Liverpool: Does Klopp need to sign defender in January?
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has been urged to change his team for next month’s Premier League showdown against Manchester United – and play two midfielders in defence. Former Reds ace Danny Murphy reckons Klopp should drop Nat Phillips and play Jordan Henderson at centre-half alongside Fabinho when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side visit Anfield.
Phillips partnered Fabinho at the heart of the Reds defence for Wednesday’s 0-0 draw at Newcastle, with Joel Matip having joined Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez on the injury list.
Matip is not expected to return before Liverpool host United on January 17 in a clash which could have huge ramifications for the title race.
After dropping points in their last two games, Klopp’s Premier League leaders are just three points ahead of second-placed United, who have a game in hand.
While Phillips helped Liverpool keep a clean sheet at St James’ Park, Murphy was critical of his performance, saying he looked nervous up against Newcastle striker Callum Wilson.
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And he thinks it should be Henderson rather than the 23-year-old who plays in defence against the offensive might of Marcus Rashford, Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial next month.
“I think he struggled a bit at times,” Murphy told Stadium Astro after Wednesday’s game.
“He got the booking in the second half when he was out of position a couple of times. He looked a bit nervy, I think in the forthcoming games we’ll probably see a change there. I’d be surprised if he keeps his place, to be honest.
“I know he gives that aerial presence, but depending on who you play against, I don’t think you can only be in the team for that – you need a little bit more.”
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Murphy added: “I think he was a bit in awe of Wilson at times, a bit in fear of him, you could sense it. I felt uneasy when he was around Wilson. They still kept a clean sheet, to be fair to them.’
Klopp can also call on 19-year-old Rhys Williams, who played the full 90 minutes in the win over Tottenham earlier this month and has also appeared in all Liverpool’s Champions League games this season.
But Murphy reckons the manager should plump for the much greater experience of skipper Henderson, who has also had to fill in at centre-back this term amid a crippling injury crisis.
“He has played Rhys Williams, he’s played Jordan Henderson there, we’ll have to wait and see,” said Murphy.
“I’d play Henderson there in a big game, alongside Fabinho at the moment.”
Thiago Alcantara came off the bench against Newcastle to make his first appearance since suffering a knee injury against Everton in October, while James Milner also returned to action after a layoff.
And Murphy said Klopp now has enough options in midfield to play Henderson at centre-half rather than risk a younger, inexperienced player in the top-of-the-table showdown.
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“I know he likes to trust the young lads and give them a go,” said the former Reds midfielder.
“But with the other midfield options, with [Georginio] Wijnaldum, Thiago, [Alex] Oxlade-Chamberlain, [James] Milner, I’d play Henderson there.
“He’s quick, experienced, nobody’s going to run him, he can leap – that’s what I’d do, personally.”
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