LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Thursday, December 26, 2019: Liverpool's James Milner (C) scores the second goal, from a penalty kick, with team-mate Georginio Wijnaldum (L) and captain Jordan Henderson (R) during the FA Premier League match between Leicester City FC and Liverpool FC at the King Power Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Klopp names 4 ‘new’ centre-back options, with Mascherano success comparison

With specialist centre-backs in short supply, Jurgen Klopp has not ruled out the likes of Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Andy Robertson from filling in this season.

Within the space of less than two weeks, Liverpool have seen their three senior centre-back contingent plus Fabinho dwindle down to just Joe Gomez ahead of West Ham‘s visit.

In a season where games come nearly every three days, it is far from an ideal situation and the Reds will now turn to two teenagers and Nat Phillips for a natural centre-back.

Rhys Williams and Billy Koumetio round off the options Klopp has available to him, but he has not ruled out looking for an alternative solution.

With Fabinho not scheduled to be back until “after the international break,” Liverpool could look to any one of Henderson, Milner, Robertson and Gini Wijnaldum.

The boss cited the success of ex-Red Javier Mascherano as an example of not necessarily needing a particular height advantage to excel in the position.

“They’re all good in training,” Klopp said of his young centre-back options as he opened up on the options available to him.

“I know Nat the longest so I was really happy with his development since I’ve known him.

“He’s made big, big steps and is an exceptional character and the little problem was that we were all convinced how it looked that he [would leave].

“There were a lot of clubs interested in him and in the end, maybe because of the coronavirus crisis, no one had the money to do it.

“But we expected him to leave the club, to be honest. Thank god he didn’t! But that’s the only reason why he isn’t in the Champions League squad.

“He cannot be on the bench in the Champions League but he is now available for the Premier League, all three are [Williams, Koumetio, Phillips] and I have to make the decision.

“And we still, obviously, have other options like Hendo, or Gini or James [Milner] and Robbo can play centre-half as well – they are all not smaller than Mascherano, for example, and he played pretty well in that position.

“We have one or two options and one of them we will choose, which one you have to switch on the television tomorrow night [to see].”

Mascherano was, of course, one of the first players to challenge the way one looked at a centre-back – with efficiency on the ball and playing out from the back key to his game.

And the four options Klopp namechecked are proficient in that area, with both Wijnaldum and Henderson having already featured in the heart of defence under his tutelage.

It is clearly something the manager has pondered and having admitted he gets “excited” about finding a solution to problems, it would not come as a surprise to see any of the aforementioned names at centre-back this season.

Despite Klopp’s words on Friday, it looks like Williams will make his first Premier League start against West Ham on Saturday. But don’t rule out a more creative solution at some stage this winter.