Football

Jurgen Klopp's four standout options to start in Liverpool's defence vs West Ham


For Jurgen Klopp, losing his best centre-half to a season-ending injury was certainly not desired.

And after electing to go with Fabinho in place of Virgil van Dijk as Joe Gomez’s central defensive partner, it was certainly disadvantageous to have the Brazilian suffer a hamstring injury and be ruled out until the far side of the international break.

With Joel Matip back in training but also not ready for Liverpool’s meeting with West Ham on Saturday tea time, the Reds boss is now facing a conundrum.

Does he call on 19-year-old Rhys Williams to fill the void?

Perhaps he instead turns to 23-year-old Nat Phillips or ‘Billy the Kid’ – Billy Koumetio, the French teen, another teenage centre-back training with the first team?

Or, like Fabinho, does he ask one of the club’s senior pros to adapt, switch role, and partner Gomez?

Joe Gomez is Liverpool’s last man standing

On Friday, Klopp hinted he could ask an experienced head to fill in, citing the example of Javier Mascherano at Barcelona.

It is something which the German has done before and which has garnered success.

Mirror Football looks at the standout options at his disposal.

Start Williams

Klopp labelled Williams’ 60-minute display against Midtjylland as “pretty exceptional.”

“He’s a talent, he plays for England U20s, he’s 19 years old. He didn’t play in the Premier League yet and has now two Champions League appearances. He did well, everything looks promising.”

Williams got the nod in the Carabao Cup over Phillips earlier in the season too and if Klopp is picking positionally, then starting the ex-Kidderminster Harriers loanee seems logical.

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Will Rhys Williams will be asked to solve Liverpool’s defensive injury crisis?

Drop back the skipper

When Liverpool had similar injury issues in defence 11 months ago, Klopp called on his skipper.

During the Club World Cup, Henderson was asked to partner Van Dijk in defence, and it may well be that Klopp asks him to sacrifice himself and put the team first again.

The return to fitness of Thiago Alcantara helps, with the Spaniard very much at home in the role at the base of midfield, the role that usually belongs to Henderson when Fabinho isn’t there.

Henderson played at the back in Qatar last year

Put back Wijnaldum too, and change formation

Many moons ago, back in 2017, Liverpool headed to Brighton with only one fit centre-half and questions over how Klopp would solve the situation.

The answer? Drop Wijnaldum and Emre Can into the defensive line and go with three at the back.

The Dutchman had never played there before and admitted post-game that he “didn’t know what to do” and had to be coached throughout by the third centre-back that day, Dejan Lovren.

Certainly, it worked, with Liverpool romping to a 5-1 victory at the Amex. Perhaps starting Wijnaldum and either Henderson or James Milner, on either side of Joe Gomez, and using Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson as wing-backs could be the way to go.

Wijnaldum is one of the most versatile players in the Reds squad

Liverpool are keen to repeat last season’s success – and you don’t want to miss a thing, surely?

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It’s been an extremely interesting start to the season for Jurgen Klopp’s men.

They got their title defence off to a shaky start as they edged out a seven-goal thriller against Leeds, before going on to conceded seven in a hammering by Aston Villa.

Virgil van Dijk’s season was ended by injury in the 2-2 draw at Everton, leaving the title favourites looking far less secure at the back – especially with Alisson’s injury worries too.

But there’s no slowing down in what is going to be a busy campaign – with Klopp ensuring his men continue at full pace as they bid for more title glory.

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Start Robertson alongside Gomez

Conversely, perhaps using Robertson in partnership with Gomez and starting Kostas Tsimikas is the way to go.

Robertson boasts the kind of recovery pace that Klopp likes from his centre-backs, reads the game well and doesn’t mind getting hands-on with opponents.

It would allow both Henderson and Wijnaldum to remain in midfield, while offering Tsimikas an opportunity to impress.

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