Jurgen Klopp and Jordan Henderson both labelled 19-year-old Premier League debutant Rhys Williams as “outstanding” after his role in Liverpool’s 2-1 win over Tottenham.
Williams was a surprise inclusion in the Reds’ starting lineup as Klopp made just one change from Sunday’s draw at Fulham, with Joel Matip unavailable due to a back problem.
Having only previously featured in the Champions League and League Cup, the teenager was preferred to the more experienced Nat Phillips, and rewarded his manager’s faith with a fine display.
Bar a shaky 10 minutes at the start of the second half, Williams was excellent throughout, dominating in the air with more aerial duels won than any other player (six) and playing a key role in Mohamed Salah‘s opener.
Speaking to Amazon Prime after the game, Klopp praised his young defender for shackling “the modern-day Alan Shearer,” explaining that he has “the right amount of confidence.”
“Oh my god! Outstanding, outstanding. Come on, Rhys Williams you can imagine, it’s like the modern-day Alan Shearer he played against, Harry Kane,” he said.
“He is so smart, dropping in the right moments. Second half they only played long balls and actually avoided Rhys.
“They played them in the direction of Fabinho and put Harry there – so we had to really fight for these second balls – because Rhys is so strong in the air.
“But with the ball as well, he played a pass before our first goal.
“He has the right amount of confidence. For a 19-year-old boy you don’t have to explain to other people how it works, but you have to be confident.
“Apart from that, he just kept it simple. Super challenges, but [also] interceptions in the centre when they tried to create counter-attacks, he didn’t drop too early so he won these balls.
“Absolutely incredible game, I have to say.”
Henderson followed Klopp up with an interview of his own after the game, and echoed his manager’s view on Williams, also of the belief that he was “outstanding.”
“I told you before the game he’d been outstanding, and I hoped for the same tonight, and he was outstanding again,” the captain enthused.
“I thought he was one of the best players on the park, won the majority of things in the air, defended, I could hear him talking all the time for such a young lad.
“So delighted for him, but not just him. I thought Fabinho next to him, the whole back four and the whole team, to be honest.”
It is telling that Henderson noted how Williams was “talking all the time for such a young lad” while Klopp earmarked his “confidence” as a key trait.
The youngster was visibly nervous in his early outings, but is now growing in stature – and having excelled in a top-of-the-table clash, he may have convinced Klopp to retain him on Saturday.