Days after Jurgen Klopp admitted Liverpool need to be “lucky with injuries” in their defence, the club are left with a matter of hours to find solutions.
The transfer window closes for Premier League clubs at 11pm on Friday, with plenty still to do for those at the AXA Training Centre.
But while the debate is ongoing on whether the Dutchman is the right target over a defensive midfielder such as Cheick Doucoure, in reality, the pressing issue is elsewhere.
August 25. The manager had just revealed a fitness issue for Ibrahima Konate who, two days later, he admitted is not expected back until after the September international break.
Though in denying a clear goalscoring opportunity Van Dijk’s dismissal was only set to earn a one-match suspension, his furious reaction has left him at risk of a longer spell out.
So much for luck.
Well, Liverpool certainly found themselves on the right side of luck at the opposite end, as Klopp’s late roll of the dice saw Darwin Nunez emerged as two-goal hero.
But in a matter of days, the Reds have now found themselves without their two first-choice centre-backs for at least the visit of Aston Villa on Sunday.
Bradley is not expected back until October at the earliest as he recovers from a stress fracture in his back – the same injury that sidelined Calvin Ramsay from day one of pre-season to October last year.
The 20-year-old’s setback may not be viewed as a major blow given he is not a regular starter, but he was slated to head into the campaign as Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s deputy.
Instead, Liverpool are currently working with six options for four positions at the back.
Only Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson remain of Klopp’s first-choice defence, with an asterisk hovering over each of the remaining four.
Matip played a part in regaining stability with 10 men on Tyneside, but the 32-year-old – who appears at odds with the new system – was brought off after 77 minutes to manage his fitness.
He was replaced by Jarell Quansah, a 20-year-old whose bright future was highlighted with a composed cameo, but also a player tasked with stepping up from a loan at Bristol Rovers last term.
Then there’s Kostas Tsimikas, an attacking left-back who has only clocked four minutes in the first three games – on the left wing – and who there linger understandable doubts over whether he suits Robertson’s new hybrid role.
“It’s not dreamland where you can be prepared for absolutely each situation,” Klopp admitted during his pre-Newcastle press conference.
“We had to learn that in the past as well a couple of times.”
Frustratingly, as deadline day approaches, those words ring true for Liverpool supporters, who have seen the squad spread thin due to a lack of recruitment in recent years.
Into the fifth transfer window since that desperate scramble for defenders and Konate remains the only first-team centre-back signed.
Williams is still on the club’s books but struggled on loan with Swansea and Blackpool, and is now recovering from an injury of his own at Aberdeen.
Meanwhile, Phillips has secured a move away from Merseyside – but not even the £10 million switch mooted, instead a loan move to Celtic.
Further down the ladder, academy centre-back Lee Jonas is recovering from a long-term injury and right-back Isaac Mabaya is being eased back in after months out.
The hope will be that the Warrington native can make big strides in the coming weeks and months if required, but it is not entirely fair to put that pressure on his shoulders.
“We will try to do our absolute best to have a squad next week for us where we can react on pretty much everything,” Klopp continued on Friday.
“Is that possible? We will see.”
That at least suggests that Liverpool will be proactive until the final seconds of deadline day if needed, but as it stands there are no reports of concrete interest in a centre-back.
In fact, links with players such as Bayer Leverkusen’s Piero Hincapie and Rennes’ Arthur Theate have been played down by sources within the club.
If no more signings are made at the back, Klopp is left relying on the luck which history shows is lacking when it comes to the fitness of Konate, Gomez and Matip.
A familiar story, then, as Liverpool risk leaving themselves top heavy again – among the best attacking options in Europe but fragile and threadbare in defence.