Ex-Red Glen Johnson has warned his former club that they are risk of getting “found out” in persisting with midfielders in the centre of defence.
Liverpool have had to rely on the versatility of midfielder-turned-defender Fabinho at the back alongside a host of defensive partners ranging from Joel Matip (when fit) to Academy graduates Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams, and skipper Jordan Henderson.
“I think they were naive in not getting someone in on loan because the kids – who will hopefully go on to be some fantastic players – are being asked to fill the shoes of Van Dijk and that’s not easy for anybody,” the former fullback told CheltenhamGuides.com (via the Echo). “They’ve tried a lot of personnel there and at the start they were doing fine but then if a player is playing out of position for too long, they can get found out.”
“The odd game here and there is absolutely fine, but you’re going to get found out eventually if you try to win the title with two midfielders playing a centre-back,” Johnson added. “I don’t think there’s any pressure from Klopp on the young players because they aren’t going to be expecting him to fill Van Dijk’s shoes – that’s impossible – but there’s going to huge pressure on any young player to come into a Liverpool side that is fighting for a title and you can’t point the blame at any of the kids.”
There’s no question that our midfielders have performed admirably at the back when called upon – particularly our No.3, who has effectively filled in for Virgil van Dijk since the Dutchman’s injury in October.
The displacement of our midfielders has, as one can imagine, had a knock-on effect on the general performance of the side, with the midfield desperately missing Fabinho’s presence, not to mention Henderson’s influence when Jurgen Klopp drags him into the back four.
Though COVID-19 has left the footballing world’s finances in a state of disarray, Liverpool are handling the pandemic better than most, and with options available on loan, we can hardly be excused for our lack of activity.
It must be said, in the club’s defence, that we tend to operate on the policy of ‘who we want, or nothing else’, which has evidently worked considering our recent trophy haul.
However, given the broad ramifications of failing to qualify for the Champions League, one might have thought that an easing of this mantra, at the very least temporarily, would have been necessary.