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Jürgen Klopp and the Curse of a Threadbare Defense

Liverpool missed out on Virgil van Dijk and any other center back who may or may not have been available. Why?

Liverpool FC v Leicester City FC: Premier League Asia Trophy Photo by Victor Fraile/Getty Images

It’s Jürgen Klopp’s decision. That’s the explanation for Liverpool having not targeted other center backs in the market after the Virgil van Dijk transfer looked more and more difficult to complete. There was seemingly no plan B defender to pivot towards once Southampton dug their heals in and were publicly determined to hold on to their captain. And in the aftermath of the transfer window having shut, we’re left to stand around in a grey rain trying to understand why the club either weren’t able to or were dead set against finding a competent center back somewhere in the world to bolster Liverpool’s defensive ranks.

Is there a defender out there who is better than Van Dijk or more suited to Klopp’s system? The question is irrelevant. The Dutchman was never coming to Liverpool during this window. And if the club couldn’t find a better alternative, the good logic suggests they should have targeted at least one competent defender who would be happy sitting in the third or four choice spot behind Joël Matip, Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan.

Another stretch of games without Matip, as we experienced last season, and we’re looking at a Lovren/Klavan pairing against Champions League opposition or worse yet a combo of Klavan and Joe Gomez fending off our Premier League rivals for top four.

But what about Joe Gomez? Currently he’s spelling Trent Alexander-Arnold in Liverpool’s right back position because of Nathaniel Clyne’s extended absence. So, if TAA were to fatigue after too many consecutive matches or get injured, Gomez would be the player next in line to run up and down the right.

Or Jon Flanagan is called up to the mark. In one such dark timeline Liverpool lines up from right to left with Flanagan, Gomez, Klavan, Moreno. Against Manchester City? Against Bayern Munich?

Beyond Gomez in the center, Klopp would look to the Academy stock. And the only Academy player I can think of who is likely to have a shot in the first team defense is Lloyd Jones. And my guess is that Jones would only be considered in the domestic cup competitions. Likewise, if you want to consider Conor Masterson but these are not so much solutions as they are the breaking of glass in case of emergency.

So we’re left with maybe Emre Can in a pinch, who often featured in a back three under Brendan Rodgers and is capable. But. Stop gaps. System changes. Formation changes. Inconsistencies. Even with a devastatingly effective attack, Liverpool could come crashing down this season with a little bit of bad luck at the back.

Our best hope is that Van Dijk can make the switch from Southampton in January. Barring that, supporters will expect someone else to be targeted in the winter if Liverpool are still in with a shout in any or all competitions. Until then, we wait and hope and support the boys we’ve got.

Because good luck is out there, too, after all. And a fortuitous run of good form with a span of injury-free matches and training could still see Liverpool excel on multiple fronts. Klopp has put together a strong team and despite the shortcomings in depth our players are capable of dominating games and staying robust until the final whistle.

It was a good window for the club. Mohamed Salah, in particular, looks to be a perfect fit in the team and our targets in the market, whether they arrived or not, all showed a desire to play for Liverpool and Jürgen Klopp despite their other suitors. The club is on the up. That much is evident but fans will expect more competency from the Liverpool board in the future to strengthen the squad.

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