google.com, pub-6349746446116456, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0
Virgil van Dijk injury could accelerate Liverpool transfer plan as Jurgen Klopp enters unknown – Liverpool Echo

Virgil van Dijk injury could accelerate Liverpool transfer plan as Jurgen Klopp enters unknown – Liverpool Echo

There are many ways in which to demonstrate how Liverpool are about to step into the unknown without the stricken Virgil van Dijk.

But one in particular highlights the issue with which Jurgen Klopp must now grapple as he begins to plan for life without the talismanic Dutchman.

As a limping Van Dijk was helped around the Goodison pitch on his way to hospital on Saturday, Joe Gomez entered the fray from the bench to partner Joel Matip at centre-back.

And never before have the duo started a game together at the heart of defence for Liverpool.

That, though, is the likely partnership for the foreseeable future between the only two remaining recognised senior centre-backs in Klopp’s squad.

Indeed, this weekend was the first time the pair had featured together at centre-back at any point during a match since the watershed 4-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley three years ago this week.

Gomez, then only 20 and having started at right-back, was shuffled across when Dejan Lovren was given the hook on 31 minutes after a nightmarish performance and Liverpool trailing 2-1. They went on to lose 4-1.

Much has changed since then – not least Gomez maturing into an international centre-back – but key has been the presence of Van Dijk.

Whether it was Gomez, Matip or the now-departed Lovren, the Dutchman was the reassuring regular.

Going into the weekend, he had started every Premier League game since the visit to Huddersfield Town in January 2018 with the only action missed being the final 35 minutes of the home win over Southampton in September 2018.

Jordan Pickford’s x-rated challenge meant that was extended by another 79 minutes on Saturday, and news of Van Dijk’s imminent knee surgery means it will have rocketed further before he again appears.

Jordan Pickford takes out Virgil van Dijk
Jordan Pickford takes out Virgil van Dijk
(Image: (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images))

Whichever avenue Klopp pursues, it will be largely untested.

Fabinho, with whom the Reds boss has faith as a makeshift centre-back, has played only four games in the position, one coming alongside Matip in the goalless Champions League draw with Bayern Munich in February 2019.

The Brazilian has also partnered Van Dijk and Rhys Williams, but never Gomez.

Jordan Henderson played centre-back alongside Gomez in the FIFA Club World Cup semi-final against Monterrey last December, while Gini Wijnaldum featured in a three-man defence at Brighton two years earlier.

Neither, though, can realistically be considered a long-term option. And Klopp’s alternatives from the Academy – Williams, Nat Phillips, Sepp van den Berg and Billy Koumetio – have no Premier League appearances between them.

Then there is the transfer question.

Even the possible avenue of experienced cover from the Championship has been shut off with the domestic deadline having passed less than 24 hours before Van Dijk suffered his injury.

While there are only 73 days until the January window opens, Liverpool will still play 17 games before then – 11 in the Premier League and all six of their Champions League group games, the first of which is against Ajax in Holland on Wednesday.

Such a hectic schedule is asking a lot of a small senior group of centre-backs, suggesting Liverpool could be compelled to move in the January window.

The Reds are scouting several long-term targets – Brighton centre-back Ben White among them – and it may be they look to bring forward any potential interest from next summer.

*Who was your Liverpool MOTM in the derby? Have your say here.

There is a possibility Gomez could, in some way, benefit from Van Dijk’s absence in the sense that he will no longer be regularly targeted given the propensity of opponents to bypass the Dutchman whenever possible.

But there’s no doubt the England man would sooner be alongside the man rightly regarded as the best defender in the world.

With Alisson Becker, arguably the best goalkeeper on the planet, already absent, Liverpool’s rearguard has had to withstand heavy blows in recent weeks.

Van Dijk will be a huge miss. Klopp, though, will only have eyes on what’s next – even if nobody truly knows how matters will transpire.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *