Liverpool must bring in a new centre-back or accept that they will not be able to retain their status as Premier League champions, according to one pundit.
The Reds have done remarkably well to sit top of the table after 15 games amid their injury record.
Indeed, centre-backs Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez have suffered long-term knee problems. What’s more, marquee signings Thiago Alcantara and Diogo Jota are also on the sidelines.
But amid a string of other injuries, Liverpool’s centre-back shortage has proved the most concerning issue for manager Jurgen Klopp.
Fabinho has had to drop back from midfield, with the unreliable Joel Matip dipping in and out of the team. As such, Klopp has had to rely on fringe duo Rhys Williams and Nathaniel Phillips.
According to John Aldridge, though, Liverpool cannot put too much faith in those fringe players to help them retain their crown.
“Joel Matip’s injury in Sunday’s 1-1 draw against West Bromwich Albion confirmed what we have all appreciated for some time now – Liverpool have to spend money on a good quality defender,” the pundit wrote in his Sunday World column.
“I like Matip, and if he could be relied upon to play the majority of games in the second-half of the season, manager Jurgen Klopp might be able to get through to next summer with the current squad.
“Yet, the reality facing Liverpool heading into Wednesday’s game at Newcastle is pretty stark – they have one senior centre-back to call upon and he is a midfielder, Fabinho.”
Aldridge noted that injuries have “ripped a hole” in Liverpool’s defence and that Klopp is “horribly” short of options at the back.
Aldridge says duo not the answer
However, he insisted that relying on Williams and Phillips – or other midfielders for that matter – is not the answer.
“Liverpool need three of their best midfielders to play in the position they are meant to be in, and while Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips have done well at centre-back, playing youngsters in such a vital position is a recipe for disaster,” he said.
“Against the top sides in the Champions League, youngsters are liable to found out – and that could also be the case in the Premier League.”
Liverpool have begun to see an easing of their injury worries elsewhere in the squad. James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Xherdan Shaqiri have all returned to the fold.
Thiago, meanwhile, is closing in on a return after over two months out with a knee injury.
Switzerland manager Vladimir Petkovic, though, has taken issue with Klopp over Shaqiri’s injury.