Why didn’t Liverpool sign a centre-back? And will they regret it?

Had Liverpool endured a more difficult start to the new season, then there is every chance that more focus would have been placed on the transfer window that preceded it.

But 10 points from an opening four games that looked tricky on paper represents a strong return, and so criticism of this summer’s business has largely been muted.

Were that tally less impressive, then it seems obvious that questions over the choice of Wataru Endo as the Reds’ sole holding midfield signing would have arisen by now.

Yet, discontent over that decision would surely have been outstripped by any inquiry into the failure to sign a single senior centre-back option this summer.

The possibility of that call blowing up in Liverpool’s face has already been underlined by a start to the season that has seen Ibrahima Konate pick up an injury and Virgil van Dijk serve a two-match suspension.

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 27, 2023: Liverpool's captain Virgil van Dijk protests to the referee John Brooks after being is shown a red card and sent off during the FA Premier League match between Newcastle United FC and Liverpool FC at St James' Park. Liverpool won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Many fans have probably been pleasantly surprised to see the manner in which Joe Gomez and Joel Matip have stepped up thus far.

The tendency to use emotional, binary language around players is a big part of that, with both men widely – and arguably unfairly – written off as not good enough coming into this campaign.

While Gomez and Matip endured poor 2022/23 seasons, they would argue that was also the case for so many of their teammates who are expected to play a big role this time around.

And, given that Liverpool’s search for a centre-back this summer failed to truly catch fire, it seems clear that Jurgen Klopp has a firm belief that both can put their struggles behind them.


The summer options

BRIGHTON & HOVE, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 14, 2023: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (L) and Brighton & Hove Albion's Levi Colwill during the FA Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Liverpool FC at the Falmer Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Internally, a defensive signing was always described as a ‘nice to have’ ahead of Matip’s contract expiring in 12 months’ time, rather than a desperate need.

Had Levi Colwill pushed to leave Chelsea, then plans to address that position would have been brought forward so as not to miss out on a prodigious talent in possession of homegrown status.

However, he ultimately put pen to paper on a new deal, ensuring the Reds’ interest in a number of defensive options did not go past the monitoring stage.

PRESTON, ENGLAND - Monday, August 7, 2023: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp before a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and SV Darmstadt 98 at Deepdale. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

For example, Piero Hincapie had been watched in the past but missed pre-season due to injury and would have commanded a hefty fee due to Bayer Leverkusen’s reluctance to do business.

Liverpool had also previously made tentative enquiries over Arthur Theate at Rennes but failed to firm their interest up once the transfer window had opened.

And the veracity of those never-ending links to Sporting’s Goncalo Inacio was exposed by the new contract he signed in the final weeks of August.


A false sense of security?

PRESTON, ENGLAND - Monday, August 7, 2023: Liverpool's Ibrahima Konaté during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and SV Darmstadt 98 at Deepdale. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Of course, the refusal to move on these or any other centre-back options has only looked sensible thanks to a strong start to the season in which Liverpool’s depth in that position has come to the fore.

But it does not take an awful lot for that situation to change, or for the gamble Klopp has taken to look like folly.

Konate and Matip’s proneness to muscle injuries makes it hard to imagine that they will go through the remainder of the campaign without facing some significant time on the sidelines.

And, should that prove to be the case, then it only requires a further injury or suspension for either Gomez or Van Dijk to leave the Reds down to the bare bones.

Jarell Quansah enjoyed an impressive pre-season and has built on that in the opening weeks of the campaign, but it would feel risky to ask too much of him at such an early stage of his career.

Of course, the manager may say that is exactly how he likes it, with Trent Alexander-Arnold’s route into the team serving as a good example of his desire to show faith in youth.

Still, if the start to this season proves anything, it is that the only way to fend off scrutiny of transfer decisions is to keep on winning games.