Centre-Back Needed To Avoid Another Midfield-Type Disaster

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Thuram, Gravenberch, Kone, Veiga, etc etc. The usual names, the usual lists and the usual focus as Liverpool look to revamp their side over the summer and particularly the midfield. Completely understandable after the largely dismal showing of the 22/23 season. However, whilst the Reds have always apparently planned ‘two to three windows ahead’, there are slight concerns that as one finger goes into the dam, then another hole is set to spring forth. The names being mentioned at centre-back are few and far between, yet Jurgen Klopp maybe set for another issue if the club don’t act now.

On paper the club seem well stocked in that area. Van Dijk, Konate, Matip and Gomez are all experienced centre-backs at the top level who clearly appear to have Jurgen Klopp’s faith and backing. The return of Sepp Van Der Berg could be looked at as another option by some, whilst Nat Phillips remains at the club and Fabinho can operate their in an emergency. However, there’s so many ways to pick holes in those arguments that there simply wouldn’t be enough buckets.

Van Dijk and Konate are clearly the first choices and that’s understandable, however even they come with frailties as we’ve seen last campaign. The Dutch vice-captain struggled throughout the season as the Reds’ campaign faltered and rightly found himself under pressure and being asked questions of. To his credit, the 32 year-old came out and fronted up with typical honesty. Yet even now in summer nations league internationals, Van Dijk talked about feeling ‘ashamed’ and how ‘it just wasn’t good enough’ with many pointing the finger at him. He clearly needs the summer break, but there’s hope rather than expectation of a return to former levels at his current age.

Photo: IMAGO

Konate had the odd blip, but for the large part well and truly cemented his position as a starter alongside Van Dijk. Performances though haven’t really been the issue for the French stopper more his injury history. There were always concerns based on his previous time at Red Bull Leipzig and the fact that he only managed 18 league appearances says it all. Ability is nothing without availability and whilst the 23 year-old is naturally a fan favourite, there’s little to suggest he can go on to become an ever-present in the next campaign.

Further down the options, it was a season to forget for Joel Matip and Joe Gomez and whilst they ay retain the backing of Jurgen Klopp, there’s huge questions marks from the majority of the fan group against their names. As Neil Jones put it so well on our Media Matters show, “Joel Matip season last season was the outlier, can convince yourself it’s the norm but it’s the outlier.” Aside from referencing a horrendous dip in form, Jones assessment is spot-on as the former Cameroon international has been plagued with injury issues throughout his time at Anfield.

Gomez’s performances against Leeds, Forest and Real Madrid will be held up as the body of evidence against his regular inclusion. Again, the former Charlton man has been plagued by injuries throughout his time, but the player of 18-19 season looks to be gone despite what hopes may linger with some. As Jones also put it on the pod, “the real issue with the centre backs is that Jurgen rates them higher than a lot of people do…so the bar to get a new centre back in is very high.” The bar needs looking at and fast if you want to fast forward 12 months and look at the actions of doing nothing.

In a year, Van Dijk will be 33 and in the last year of his deal. It would be great to believe he’ll have returned to the incredible levels he once displayed but it’s hope rather than expectation. Konate even if he maintains his levels will be a starter with availability issues, whilst Joel Matip’s contract will have expired. Barring a major surprise, Joe Gomez will spend another year playing the odd cup competition and more likely deputising for the likes of Trent if he does start with the first team. Hardly something that fills you with anything but a sense of dread.

There have been names mentioned and the likes of Inacio and Van Der Ven do appear to be on the radar potentially. However, it’s crucial that Jurgen Klopp and the fabled transfer committee don’t look at the situation as something that can be put off. No one wants an Arthur Melo situation next year on the centre of defence and for a team that plans windows ahead apparently it shouldn’t even need to be discussed. Liverpool need a centre back this summer and a decent one at that. Otherwise, this summer midfield issues rear their head in another area.

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