There are just over 48 hours until the transfer window closes.
Liverpool remain in the market for at least one more player, with both options for a versatile midfielder and a left-sided centre back being looked at. Whether a deal for either of those gets done at this stage is anyone’s guess.
The Reds appear publicly to be prioritising a deal for a fourth midfield signing, and Anfield Watch understands that Ryan Gravenberch and Khephren Thuram remain of interest. However, there have been far fewer credible links to defenders.
A recent report from the Athletic claimed that Liverpool aren’t guaranteed to sign a defender this year and could hold off until next summer – when Joel Matip’s contract expires – if the right profile of player can’t be identified right now.
However, waiting for the perfect player may not be a luxury Liverpool can afford. While uncertainty reigns regarding the Reds’ late-stage transfer intentions, what is clear from this week alone is that they face a coming storm this season if they do not add another defender to their squad by 11pm BST this Friday.
READ MORE: 4 defenders Liverpool could still sign before Deadline Day
Heading into this weekend’s home clash with Aston Villa – the first game post transfer window – the Reds will likely have just two fit and available senior centre backs in Matip and Joe Gomez.
Club captain Virgil van Dijk will miss the game through suspension, while Ibrahima Konate appears set to sit another game out with injury. In addition, Nat Phillips is now set to leave on loan to Celtic. Though not a great loss to the first-team — Phillips has played just eight times in the last two seasons – his expected departure drains an already small pool even further.
20-year-old Jarell Quansah could well be on the bench again this weekend, having made his debut as a substitute in the comeback win over Newcastle, and the youngster looks an impressive talent. However, relying too heavily on him as a senior option this season is potentially dangerous for both the club and his own development.
Meanwhile, though not a centre back, it has been reported that Conor Bradley’s injury is more serious than first thought and that they Northern Ireland international could be out until the end of November. This in turn leaves Gomez as the only cover for Trent Alexander-Arnold at right back.
The precarious situation brings to mind the Reds’ infamous 2020/21 season, when serious injuries for both Gomez and Van Dijk saw Phillips and Rhys Williams promoted to the first team, Fabinho and Jordan Henderson used at the back and two players never of the required standard to play for Liverpool in Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies brought in during the January window.
It might seem like hyperbole with Van Dijk set to return soon and Konate expected back after the international break, but the warning signs are there.
Klopp himself has admitted Liverpool will need to be ‘lucky’ with injuries this season.
Speaking ahead of the Newcastle game, the manager said: “In an ideal world, we have six, seven, eight centre-halves and cover for absolutely everything… No, we need to be lucky with injuries, there is no doubt about that.”
Generally superb when fit, Konate’s availability record is, however, incredibly patchy. The Frenchman has never made more than 18 Premier League outings in either of his seasons as a Red.
© Proshots – Ibrahima Konate
Matip and Gomez too – no longer at their peaks – are far from perennially available either, missing ten matches between them across 2022/23 (Konate missed 13). There also remain big question marks about either player’s suitability to the new system, which requires the right-sided centre back to cover the space out wide when Alexander-Arnold pushes into midfield.
READ MORE: Can Joel Matip still be a reliable part of Liverpool’s new system?
There are similar concerns about Andy Robertson on the left side too, with the Reds supposedly looking for a more specialist left-footer in what is essentially a back three for much of the game.
The reality is that, with the system change, Matip’s contract expiring and (whisper it) Van Dijk’s gradual decline, Liverpool are overdue a defensive rebuild.
Like with the midfield, it may only come after a year of pushing the limits of the squad a little too far.
With only a couple of days left of the transfer window, it’s too late to drastically change course now, but at least one shrewd signing could provide the essential buffer in delivering Liverpool into next summer without having to risk another season-defining crisis.