Ben White to Liverpool? Dayot Upamecano to Liverpool? A new center back to Liverpool?
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Less than 48 hours after Liverpool confirmed that Virgil van Dijk will undergo knee surgery and is likely out for the rest of the 2020-21 season, multiple reports claim that Jurgen Klopp’s side are lining up bids for new center backs in January.
A report from Football Insider states that Liverpool have tracked Brighton center back Ben White, 23, for several seasons and thought about bidding for him this summer after his stellar displays at the heart of Leeds United’s defense while on loan with them in the Championship last season. White recently signed a new contract at Brighton and has been ever-present for Graham Potter’s side so far this season, as Leeds pushed hard to sign him but couldn’t.
Liverpool didn’t replace the outgoing this summer Dejan Lovren and now they are being backed to reignite their interest in Dayot Upamecano in January. Upamecano, 21, was said to be at the top of the list for Liverpool and Manchester United but the Frenchman signed a new contract with RB Leipzig following his hugely impressive displays in the UEFA Champions League this summer.
“Liverpool’s next big signing had to be a centre-back anyway and I am talking next summer,” Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football. “Dejan Lovren went and they didn’t replace him so they only have three centre-backs and one of those, Joel Matip, is always injured. There are question marks now about Joe Gomez. So there is no doubt that Liverpool had to go big in the transfer market next summer. That was the next one. That has now got to be brought forward to January 2nd, whoever the target was in the summer. Not the end of January. Not [wasting time that month] negotiating with a club.”
Carragher is right. Liverpool’s next big purchase was due to be a center back after they signed Diogo Jota and Thiago Alcantara this summer. After that they probably need a center forward to compete with/replace Roberto Firmino. But one thing at a time…
Why do Liverpool need to sign Ben White, Dayot Upamecano?
Simply put: Liverpool need to add at least one center back to their ranks not only to replace Virgil van Dijk in the short-term, but they have been looking for a long-term partner for him for a while.
With Joel Matip and Joe Gomez their only senior center backs at the club, plus Fabinho able to play there and move back from central midfield, they should have just about enough to get by until January. But their only other center back option is Dutch teenager Sepp van den Berg. The 18-year-old has yet to play in the Premier League for Liverpool.
Matip and Gomez have been largely solid alongside VVD but there’s no doubt they’ve both made mistakes and their partnership together has never been tested because, well, Virgil van Dijk didn’t miss a single second of Premier League action last season and is almost never injured.
Can Matip and Gomez step up? Can they stay fit?
The same can’t be said for Matip and Gomez who have both suffered consistent injuries over the last few seasons, meaning they have slotted in and out of the starting lineup alongside Virgil van Dijk.
When they were both injured, Lovren came in. Klopp doesn’t have that experienced option any more, but the smart move here is to have Fabinho as the back-up. If Matip and Gomez lose form, Fabinho can slot in supremely at center back. He raved to ProSoccerTalk about Fabinho’s center back display at Chelsea earlier this season (Liverpool’s only clean sheet in the PL, by the way) and even though they will lose something from central midfield, they have Wijnaldum, Thiago Alcantara, Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Naby Keita as options there.
It may not be necessary for Klopp to buy a new center back, but if he doesn’t it will stretch his squad to the limit. This is more about bringing forward a purchase by six months to paper over the huge hole in their defense due to Virgil van Dijk’s absence.