Jonny Evans Can Be Liverpool's Centre Half Emergency Solution
Not that you would know it from looking at the Premier League table, or Champions League group table for that matter, but Liverpool have been hamstrung by injuries to central defenders this season.
Both Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez — two of Jurgen Klopp’s key defensive lieutenants — will miss most of, if not all, the season, and Joel Matip visits the treatment room so frequently that he is almost at the point of paying rent there.
Fabinho hasn’t missed a beat by moving to the heart of the defence, but the Brazilian upping positional sticks has the knock-on effect of weakening the midfield, or at least it will until Thiago gets a frequent run in the team following his own injury woes.
Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips have made appearances, to varying degrees of success, for the Reds, but the former is 19 and understandably raw and the latter, realistically, isn’t up to the required standard.
That all means that Liverpool may need to turn to the transfer market to find a solution to their availability issues at centre half and few would fit the bill better than Leicester City’s Northern Ireland international, Jonny Evans.
The 32-year-old former Manchester United defender only has six months remaining on his contract at the Kingpower Stadium and, fearing losing him for nothing, the Foxes may be tempted to cash in now while they can still receive a fee for the player they signed for £3.5 million from West Bromwich Albion in 2018.
Although his teammate Çağlar Söyüncü received most of the plaudits for helping Leicester to the fifth-best defensive record in the Premier League last season — Brendan Rodgers’ side conceded 41 goals, with Liverpool, for context, the sturdiest defence with 33 conceded — Evans’ role shouldn’t be underestimated.
The Northern Irishman played all 38 of the Foxes’ fixtures — showcasing the kind of durability that could well pique the interest of Liverpool’s recruitment team — and was the calm, organised presence beside the more proactive, ball hunting Söyüncü.
On the ball, Evans is ambitious and — in a manner similar to the Reds’ centre-halves, especially Matip and van Dijk — he completed 60 switches, which are defined as passes that travel more than 40 yards of the width of the pitch, last season. Liverpool like to quickly switch the play so that they can get Trent Alexander Arnold and Andrew Robertson into the play higher up the pitch. From that regard, Evans is a good fit for Klopp.
Like Liverpool, Leicester employ a pressing style of football and the Belfast native is comfortable operating under these instructions. Last season, Evans was successful in 39.9% of his pressures, which are actions that lead to the team regaining possession of the ball five seconds after the pressing action. For comparison’s sake, Gomez — who was the aggressor in the Reds’ defence when paired with van Dijk — completed 39.7% of his pressures last season.
The Northern Ireland captain, having spent his formative years in the Manchester United academy, is certified as homegrown and this is another benefit to Liverpool — who would need to sell an overseas player to recruit another, given their squad is at the limit of foreign players allowed — pursuing his signature.
Whether Evans, a player steeped in fandom of the Reds’ eternal north western rivals, would entertain a move to Liverpool remains to be seen. However, footballers are career conscious and he will know that he could win medals at Anfield, play regularly, and all the while earn more money than he currently does.
Michael Owen, a former Liverpool legend, surprised many when he joined Manchester United in 2009 on a Bosman transfer. Evans should be an option the Reds consider to make a similar move.