Liverpool made a bold decision not to sign defensive reinforcements during the January transfer window. Despite defenders Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez, and Trent Alexander-Arnold all dealing with injuries during January, the club resisted adding a new body. That decision could come back to haunt Liverpool by the time the season comes to an end.
Should Liverpool have signed a defender?
Liverpool will take on Bayern Munich in the Champions League round of 16. Yet, the Reds must play against the German giants without Van Dijk.
The Dutchman will serve a suspension. But it isn’t just Van Dijk who will miss out on the game. Gomez is still recovering from his fractured leg following his recent surgery.
Meanwhile, Lovren is racing to be fit from a hamstring injury. The Croatian didn’t even travel to Marbella with the rest of the squad for their warm-weather training camp. He is still on Merseyside training to gain his fitness.
Joel Matip is the only fit centre-back at Jurgen Klopp’s disposal currently. If Lovren isn’t available, and Klopp doesn’t change to a three-man backline, he must deploy Fabinho in the heart of defence.
Fabinho did play well in his previous performance at centre-back against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League. But Bayern are a different animal and Klopp will want to play his first-choice players in their prefered positions.
It is easy to say Liverpool should have signed a defender in January, but it would have cost them a large sum to add a player.
Burnley’s James Tarkowski was rumoured as a possible addition, but he would have cost £50 million. A price that was far too much for the defender.
Of course, by the time the season ends — if Liverpool come away without silverware — the price for Tarkowski or someone else would have been worth it.
Liverpool and the problem with finding quality defenders
There were two major problems with Liverpool signing a quality defender in January. One was the price and the other was whether the new player would be able to compete in the Champions League.
The list of signing high-quality centre-backs capable of playing at the level Liverpool need is short.
Van Dijk’s signing in January 2018 was fortunate as Southampton were not playing in Europe. Finding a true gem not already competing in the competition and capable of stepping in and not missing a beat is rare.
Liverpool could have signed a player simply for the Premier League to take the pressure off of their battered backline. But teams would have held them at ransom as Liverpool made buy they were forced into.
Allowing Nathaniel Clyne to leave on loan to Bournemouth has had its negative effects. But lacking depth at right-back has been less an issue than the current centre-back shortage.
Liverpool are second in the Premier league due to goal difference. The Reds still have a game in hand, but compared to Manchester City, must play a slightly more difficult fixture list to finish the season.
Klopp needs his first choice players fit and healthy for the final stretch of the season. Without them and Liverpool could fall short.