It’s been a long, hard season for Liverpool. Their incredible convergence of simultaneous injuries to key members of the team has led to a lot of tinkering all over the field. However, no area of the squad has been more impacted than the defense.
With Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip all out for the rest of the season, it’s been trial and error trying to find a centre-half partnership that would be successful. Most of the attempts have been errors, and the team has allowed in way too many goals this season. The results have been a slow slide to a firm place in the middle of the table.
It’s too little too late, but the only small ray of sunshine in Liverpool’s season, the Champions League, saw a tiny shoot of hope poke out of the ground after a long winter.
Nat Phillips and Ozan Kabak started together in Budapest when they took on RB Leipzig in the return leg of the round of 16 of the Champions League. And Liverpool won! A game! Of football! And more than that, the team kept a clean sheet against one of Germany’s top teams. In fact, it was the second time that partnership guarded their goal effectively — quite a feat when you consider the centre-half merry-go-round that we’ve all been on this season.
After the match, as the Reds prepare for another Premier League battle against Wolves on Monday, Klopp registered his approval of the Phillips-Kabak performance and his hopes on seeing it grow and improve.
“And it looked good and if they are physically ready to go again, which I hope, then why should we change it? That’s clear. You want to have consistency and we never had. How I said, that looked really good. Of course, hopefully they can play a lot of games, if not all of the rest,” he said.
Klopp assured that this positive performance gives him “a lot, a lot” of confidence and that, “[I]t’s about the general defending. As a centre-half if you can pick up the right challenges and you can pick up the right balls because the balls are forced or kind of defended already from the players in front of you, that makes life much more easy. That’s how football should be actually. In the end you speak about the centre-halves in a positive way, which is good, but it was about the general defending of that day and that helped the two boys a lot.”
Ah, general defending, that thing we as Liverpool fans had taken for granted over the last few seasons. It’s back, baby! Well, at least for one game, it was back, baby! Let’s see if the team can continue and actually pick up three point in the Premier League on Monday.