Jurgen Klopp hails “exceptional” centre-backs – “really pleased” for Joe Gomez

With Ibrahima Konate and Virgil van Dijk out, Jurgen Klopp turned to Joel Matip and Joe Gomez vs. Aston Villa, and saw two “exceptional” displays.

Konate missed out through injury while Van Dijk served his suspension for a red card picked up against Newcastle, leaving Klopp thin at centre-back.

Deadline day passed without a new addition, leading to understandable concerns ahead of the visit of Villa to Anfield, but a 3-0 victory was the perfect tonic.

Matip and Gomez rarely put a foot out of place in a dominant win, with Klopp lauding their input in what he described as “different jobs.”

“Both centre-halves played an exceptional game – with different jobs, to be honest,” he told reporters.

“[Moussa] Diaby was hiding in midfield in the nine-and-a-half, 10 position, so Joey had to step in there. That leaves Joel in a one-on-one with Ollie Watkins.

“As much as I love Joel, I think we know that Ollie Watkins might be a bit quicker than Joel! He did really, really well.

“The boys in front of them knew about that fact, so they were really in the situation in counter-pressing moments.

“Until the 2-0 it was outstanding, then because the intensity of the way we played, you could see the front line settled slightly higher.

“That is human, but not helpful in these moments, so we didn’t have exactly the same grip. But top performance.”

PRESTON, ENGLAND - Monday, August 7, 2023: Liverpool's Joe Gomez dries the ball with his shirt as he takes a throw-in during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and SV Darmstadt 98 at Deepdale. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The return of Gomez to the side has been a welcome positive for Liverpool in recent games, with the No. 2 stepping in impressively as left-sided centre-back.

“Joey, I’m really pleased for him. I’m really pleased,” Klopp continued.

“Against Newcastle it was, by the way, that [way] already to be honest when he came on.

“It’s very helpful when you have strong centre-halves, but if you leave them alone, then the pitch is too big to defend.

“Today we were really together, really compact, the commitment was top class. That’s why we played the way we played.”

It must be said that, in general, Liverpool looked much more defensively sound against Villa, this despite Alexis Mac Allister being deployed again as a No. 6.

As the manager states, the all-round effort of the team off the ball is paramount to the success of any centre-back pairing.