Liverpool’s poor start to January continued on Monday night as they crashed out of the FA Cup at the hands of a plucky Wolverhampton Wanderers side. Only four days prior to this lacklustre performance, The Reds’ suffered their first Premier League defeat of the season to title rivals, Manchester City. Two defeats in just four days have cast an unprecedented level of doubt over Jürgen Klopp and his men as to whether glory can actually be achieved this season.
A Thinning Squad?
With an ever-thinning defence due to injuries to the likes of Joe Gomez and Joel Matip towards the back end of last year, the decision to loan Nathaniel Clyne to Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth seemed like a strange decision from Jürgen Klopp. Now, Trent Alexander-Arnold is the only first-team right-back left in the squad.
When fit, Joe Gomez can play at right-back and has done many times for the Merseyside club in the past two seasons. However, Gomez has been instrumental to Liverpool’s resolute defensive displays thus far this season from playing alongside Virgil van Dijk at the heart of the defence. Shifting the young England international to the right-hand side of the back four means that someone else now has to play at centre-half.
Lovren the Liability
This would not be an issue if Liverpool had a quality replacement at centre-half. But we all know what happens when the self-proclaimed best defender in the world, Dejan Lovren, slots in next to Virgil van Dijk. His performance against Manchester City was an absolute embarrassment. The Croatian was responsible for both of City’s goals, losing Sergio Agüero for the first, and playing Leroy Sane onside for the second.
When Wolves boss, Nuno Espirito Santo, saw that Lovren was starting the cup tie, he was probably hoping for an equally dire performance from the World Cup finalist. However, his hopes were dashed when Lovren picked up an unfortunate hamstring injury early on in the game.
The Answer or the Future?
With Virgil van Dijk being rested, who would be the man to enter the fray? Well, it turns out it would not be a man at all, but a 16-year-old ex-Ajax academy player who goes by the name of Ki-Jana. The academy prospect has been training with the first team squad in recent weeks. Having done enough to impress Klopp, he was rewarded with his first appearance for the first team, becoming the youngest ever FA Cup player in Liverpool’s history.
The starlet put in an extremely solid display and was arguably The Reds’ best performer on the night. Hoever had 87% pass accuracy, whilst completing two dribbles in an adventurous run in the second half. His performance had hints of Virgil van Dijk in it. He was composed and calm on the ball, whilst dominating defensively. Hoever won 100% of his tackles, made two clearances and was not dribbled past once.
Having seen the youngster play, Liverpool fans may understand slightly more the decision to loan Clyne out, as Hoever is normally deployed at right-back. Having played so well, it is a possibility that Hoever features a lot more during the second half of the season as a squad option. However, with Gomez and Matip returning shortly, don’t expect him to be a mainstay in the team.