Liverpool’s 18 centre-back partnerships – and the ones yet to be used

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Rotten luck with injuries has seen Liverpool already call upon 18 different centre-back partnerships in the space of just six months, and there could be more on the horizon.

No one could have predicted that by February, the Reds would have lost the three senior centre-backs they started the campaign with to season-ending injuries.

Not to mention then having their two midfield emergency covers also succumb to injury at various stages of the campaign to leave the defence in a state of constant upheaval.

The knock-on effect has been one of sizeable proportions and there is room for more combinations at the heart of the defence turning into the final three months of 2020/21.

It’s an unbelievable state of affairs and we have looked to display how astonishing the set of circumstances facing Jurgen Klopp by looking at the 18 combinations and the minutes played together.

 

1. Van Dijk and Gomez

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, September 28, 2020: Liverpool’s Joe Gomez (L) and Virgil van Dijk before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by Propaganda)

Games: 3 (Leeds, Arsenal, Aston Villa)
Minutes played: 241


The first partnership of the season lasted just three games, with Gomez’s withdrawal due to injury at Villa Park in October ensuring it would be the last.

 

2. Van Dijk and Fabinho

GENK, BELGIUM - Wednesday, October 23, 2019: Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk (L) and Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' lines-up before the UEFA Champions League Group E match between KRC Genk and Liverpool FC at the KRC Genk Arena. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Games: 2 (Chelsea, Aston Villa)
Minutes played: 119


This one was also short-lived, but their outing at Stamford Bridge had provided a comfort blanket for what many hoped wouldn’t be a regular sight. Few could expect what would soon unfold.

 

3. Van Dijk and R. Williams

LINCOLN, ENGLAND - Thursday, September 24, 2020: Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk (R) and Rhys Williams during the pre-match warm-up before the Football League Cup 3rd Round match between Lincoln City FC and Liverpool FC at Sincil Bank. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Games: 2 (Lincoln and ArsenalLeague Cup)
Minutes played: 106


A partnership used solely in the League Cup campaign and no doubt an experience to savour for Rhys Williams.

 

4. Fabinho and R. Williams

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - Friday, January 8, 2021: Liverpool's Rhys Williams during the FA Cup 3rd Round match between Aston Villa FC and Liverpool FC at Villa Park. Liverpool won 4-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Games: 7 (Lincoln, Atalanta, Midtjylland, Tottenham, West Brom, Aston Villa, Man United)
Minutes played: 395


Believe it or not, this is the second most used combination this season. The pair have partnered up across the League Cup, Premier League and Champions League to date.

 

5. Gomez and R. Williams

Games: 3 (Arsenal, Midtjylland, Atalanta)
Minutes played: 179


A partnership limited to cup action prior to Gomez’s season-ending knee injury, where no goal was scored against the Reds in open play during that time.

 

6. Van Dijk and Matip

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 4, 2019: Liverpool's Joel Matip celebrates scoring the first equalising goal with team-mate Virgil van Dijk during the FA Community Shield match between Manchester City FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Games: 1 (Everton)
Minutes played: 11


This one never had time to take flight after Van Dijk’s ACL injury during the Merseyside derby.

 

7. Gomez and Matip

Games: 2 (Everton, Man City)
Minutes played: 169


The next great hope would then last only two games as the pair picked up respective injuries.

 

8. Gomez and Fabinho

Games: 3 (Ajax, Sheffield United, Midtjylland)
Minutes played: 210


Despite their last game together coming at the end of October, they are the joint-sixth most used pairing by Klopp based on minutes. Insane.

 

9. Gomez and Phillips

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 31, 2020: Liverpool’s Nathaniel Phillips (R) with Joe Gomez before making his debut during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by Propaganda)

Games: 1 (West Ham)
Minutes played: 90


It was a case of another game and another partner for Gomez with Nat Phillips, but they would feature just once together in the win over West Ham at Anfield.

 

10. Fabinho and Matip

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 6, 2020: Liverpool's Joel Matip celebrates after scoring the third goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 4-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Games: 7 (Leicester, Ajax, Wolves, Fulahm, Palace, West Brom, Burnley)
Minutes played: 555


The most-used combination, at the time of writing, comes in the form of Fabinho and Matip, who only played a total of seven of Liverpool’s 37 games together.

This duo perfectly showcases the upheaval the Reds have been forced to deal with.

 

11. Matip and R. Williams

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 27, 2020: Liverpool's Joel Matip goes off with an injury, replaced by substitute Rhys Williams, during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Bromwich Albion FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Games: 1 (Atalanta)
Minutes played: 85


A one-time-only gig for these two in what has been a common occurrence this season as the situation from game-to-game has changed drastically.

 

12. Fabinho and Phillips

Games: 2 (Brighton and Newcastle)
Minutes played: 180


The back-end of 2020 introduced the 12th different pairing, both games would end in a draw.

 

13. R. Williams and Koumetio

Games: 1 (Midtjylland)
Minutes played: 45


A combination straight out of the academy and one few would ever have predicted to start together, let alone in the Champions League.

 

14. Fabinho and Henderson

Games: 4 (Fulham, Southampton, Man United, Man City)
Minutes played: 315


The time then came for the two midfield emergency options to take over, swiftly becoming the third-most used pair at a cost to Liverpool’s performance further up the field.

 

15. Matip and Henderson

LONDON, ENGLAND - Thursday, January 28, 2021: Liverpool's Joel Matip (L) and captain Jordan Henderson before the FA Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. (Pic by Propaganda)

Games: 1 (Tottenham)
Minutes played: 45


An entire 45 minutes was all she wrote for the captain and Matip, with the latter forced from the field with what would be a season-ending ankle injury at Spurs.

 

16. Henderson and Phillips

Liverpool's Nathaniel Phillips (left) and Jordan Henderson before the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool.

Games: 3 (Tottenham, West Ham, Brighton)
Minutes played: 225


This pair would then be thrown into the deep end, but they formed part of the back-line which returned the only two league victories in 2021 to date.

 

17. Kabak and Henderson

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 13, 2021: Liverpool's Ozan Kabak (L) and captain Jordan Henderson during the FA Premier League match between Leicester City FC and Liverpool FC at the King Power Stadium. (Pic by Propaganda)

Games: 3 (Leicester, Leipzig, Everton)
Minutes played: 210


The arrival of Ozan Kabak provided another option and in the space of just seven days, this duo would become the joint-sixth most used combo before the captain’s injury against Everton.

 

18. Kabak and Phillips

Games: 1 (Everton)
Minutes played: 60


And Phillips’ introduction at the half-hour mark in the derby heralded in the 18th combination to date.

 

More to Come

HERNING, DENMARK - Wednesday, December 9, 2020: Liverpool's Rhys Williams (L) and captain Jordan Henderson during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between FC Midtjylland and Liverpool FC at the Herning Arena. (Pic by Lars Møller/Propaganda)

With three long months still left in the campaign, there are still combinations that have yet to be called upon by the boss.

And it would be no surprise to see the final tally sit well beyond 20 centre-back pairings by season’s end, here are just a few which could be used:

  • R. Williams and Henderson
  • Fabinho and Kabak
  • Kabak and Davies
  • Fabinho and Davies
  • Henderson and Davies

You truly couldn’t write the season Liverpool are having.

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