Virgil van Dijk’s injury has created a crater-sized hole at the heart of the defence of Liverpool Football Club. After all, this is a man who has played every minute of Premier League football possible since his move from Southampton. Joel Matip and Joe Gomez haven’t exactly played much alongside each other. The former is injury-prone, and the latter’s play has looked sapped of confidence since Project Restart. The only other senior player who can play at centre-back is... Fabinho.
With all that said, it’s likely that a Liverpool youth product will make the leap to soak up minutes in this incredibly condensed season. Speaking on his Red Agenda podcast, Jimbo Pearce spoke about the opportunity for our youngsters to step up:
“Van Dijk’s setback is bound to reignite the debate as to why Liverpool didn’t get a replacement for Dejan Lovren in the summer. This is one area of the squad where they were left light and is going to force a rejig in midfield a fair bit this season as we are going to see Fabinho playing centre back a lot of times. It may even present some amazing opportunities to some of the young players. Of course, we saw Rhys Williams really step up and deliver in the Carabao Cup games although it still a huge leap to go on and do it in the Premier League and the Champions League. For the most part, this season really does hinge on those already there trying to step up and ensure that Van Dijk isn’t as missed as we all fear he will be.”
Rhys Williams, he of the towering 6-foot-5 frame, has already been added to our Champions League squad to face Ajax. He made his senior team debut just last month, in our 7-2 Carabao Cup win away at Lincoln City, and also featured in the next stage tie against Arsenal. The Rhys looked composed enough in both games, though he was a little shaky once Virgil was subbed off.
Well, here it is. The brass ring is there, ready to be grabbed. Whether Rhys Williams is ready or not, he’ll likely figure in Jürgen Klopp’s plan for the next few weeks as he tries to figure out a defensive rotation before the January window opens for potential reinforcements. Now jump into the deep end, lad.