Liverpool have been crippled by an injury crisis in their defence.
The Reds have struggled with knocks and niggles all season long, but Joel Matip being forced off during the 3-1 win at Tottenham Hotspur felt like the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Besides, Liverpool were arguably without their strongest centre-back partnership long before Matip’s injury with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez confined to the treatment table for months on end.
In the market for a CB
As a result, the Premier League champions were forced to scramble around the January transfer market, so often a honeypot for panic-buying, in the hope of securing defensive reinforcements.
In the end, Liverpool set their sights on Ben Davies of Preston North End and Ozan Kabak of Schalke, hopefully tiding over the Reds in their quest to retain their status as kings of England.
But it’s one thing to secure reinforcements at centre-back and it’s another thing for them to deliver the goods with Jurgen Klopp’s past record of signings in the position proving, well, inconsistent.
Liverpool’s CB signings since 2010
However, instead of throwing Klopp under the bus, we’ve decided to look at Liverpool’s recent history of signing centre-backs in general with 12 incomings since the departure of Rafael Benitez.
And in light of Liverpool loosening their purse strings, we’ve revealed the standard against which Davies and Kabak will compare themselves by ranking the 12 centre-halves from worst to best:
12. Steven Caulker
Ermmm. Arguably Klopp’s worst ever signing at Liverpool, we simply had to put Caulker rock bottom because, well, he played more as an auxiliary striker than a centre-back across four fleeting and bizarre appearances.
11. Tiago Ilori
A youngster when he arrived on Merseyside, Illori never made a lasting impact under Brendan Rodgers, making just three first-team appearances and being loaned out three times before a 2017 departure.
10. Sepp van den Berg
Marginally ahead of Illori because there’s still time for Van den Berg to make his presence felt at Liverpool, but his lack of involvement amidst the club’s current centre-back crisis tells you everything you need to know.
9. Danny Wilson
One of countless miscues from Roy Hodgson’s catastrophic transfer window of 2010, Wilson made his debut in the infamous defeat to Northampton Town and only ever appeared twice in the Premier League for the Reds.
8. Sebastián Coates
The ‘best’ centre-back you could feasibly call a flop, Coates was as unpredictable as they come, looking completely out of his depth in England despite scoring an insane scissor kick at QPR to remember him by.
7. Kolo Touré
Make no mistake about it, Touré was distinctly past his best when he played in front of the Kop, playing in one of Liverpool’s leakiest defences of recent years, but still had his moments across 71 outings.
6. Ragnar Klavan
Something of a cult figure at Anfield, Klavan ultimately served his purpose for Klopp, filling in during big games when needed – producing a few Lionel Messi-esque feints along the way – without ever setting the world alight.
5. Mamadou Sakho
It’s easy to forget just how brilliant Sakho was for Liverpool at times, making up for questionable ball control with a stunning work rate and leadership approach, but when the wheels fell off, they really off.
4. Dejan Lovren
Generous? Maybe, but Lovren’s time on Merseyside was typified with world-class performances one week and Sunday League displays the next, winding down to the status of a squad player before his 2020 exit.
3. Joe Gomez
Only held back by two serious injuries at Anfield, Gomez has arguably been England’s finest centre-back during his purple patches for the Reds, making £3.5 million look like spare pennies across 121 appearances.
For context, the Liverpool enforcer now boasts a transfer value of £36 million. Superb.
2. Joel Matip
An absolute colossus and one of the Premier League’s best defenders when he’s on song, Liverpool have got serious bang for their bucks with Matip. It’s just a shame that, like Gomez, his injury record isn’t the best.
1. Virgil van Dijk
Like, duh. Aside from being the world’s best defender, Van Dijk came within a whisker of beating Messi to the 2019 Ballon d’Or, inspiring Liverpool to Champions League and Premier League glory.
A mixed bag
Talk about a contrast from top to bottom.
At one end you have a truly bizarre signing that saw a defender make repeated cameos as a centre forward and at the other end you have a juggernaut who was almost voted the best player in the world.
So, yes, it’s fair to say Liverpool have a contrasting record when it comes to signing centre-backs as they resolve their most recent deals in the position, bringing spadefuls of pressure in tandem.
That being said, given the injury problems rampaging their way through Anfield right now, Davies and Kabak might well feel like they have nothing to lose and everything to gain.