With just over a week remaining in the January transfer window, it is becoming increasingly apparent that Liverpool are inclined to keep the checkbook in the drawer unless there is a clear opportunity to improve at a non-ludicrous cost. Yesterday’s frustrating loss against Swansea City means the focus for the remainder of the season must certainly be on the two major cup competitions and on consolidating the club’s grasp on a Champions League spot.
Depth at certain key positions has been an issue, and while this sort of situation inevitably lends itself to calls for quick reinforcements, Jürgen Klopp has reiterated that he doesn’t want to spend just for the sake of spending. To regain momentum, the squad will have to count on players returning from international duty (and Sadio Mane’s excellent showings for Senegal are not exactly helpful in this regard) or returning to fitness.
Joël Matip put in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance during the loss to Swansea, but saw more sustained minutes today in a U23 squad match against Ipswich Town as he works towards full match fitness after being sidelined by first an ankle injury and then by more FIFA silliness. Liverpool’s back four have arguably looked their sturdiest with Lovren and Matip in the middle, and it’s become apparent that the Matip-Klavan partnership is not a long-term solution.
Though he was on the pitch for just about an hour, it was another efficient and calm performance from the defender, as he contributed to a comfortable 3-0 victory for the U23 side. Alongside Matip in the back four were Alberto Moreno and Joe Gomez, both of whom may have some part to play in the coming weeks as Liverpool attempt to navigate big league fixtures against Chelsea and Spurs interspersed with cup ties against Southampton and Wolves.
Also appearing in a dominant performance were Sheyi Ojo, Harry Wilson, and Ben Woodburn, the latter chipping in with a goal to go along with scoring efforts from Portuguese midfielder Paulo Alves and England U-17 striker Rhian Brewster. The continuing progress shown by Ojo, Woodburn et al. is no longer a novelty, so perhaps the most encouraging sign for supporters is a return to fitness and form for Matip.
Though not being able to call on Mané has certainly hurt performances at the pointy end of the spear, the revolving door of partners for Lovren hasn’t exactly helped either. With a tricky home match against Southampton next, it will be interesting to see if Klopp feels Matip can be risked for back-to-back matches, or whether the defender is saved for the crunch tie versus Chelsea.