Peter Crouch believes Rhys Williams can be an “adequate replacement” for Virgil van Dijk after an impressive first Champions League start.
Liverpool are finding ways to cope without their defensive lynchpin van Dijk, who could miss the rest of the season after having surgery on an ACL injury.
It left Joe Gomez and Joel Matip as the only senior centre-backs at Jurgen Klopp’s disposal. However, the Liverpool manager has since found several other solutions.
His main alternative will be to play Fabinho at centre-back, despite him usually being a midfielder. But with the Brazilian absent in the last couple of weeks as well, Klopp has had to turn to players with less experience.
In their most recent league match, Nat Phillips produced a man of the match performance next to Gomez in a 2-1 win over West Ham.
However, Phillips is not included on their Champions League squad list. Therefore, Klopp had to use 19-year-old Rhys Williams in their game against Atalanta on Tuesday.
While it was their attackers – mainly hat-trick hero Diogo Jota – who stole the show in a 5-0 win, the clean sheet will have brought equal satisfaction to Klopp. And Williams was a key part of it.
Last year, Williams was playing in the sixth tier of English football with Kidderminster Harriers. On Tuesday, he played his part in stopping one of Europe’s most dangerous attacks.
And his performance caught the eye of someone who used to star for Liverpool at the other end of the pitch – with former striker Peter Crouch telling BT Sport how impressed he was with Williams and fellow academy graduate, midfielder Curtis Jones.
“They did very well,” said Crouch.
“Rhys Williams didn’t put a foot wrong the other day when he played and I felt he was fantastic.
“If Fabinho comes back he’s going to play with Gomez but Williams has proven an adequate replacement. He’s definitely one for the future.”
Crouch impressed with Liverpool recruitment
The star of the show, though, was undeniably Jota. After joining from Wolves in September, the Portuguese forward has been knocking on the door to take Roberto Firmino’s place in the starting lineup.
Klopp gave him that chance against Atalanta, and Jota went on to score a hat-trick to overtake Firmino in terms of the number of goals he has scored for Liverpool in 2020.
Crouch thinks Liverpool’s recruitment has been spot on – and thinks they have pulled off another coup by bringing in Jota.
He said: “You just have to tip your hat off to the recruitment team because would you say there were many people who were after Jota?
“I wouldn’t say there were people clambering for him.
“I think if you go through it, Salah was at Roma, Chelsea. Alisson, there wasn’t loads after him.
“Robertson was £7million from Hull. Wijnaldum, Newcastle. Mane even. People said he was overpaid so I think Michael Edwards and all the recruitment team deserve a lot of credit.”