For much of this season, the only constant in the center of Liverpool’s back four has been change. Between injuries and poor form, Jürgen Klopp had been forced to change his center-back pairing on a game-by-game basis until quite recently.
The arrival of Ozan Kabak on loan from Schalke and his growing partnership with Nat Phillips has finally brought some much-needed stability to the center of Liverpool’s defense. While it’s certainly not the same as having Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez at the back, seeing two players who are actually center-backs by trade find a run of decent form together has been a very nice change of pace after months of midfielders filling in.
Perhaps nobody has benefitted from this as much as Nat Phillips. While the 24-year-old had featured regularly in the rotation before Kabak’s arrival, he never looked quite up to the task of playing for the defending Premier League champions. However, he’s looked to settle in fairly well playing alongside his new Turkish teammate, and his play of late has earned him some well-deserved praise.
Among those heaping praise on the English defender is former Manchester City right-back Micah Richards. Richards went as far as to name Phillips his Man of the Week in his column in the Daily Mail today.
Richards explained that although Phillips has had a very tough challenge trying to fill the boots of a world-class defender in van Dijk, he’s filled in admirably and deserves some accolades for his efforts.
“Nat Phillips has had an unenviable task coming into Liverpool’s team,” said Richards. “No matter what he does, he is always going to be compared with Virgil van Dijk. That isn’t fair on a young lad and, at times, it has almost been impossible for him.”
What really caught Richards’ attention was Phillips keeping Karim Benzema off the scoresheet in the 0-0 draw with Real Madrid on Wednesday. Although Liverpool didn’t advance, they did keep a clean sheet in the disappointing second leg, and Phillips was a key part of that.
“So I wanted to ensure he got the credit he deserved for his display against Real Madrid. Karim Benzema is one of the world’s best strikers but Phillips kept him quiet.”
While Phillips likely won’t ever be a Virgil van Dijk, former City man thinks he definitely has a future in the Premier League.
“I’m not saying he’s going to be a Liverpool regular for 10 years – but he showed he can become a very good top-flight defender.”