Can Sepp van den Berg Be the Back Up Right Back & Upgrade to Nat Phillips?

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With so much LFC noise centring around incoming players, it is easy to forget the personnel within and what they could offer the squad for next season. Though most of us hate when a returning player (from loan or injury) are cast as a new signing, it can sometimes be valid to look upon a ‘new’ player in that light.

The Liverpool fanbase is currently seeing some huge movement in our ongoing recruitment campaign, which has thus far seen both Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai brought to the club for less than what Jude Bellingham would have cost. These two new signings are superb additions who will aid the regeneration of an aging and tired middle ground. The close of last season saw Roberto Firmino, James Milner, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, and Naby Keïta, leave upon the expiration of their contracts. The loss of four first team options will surely see four adequate replacements brought into the midfield, with young Harvey Elliott ushered into a Mohamed Salah backup role.

That positional switch allows us to absorb the loss of Bobby, who was replaced ahead of time (in the winter), by the superb Cody Gakpo. Alongside this, a specialist left sided central defender is being sought by our new Sporting Director, Jörg Schmadtke, who can give the required balance to our new 3-4-3 shape. This signing would relegate Andy Robertson to a rotation role in the squad, with a left back not relied upon in this new dynamic. I also expect the likes of Jordan Henderson, Thiago (if he remains), and Fabinho, to have their first team minutes reduced, which would inevitably see their frailties less exposed. In the next couple of months there will also be other adjustments made to the squad, if we suddenly need a backup keeper (Caoimhin Kelleher could still leave), however, that is one alteration which would not be difficult to implement.

In terms of loans, we now know that both Calvin Ramsay and Fábio Carvalho are to continue their own progression at new clubs, whereas Nat Phillips simply must leave the Reds in order to attain some first team football. The new hybrid role that has been created to exploit the best of Trent Alexander Arnold, is something that does leave a question mark. Despite an assurance from our manager that this new formation will be a continuing endeavour, it does leave us without another player able to adequately cover the right back position. Liverpool cannot fix everything this summer, as mass squad overhauls will cause as many issues as they solve. What can be engineered, is the promotion of an interesting candidate from within. This is where I expect Sepp van den Berg to come to the Anfield fore.

Sepp van den Berg

Age – 21-years old (DOB 20/12/2001)

Current club – LFC (loan at Schalke 22/23)

Nationality – Dutch

Contract Expiry – June 30 2026

Height – 6ft 4inch

Weight – 87kg

Appearances – 102 senior games

International caps – 0 games

Transfermarkt value – €5m

2022/23 Stats

10 games played

1 goal

0 assist

786 minutes played

This was a very highly regarded young defender that was signed in the summer of 2019, from Dutch side PEC Zwolle. They are a small club which operates in the Netherlands second tier Eerste Divisie. With an initial fee of £1.3m (rising to £4.4m), it was clearly an acquisition built to service the first team manager some years down the road. For me, that moment has now arrived. The new set up probably suits his playing style, much in the way it will suit the likes of Joe Gomez. The flanking central defensive position is ideal for players that can become a fullback, especially a very quick version.

As you can see from the listed data above, this cultured defender is utterly rapid and able to cover vast amounts of ground at high speed. That appears to be a critical part of what we require, especially given our strong belief in adopting a high line. Though Nat Phillips is a player that can excel in aerial battles, the ground behind him is often viewed in the same way Harry Maguire sees it. The Jürgen Klopp brand of football is at its very best when it is swarming the opposition. The lacklustre displays of last season highlighted the lack of physicality within our group, which is why a transformative summer is now unfolding. What we cannot do, is simply ignore certain needs that could come back to bite us.

Though Sepp is predominantly a central defender, he has played the right back position on 25 occasions in his short career. The need for an established right back is not a necessity this summer, especially when we have such a promising young talent coming back into the fold. The 2023/24 season will be about a manger evolving his footballing identity, which should include a handful of younger assets. Despite Joël Matip staying on for another year, we still must have adequate coverage that can be implemented for the long term. In terms of what had to occur in this off season, we had to ensure that first team bodies were added to the midfield and left centre back positions, yet in terms of a backup right sided defensive piece, Sepp van den Berg could just be the answer.

It would be just like a new signing…

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