With the first leg of the Merseyside Derby done and dusted, Liverpool are still counting the cost after losing their prized asset and star defender, Virgil Van Dijk to a long term injury.
The Dutch international ruptured his anterior cruciate ligaments in the collision with Toffees’ goalie, Jordan Pickford and is now set for a corrective surgery and a spell on the sidelines which could span till the end of the season.
Van Dijk has been ever present in the Liverpool side since joining from Southampton in January, 2017. He has since helped them to two Champions League finals and their first league title in 30 years.
The question on the lips of many is who replaces Van Dijk and the dilemma in the mind of Jurgen Klopp is how to plug the void his absence has left? The winter window will soon be here when Liverpool can afford to sign a replacement but before then, there are several Premier League matches to play and 6 Champions League matches to attend to. Liverpool must look inwards for a solution and to that end, some youngsters and first team players who are adjudged versatile have been pencilled down.
Obviously, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez have become the first choice center-back pairing but in the event of injury to either, Klopp might have to turn to either Luis Fabinho or Jordan Henderson to fill in as emergency center halves, their versatility means they can operate in that position. Deploying either of Fabinho and Henderson in that position would be nothing short of gamble because both men have only barely had stints in that position and not protracted spells.
It might be time to look in the direction of exciting young prospects; Rhys Williams, Sepp van den Berg, Nathaniel Phillips and Billy Koumetio as potential candidates. There are many games to play; Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup, hopefully there would be chance for at least one of them to stake a claim for a prolonged spell in the side. Rhys Williams looks the most likely to make the permanent step up after featuring in both of Liverpool’s Carabao Cup games alongside Van Dijk and Luis Fabinho.
The defensive crisis currently rocking the Reds has gone from bad to worse with Van Dijk’s injury. They have already been forced to be without first choice goalkeeper, Allison Becker who has no definite return date yet and now forced to play the remainder of the season without the Dutch defender, it is definitely a torrid time.
Backup to Allison, Adrian has been far from convincing between the sticks and the duo of Gomez and Matip have been adjudged to be prone to errors. Having both of them now could be a recipe for disaster.
With Van Dijk out for the season, Liverpool’s bid to defend the Premier League title just got more difficult as rivals have smelt blood and will go for the kill.