hidden gems under the sand, that’s if you look hard enough. But is it absolutely vital for the Reds to go out and buy another defender to consolidate their lead at the top of the Premier League?
With the injuries that the Reds have at the moment, it can be very easy to panic buy. As Jurgen Klopp is a man that has a character for calm and composure, it may be apparent that Liverpool will invest elsewhere in their squad. Joe Gomez and Joel Matip have been sensational when they’ve featured in the squad this season. Gomez and Van Dijk looks to be a glittering partnership which could rival the likes of Hyypia and Henchoz from the early 2000s.
It will be interesting to see the form of Gomez when he inevitably returns to the side. Will he continue his form from earlier in the season? There is still a long way to go and Klopp will give him the time to develop at Melwood and on the football pitch. It’s not necessary to bring anyone in at this time but who knows what the manager will think or do.
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