Liverpool are weighing up whether to sign a new backup left-back in the next transfer window, with Jurgen Klopp facing a big decision over his faith in Yasser Larouci.
One of the Reds’ biggest priorities at the end of the season was highlighted in the absence of Andy Robertson for Sunday’s 0-0 draw in the Merseyside derby.
With the Scot ruled out due to injury, James Milner filled in at left-back, only for a hamstring problem to force the veteran off before the end of the first half, with Joe Gomez introduced in his place.
It is a role Gomez has barely played under Klopp, if at all, and a day on from the five-year anniversary of his move to Liverpool, harkened back to his first games for the club during Brendan Rodgers’ reign.
Gomez provided a much-needed thrust up the left flank, but it is certainly not his best role and the 23-year-old should remain as a long-term option at centre-back.
Milner, too, is better elsewhere, which leaves Robertson as the only specialist left-back among Klopp’s senior ranks, and therefore signing a deputy could be one of the most pressing issues for the Reds ahead of 2020/21.
That is unless Larouci is trusted to fill in for the No. 26 on the admittedly rare occasion that he is unavailable—Robertson has played 7,801 of a possible 8,370 minutes in the past two seasons, or 93.2 percent.
According to The Athletic‘s James Pearce, Klopp and his staff “have discussed” the possibility of signing a new backup to Robertson.
But as Pearce attests, “to a large extent it depends on whether Klopp has sufficient faith in Larouci to step up next season.”
There has been significantly less fanfare surrounding Larouci this season than, for example, Neco Williams—and that is largely due to the disparity in their exposure to the first-team squad.
While Williams has been a near-permanent fixture at Melwood this season, injuries and other developments have seen the left-back spend time with the seniors and the academy.
He has made just two appearances for the first team in 2019/20, both in the FA Cup, and is yet to be named in the matchday squad in the Premier League or Champions League.
But Larouci was a surprise presence in squad for pre-season, and would arguably have featured more heavily—and perhaps even in the campaign proper—were it not for a horrendous challenge from Sevilla’s Joris Gnagnon in Boston.
That has left the 19-year-old playing catch-up, and with Williams effectively cementing his spot on the bench as full-back cover, it may prove difficult breaking in.
However, that would be the issue for any incoming left-back, and therefore that poses the question: does Klopp keep faith in Larouci, with time on his side, or plump for a deputy to Robertson that is more immediately dependable?
Arsenal youngster Bukayo Saka, eight months Larouci’s junior, has been mooted as a possible candidate, and it is likely that any call the manager makes would have a strong bearing on the future of his current No. 70.