Jürgen Klopp has few options in the centre of defense since losing both Joël Matip and Dejan Lovren to injury. Joe Gomez has slotted right into excellent form next to Virgil van Dijk and Liverpool’s defense nous is actually on the rise. But beyond Gomez and Van Dijk, the manager’s centre back choices are limited.
Jordan Henderson completed a successful 90 minutes partnering Gomez in the Club World Cup semi-final match with Monterrey. Van Dijk was out ill. It was a commendable performance by the captain, but Hendo’s powers are best used further up the pitch.
With the January transfer opening soon, Klopp has an opportunity to reinforce his pool of centre halves but the club aren’t likely to bring in any big-name defender as a stopgap.
So, the manager has turned to Bolton graduate Nat Phillips to reinforce Liverpool’s backline.
Phillips, who signed for Liverpool in 2016 but has yet to make his senior debut, has been on loan to German club Stuttgart this season, playing in the 2. Bundesliga. The 22-year-old defender has played 11 times for Die Roten and has surely been maturing with more playing time in a competitive league. But the situation with Liverpool’s defensive depth has forced Phillips’ recall back to Melwood.
It’s unknown if Henderson’s days as defensive emergency option are over due to Phillips coming in. The young defender could be kept around just for super emergency cover in case the captain goes down, too.
Worth noting, too, that Stuttgart are pushing for a deal to return Phillips to Germany and finish out the 2. Bundesliga season if Liverpool’s defensive situation changes for the better by the end of January.