When Liverpool entered 2020/21 with solely three senior centre-backs on their books, it was a particular gamble. Dejan Lovren was allowed to go away the membership final summer season, leaving the Reds with Joe Gomez, Joël Matip and Virgil van Dijk on the again.
As you don’t want reminding, the gamble has not paid off with two of the trio having sustained long-term accidents. Fabinho, Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams are proving to be succesful deputies, however Kopites might be urging the membership to signal a high new centre-back when the switch window re-opens in 5 weeks’ time.
And there’s each probability they could. In any case, the membership’s success has been constructed on a basis of long-term planning, with switch targets recognized and rigorously analysed, reasonably than being plucked from a trendy agent’s little black ebook of shoppers. Michael Edwards and the analytics crew will little doubt have a listing of doable switch choices for each place on the pitch.
Nevertheless, it’s additionally vital to do not forget that they’ve additionally carried out nicely by considering exterior the field at occasions when constructing the present squad. Gini Wijnaldum was once an attacking midfielder for PSV Eindhoven and Newcastle United – and stays one in worldwide soccer – but has develop into a central midfielder for the Reds. He hardly ever creates an opportunity however seldom provides possession away both, and his recreation has been remodeled at Liverpool.
We’re seeing one other positional change this season, with Fabinho taking part in video games at centre-back when he’s a defensive midfielder by commerce. So this shift for the Brazilian raises an fascinating query, and one which appears more and more related the extra time passes with out Wijnaldum signing a brand new contract with the membership.
Ought to Liverpool signal a brand new centre-back? Most individuals would reply within the affirmative. Or, ought to they signal a central midfielder and make Fabinho’s transfer to central defence a everlasting one?
The solutions to this may not be fairly so clear-cut from the Reds’ fan base, however no person can deny that Fabinho has been taking part in nicely at centre-back, and Liverpool are but to concede an open play purpose in both the league or Europe when he has carried out so.
And moreover, the Reds like to signal gamers with positional flexibility so how about signing one other midfielder who might step in at centre-back too? Declan Rice is one such participant, and one who will certainly be searching for a transfer to a much bigger membership earlier than an excessive amount of longer.
He has one other asset which the switch crew at Liverpool undoubtedly fetishize: sturdiness. It may not really feel prefer it at current, however the Reds all the time look to signal gamers who don’t are likely to miss many matches by way of harm, and Rice actually ticks that field. He, George Baldock, Harry Maguire and James Ward-Prowse are the one outfield gamers who’ve performed each doable Premier League minute for the reason that begin of 2019/20, which is not any small feat.
And Rice actually has the urgent potential and stamina to play for a Jürgen Klopp crew. Solely six gamers tried extra pressures within the Premier League final season ( per FBRef ), and whereas a few of that was all the way down to him taking part in each week, his determine of 21.6 per 90 minutes was principally equivalent to Jordan Henderson’s 21.4 common.
The worldwide break is sort of over and Premier League soccer is again with a bang.
Liverpool journey to Everton on Saturday for the primary Merseyside derby of the season.
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Rice’s ball successful abilities are exemplary – he was within the high flight’s high three gamers for each tackles and interceptions final season – and he may also get the ball up the pitch. Whereas not probably the most frequent dribbler, he has the very best success charge of any participant who has tried no less than 14 within the Premier League this season.
Rice’s dribbling success in addition to what number of yards he carries the ball in direction of the opposition purpose have improved year-on-year, so it’s a growing however nonetheless underrated side of his recreation. Add in his positioning energy and the 21-year-old England worldwide might show to be precisely the type of participant Liverpool are searching for.