Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams have really been thrown in at the deep end this year.
In an ideal world, if either were to play a good amount of football, you’d want one of them next to Virgil van Dijk. Or at least Joel Matip. That, obviously, has not happened. They’ve had to do it the hard way. There have been rough patches, but in general the young lads have equipped themselves as well as one would hope.
With the return of fitness to the senior centre backs and potential spending, that could be it for them at Liverpool. Not so fast, says the boss.
“I’ve said before, it’s not sure that the three centre-backs who are injured [Van Dijk, Matip and Joe Gomez] will start the pre-season with us,” Jürgen Klopp told the Liverpool Echo.
“The boys [Phillips and Williams] will be here. We need the numbers of centre-halves, we need to work on all the different things and step by step we hopefully have the other guys back.
“The boys did incredibly well. Ozan [Kabak] came in and played a super part for us, but is now injured.
“Nat now for weeks already, Rhys at the start, mainly in the Champions League because Nat wasn’t on the list for the competition and we had to figure out how we can make sure at least one of the two can play.
“Now they are playing together. They did really well at United, I loved what they did.
“This year they have created two proper careers. When you are at the Academy at whichever club, that’s not written in stone, but now they have could show how good they are. Everything will be fine.
“Team selection is based on performance and training,” added Klopp. “The door is always open. I don’t get blind that I don’t see a good performance anymore.
“In general, the concentration level they [Phillips and Williams] showed at United was immense. Absolutely insane what they did there against the front four of United. It’s not easy, but it was really well supported by our two full-backs.
“They were really leading the line with a lot of talks. Rhys is a natural talker on the pitch, which helps. I liked how we organised the last line, that was really good.”
Liverpool are going to need more options than one might think at centre back. We don’t know how the senior players will recover. It seems clear the club is planning for any eventuality.