Liverpool injury crisis: Ranking Jurgen Klopp players by how they'd perform at centre-back

  • Kobe Tong
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Liverpool are wading through their latest injury crisis of a tumultuous 2020/21 campaign.

The Reds are set for a late scramble in the January transfer window after Joel Matip was forced off with an injury during the 3-1 win at Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday night.

Although a full assessment of Matip's knock is still in the pipeline, the early signs aren't promising, so don't be surprised if the 29-year-old joins Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez on the treatment table.

Centre-back crisis

We sincerely hope that Matip is fitter than the initial diagnosis would suggest, but regardless of his lay-off time, there's no denying that Liverpool have been astonishingly unlucky this season.

And while there is absolutely nothing funny about players being robbed of the thing they enjoy doing each day, such is the bizarre nature of the situation, that some fans are seeing the lighter side.

Twitter user @Knox_Harrington is a fine example, catching plenty of eyes after the Tottenham game for listing the few Liverpool players that haven't been forced to play at centre-back this season.

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Liverpool's non-centre-backs

With the likes of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson drafted into the centre of defence, the list is shorter than you might imagine and the supporter went one step further: ranking them best to worst.

'How so?' I hear you ask. Well, @Knox_Harrington tried to imagine what would happen if all of those players were forced to play at centre-back and just how disastrous that would be for the Reds.

In other words, would you rather have Sadio Mane or Mohamed Salah filling in at centre-back? It's a harmless piece of hypothetical nonsense, but we're clearly not alone in finding it amusing.

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Liverpool players ranked by CB skills

And therefore, we've decided to take on our own version of the list, using WhoScored.com to find the 19 players who haven't played at centre-back and ranked them by their potential there.

19. Adrian

Look, we don't take any pleasure in throwing many Liverpool fans' pin cushion under the bus here, but passing isn't exactly Adrian's strong suit and ermm, yeh, small thing, he's a fricking goalkeeper...

18. Takumi Minamino

I can see the viral slow-motion videos of Chris Wood towering over Minamino like a pterodactyl already.

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17. Mohamed Salah

One of the best players in the world, but Salah at centre-back would be an unmitigated disaster. He might as well book his taxi to A&E in advance before he goes shoulder-to-shoulder with Adama Traore.

16. Sadio Mane

His pace would come in handy when he's tracking Jamie Vardy, but Harry Kane and Olivier Giroud would eat him for breakfast. Couldn't do it on a cold, windy night at Burnley...

15. Caoimhin Kelleher

Once a 20-goal-a-season striker in his youth days, we can see Kelleher doing a solid enough job at centre-back with his towering six-foot frame and proven distribution skills from deep.

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14. Diogo Jota

While, yes, Jota isn't completely void of the attributes that make for a world-class defender, he'd be made to look like a training cone when Manchester City came to town.

13. Xherdan Shaqiri

An absolute unit, there's no two ways about it, but strikers would use Shaqiri as a step-ladder from set-pieces.

12. Alisson Becker

This shouldn't make sense, I know, but we can't be alone in thinking that Alisson would secretly be a force to be reckoned with at centre-back, spraying some Van Dijk-esque passes along the way.

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11. Curtis Jones

Ah, another member of 'Chris Wood's wrecking ball' club. Jones would be fantastic on the ball, there's no denying that, but he'd be mincemeat against a Sean Dyche or Sam Allardyce team.

10. Naby Keita

Ok, we're slowly getting into less disastrous territory now because Keita isn't short of defensive nous, but he is short... yup, that is the end of that sentence.

9. Divock Origi

As much as Liverpool fans don't want Origi touching the Anfield pitch with a barge pole right now, he'd at least bring a physical presence, even if we can't imagine him fighting tooth and nail for the ball.

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8. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Pace, footballing intelligence and dynamism make Oxlade-Chamberlain a solid candidate in our eyes and brings with him experience of playing at wing-back for Arsenal.

7. Roberto Firmino

Well, this would really give credence to the Twitter cliché of 'Firmino being more than a goalscorer' and to his credit, he'd bring with him a strong aerial presence and effortless command of the ball.

6. Neco Williams

Say what you like about William's errors this season, but consider some ground-breaking footballing analysis by us for one second: he's a defender. Uh huh, yup, bet you didn't see that coming.

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5. Trent Alexander-Arnold

This feels harsh, I won't lie to you, but the defensive side to Alexander-Arnold's game has looked seriously suspect at times this season.

4. Konstantinos Tsimikas

Yes, Tsimikas has barely played during his first season at Anfield, but I think you'll forgive us for the theory that defenders would make for the best centre-backs. It's not rocket science, you'd hope.

3. James Milner

A man capable of reinventing himself in almost every position, if Milner's random spell at left-back is anything to go by, we back the indefatigable veteran to do a smashing job at centre-back.

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2. Georginio Wijnaldum

Truth be told, it's a little surprising that Wijnaldum hasn't been drafted at centre-back at any point this season because we think he'd do a similarly solid job to Fabinho and Henderson there.

1. Andrew Robertson

A £67.5 million-rated warrior and swashbuckling full-back that isn't afraid to defend. Sure, he's less than six feet tall, but Robertson would ruffle the feathers of Premier League strikers more than any of the Reds' non-centre-backs.

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Are we a million miles wide of the mark? I don't think so, but in such a whacky scenario, it's impossible to tell whether Salah or Minamino would be more disastrous leading a back four.

But all the tongue-in-cheek silliness aside, we wish Matip, as well as Van Dijk and Gomez, all the best in their recovery because months and months without football is gut-wrenching in any context.

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