“The name’s Gerrard, Jordan Gerrard,” also known as “The American Gerrard!” You know about the “Welsh Pirlo”, you’ve seen the “Egyptian Messi”, but you never knew about the American Gerrard! When the American Scouser needed a transfer expert I was there to smash it in from long range with an absolute belter. What a hit son, what a hit!
Liverpool Football Club retook the top spot on the table this past weekend, as Everton finally began to look like their usual selves. Diogo Jota was once again the man in the right place at the right time against the Hammers, scoring the winner and securing the Reds three points. Do not forget who told you how good Jota could be for LFC. If the third kit was not sold out in my size, I would have a new one with the name Diogo J. on the back.
How long can Liverpool sit atop their perch as injury problems pile up? Will Liverpool have the endurance and tenacity to fight and claw their way through a season of peril and plague? After a record-breaking campaign where we dominated the rest of the league, could this season be remembered as Liverpool’s scrappiest title win? We are all hoping so.
In my last transfer article, I discussed our goalkeeping “emergency” that turned out to barely warrant a call to 911. Liverpool’s godlike goalkeeper Alisson Becker returned to full fitness sooner then expected, and everything is right again between the sticks. I am glad we did not sign Jack Butland (he ended up at Crystal Palace, by the way)!
The American Gerrard Fire Department was on the case, putting out the flames of transfer uncertainty once again. But just as we put out a small kitchen fire, we received the call that City Hall was engulfed in flames again. It looks like the world’s most dependable defender will not be defending for quite some time…
The Virgil Void
In my previous article discussing referee bias, I called out Jordan Pickford’s dirty tackle, which has sidelined our beloved Dutch defender for what is liekly the rest of the season. When you lose a player like Virgil Van Dijk for the majority of a season, it is hard to avoid transfer rumors on who could be his replacement. Question marks have been raised over the fitness of Liverpool’s other first team defenders Joe Gomez and Joel Matip. Joel Matip is currently days away from a return from another injury spell himself. Joe Gomez has had his own history of injury issues.
Over the summer Liverpool sold fourth choice center back Dejan Lovren and settled on giving youth players a chance over signing a replacement. At the moment it looks like this decision could potentially come back and bite Liverpool in the ass. Can untested youngsters Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips take advantage of this moment to write their very own Liverpool legends?
In this week’s “amazing” and “exciting” article of The American Gerrard I will cover some of the rumors linking us with Virgil Van Dijk replacements. There is a ton of big names being mentioned with moves to the mersey side champs. I give my opinion on the rumors and who we could realistically buy in the winter window. So grab your gear and jump on the Anfield Fire Engine as we put out another transfer dumpster fire.
Fabinho Quick Fix
In the past Liverpool’s holding midfield Fabinho has stepped into the back line in a defensive crisis and performed well enough to make FIFA’s Team of the Week. Naturally he would be seen as the easiest short term solution to fill the gap in Virgil Van Dijk’s absence. Although Fabinho recently suffered an injury of his own, it is believed he will be back in the starting lineup after the upcoming international break. Still, long-term fitness problems remain a concern.
The Athletic’s David Ornstein claims Liverpool are yet to decide on whether they should make a move for a new defender in the winter transfer window. Despite this report, Ornstein concluded that he does expect Liverpool to eventually make a move in January. Ornstein’s sources claim Jurgen Klopp would prefer to rely on internal resources, and for the time being considers Fabinho as the solution to Liverpool’s defensive problems.
In a recent interview with a magazine in his homeland, Fabinho confirmed Jurgen Klopp has turned to him to replace Virgil van Dijk in the Liverpool defense. Apparently Klopp has demanded one immediate improvement the Brazilian must make to his game for his defensive switch to work more smoothly: he has been told to improve the vocal side of his game.
Fabinho knows he is still not perfect when it comes to performing as a center back. While his skills as a defensive midfielder easily adapt to the needs of someone in a center back position, he does need to be more vocal in the role. Fabinho revealed Klopp had told him to talk more to the team to try to organize the team defensively:
“Sometimes it’s little details like second balls, being ready, pressing well. I try to be in this role as well.”
Coming for Coady
One name Liverpool fans have gotten slightly sentimental over is Wolverhampton center back Conor Coady. Coady was born in nearby St. Helens and grew up a Liverpool supporter. He started off playing as a box-to-box midfielder in Liverpool’s academy before discovering his more natural position as a defender. He left in 2014, unconvinced about his chances of breaking through into the Liverpool first team.
Since his exit, Coady has enjoyed a steady rise in stock since finding himself at Wolves in 2015. He eventually became their captain, and manager Nuno Espirito Santo’s three-man central defense seemed to compliment his playing style. Wolverhampton were promoted to the Premier League as Champions of the… Championship in 2018, and Coady has played in every single match since. He was even a key player in Wolves’ unlikely run to the quarter-finals of last season’s Europa League tournament.
Now 27 years old, Coady’s excellent form has finally seen him earn England recognition, with Gareth Southgate calling him up for Nations League action in September and October. It also lead to former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher tipping the reds to re-sign the central defender as replacement for the injured Virgil Van Dijk.
Carragher even claimed on live television that Klopp would be considering Coady as a winter signing before awkwardly putting Coady on the spot in a post-match interview, questioning his input on the rumor. Coady respectfully brushed off the rumors, but his initial reaction did hint at possible interest.
The real question is would Coady’s style of football compliment Liverpool’s tactics? Wolves are known for playing the ball out from the back and Conor Coady is instrumental in this process. The English international plays the ball off the ground often, and is skilled at long-distance passing. His passing skill could be welcome in a Liverpool team that passes the ball around from the back working to break down a team parking the bus.
Coady keeps a cool head and is not know for diving into rash tackles. He often operates in a sweeper-esque position between Wolves’ other two center backs. Typically Liverpool play with a back four; as the full backs progress forward the central defensive midfielder drops to support the two center backs. This means Coady might be deprived playing in his ideal position as Liverpool do not operate with a sweeper in theory. The weaknesses to his game include Aerial duels and tackling – two areas Virgil Van Dijk excels in.
Realistically, no one is going to fill the boots of “Big Virg,” but if we are trying to replace him with a like-for-like player who could finish the 2020-2021 season and help reduce the load, Conor Coady is not the player. As much as I would love to see Liverpool re-sign Coady for sentimental reasons, I do not see him as the ideal option to replace Van Dijk. Furthermore, Coady is Wolverhampton’s captain and crucial to their tactics. Unless they change managers, I cannot see Wolves allowing Coady to leave for cheap (Ed: especially after the bargain we got on Jota!).
Premier League Stats 2019-2020
Accurate Passes: 1,572 (85%)
Tackles Succeeded: 23 (64%)
Last Man Tackle: 3
Blocked shots: 0
Cleared off the line: 0
Headed Clearances: 65
Errors leading to goal: 2
Upping the Odds on Upamecano
Prior to R.B. Leipzig’s dismantling by Manchester United in the Champions League, Dayot Upamecano was one of Europe’s most wanted center backs. Despite getting left in the dust by Marcus Rashford, Upamecano probably still has a few suitors.
Sunday World in Germany claim Leipzig are expecting Liverpool to make a move to sign their center back in January. Reports claim that an offer in excess of $50 million will be enough to sign the young promising center back. The 22 year old French defender recently signed new contract with RB Leipzig, committing himself to the club until 2023. Liverpool are believed to be long term admirers of Upamecano. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is supposedly set to ask the Liverpool board to bring forward his plans to sign Dayot Upamecano to January, before a $70 million release clause kicks in next summer.
Sunday World writer Kevin Palmer says Liverpool have made Dayot Upamecano their ‘number one target’ this winter. Palmer could potentially be considered a reliable source when it comes to Liverpool, with the journalist being the first to break news of Virgil van Dijk’s move to Liverpool in 2018.
Upamecano can be an incredibly aggressive center back. He frequently comes forward out of the defensive line to pressure opponents and win the ball back higher up the pitch. Using his strength and aggression to dominate opponents, Upamecano is able to either win back possession or force opponents into backwards passes. He could be a great addition to any team employing a high-pressing tactic. Virgil Van Dijk is known to use his size and strength to boss opponents off the ball in a similar manner. High-pressing tactics can leave a defensive line exposed, and Upamecano has decent pace for a center back, making him able to regain defensive positioning quickly.
Upamecano is also known for his passing ability. His current team Leipzig often use their defenders to launch long ball attacks. The Frenchman is a key part of this strategy, boasting an impressive pass accuracy and vision.
Upamecano would be a great signing for Liverpool. Do I think he would make an ideal Van Dijk replacement? As much as Upamecano has some similar qualities to Van Dijk, I believe he still lacks the aerial abilities that Virgil Van Dijk brings to the squad. These have been sorely missed in recent games – we need someone who can win aerial battles if we hope to fill the “Virgil Void.”
The rumors would have you believe Leipzig would consider selling Upamecano on the cheap, but with a list of suitors including Arsenal, Manchester United and Barcelona, Leipzig could hold out for a bidding war. As much as I do not believe Liverpool will sign Upamecano, it is worth mentioning that Liverpool midfielder and former Leipzig player Naby Keita wishing Upamecano a happy birthday this week. Could Klopp be using his players to tap up or scout a potential move for the French defender?
Bundesliga League Stats 2019-2020
Accurate Passes: 1749 (89%)
Tackles Succeeded: 30 (59%)
Last Man Tackle: 0
Blocked shots: 1
Cleared off the line: 2
Headed Clearances: 33
Errors leading to goal: 0
Kabak at the Back?
The Mirror claims the Reds approached Bundesliga club Schalke to sign the 20-year-old Turkish center back Ozan Kabak in January. In some ways, Ozan Kabak fits the bill for a Liverpool transfer committee signing. He is the right age and market value to match Liverpool’s recruitment profile.
Schalke’s form over the course of 2020 has been terrible. At the time of writing this article they have yet to win a match in 22 Bundesliga games, and have amassed only two points this season. They have already conceded 20 goals in only six matches, including a 8-0 massacre away to Bayern Munich, a 4-0 loss to RB Leipzig, and a 3-0 loss to Borussia Dortmund.
In September Kabak was sent-off against Werder Bremen, and received a five-game suspension for spitting on his opponent Ludwig Augustinsson. Behavioral issues like this could raise some questions on whether Kabak is really Liverpool material. After the incident, Kabak used his Twitter account to publicly apologize. He claimed it was not his intention to aim at the player and the TV angle made it look worse then it actually was.
Schalke’s worrying form does not exactly make Kabak look like an attractive prospect for a Liverpool signing. The stats from last season do show Kabak was not guilty of any errors leading to goal, so Schalke’s poor results cannot be solely blamed on Kabak or reflect on his ability as a player. This season’s loss to Bayern was a result of a collective team performance and not due to Kabak’s form.
When compared to other players mentioned in this article, Kabak is the most similar in playing style to Virgil Van Dijk. His notable strengths include aerial duels, his blocking ability, and his tackling. Kabak likes to dribble and execute long passes. His passing though is one area that could use improvement.
Kabak’s value was once believed to be around $50 million, but with Shalke’s recent form in the Bundesliga, and financial set backs created by the global pandemic, the German club may be willing to accept closer to half that value.
Accurate Passes: 844 (81%)
Tackles succeeded: 23 (62%)
Last man tackle: 0
Blocked shots: 0
Cleared off the Line: 0
Headed clearances: 47
Errors leading to goal: 0
Kalidou Could Do
CalcioMercato claims Jurgen Klopp is a huge fan of Senegal international Kalidou Koulibaly and could sign him as a replacement for Virgil van Dijk in January. Will Virgil Van Dijk’s injury inspire the Reds to break the bank and sign Koulibaly, with Napoli previously demanding $100 million for the defender?
The Express claims the Reds were strongly linked with Koulibaly back in the summer transfer window, but in the end decided the asking price was too expensive.
Koulibaly did not have his best season during 2019-20, as injury problems limited him to the lowest number of minutes he has played in a season since arriving from Genk in 2014. In the few games the defender did feature, he often appeared to struggle, including a disaster performance against Barcelona in last season’s Champions League round of 16.
According to Sky Italia, Napoli director Cristiano Giuntoli dismissed the recent rumors linking Koulibaly with a move to Liverpool. Journalist Fabio Santini claims Manchester City, Manchester United and PSG are interested in signing the Senegalese defender, but that has not stopped Liverpool from making a bid. The Reds have allegedly offered a figure between $80-85 million, the sum that Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis has demanded.
As much as I would love for LFC to sign someone like Koulibaly, I think his price tag will be the main stumbling block that prevents Liverpool from making a move. I have already discussed Koulibaly’s poor form and injury concerns last season. Despite these setbacks, Napoli still value Koulibaly pretty high. They have not budged on the price they want, which hints at a reluctance to do any real transfer business.
Koulibaly has not pushed for a move and Napoli are really under no pressure to sell and unless someone is ready to make Koulibaly the next most expensive defender. I do not think Koulibaly fits the bill for an FSG Moneyball-inspired signing, as he is too old. But hey, I said the same thing about Thiago…
Goals 0 Assists: 0
Accurate Passes: 1540 (91%)
Tackles succeeded: 33 (65%)
Last man tackle: 1
Blocked shots: 2
Cleared off the Line: 1
Headed Clearances: 29
Errors leading to goal: 1
All About Alaba
Reports from Football Insider state Bayern Munich’s versatile defender David Alaba is on the radar of Liverpool, as contract talks between Alaba and Bayern have apparently reached a standoff. SportBild’s Christian Falk claims that a third attempt at contract negotiations have fallen apart, meaning any interested teams will be able to contact the Austrian defender over pre-contract agreements at the turn of the year. With less then six months left on his contract, he would be available on a free transfer when his current deal expires in June.
Alaba may not actually be considered a natural center back, but with the emergence of Canadian left back Alphonso Davies, he has shifted into the middle of Bayern’s defense. Alaba featured there during Bayern’s successful Champions League campaign in August, garnering rave reviews for his performances. His ability to play at full-back and in midfield could also prove a positive proposition for a manager looking to improve squad depth in several positions.
With his contract up at the end of the season, there is plenty of speculation over Alaba’s future. Could Alaba potentially follow former team mate Thiago and trade the Allianz Arena for Anfield? He is a good player but is not a direct replacement for Virgil Van Dijk. He stands only 5’11 and is not well-suited for aerial prowess. Let’s not dance around the fact he has played left back for the majority of his career, and was only recently shifted to center back due to injuries at the back for Bayern (and possibly the fact Davies is younger and much faster).
Alaba would certainly add something to our squad, but he is ideally more equipped for an attacking role on one of the flanks. I do not think he would be satisfied with a squad rotation role or playing backup to Andrew Robertson.
The rumor surrounding his current desire to leave Bayern is based around him wanting more first team action in his preferred role on the left. There are also talks of him requesting a huge wage which would put him on equal terms with striker Robert Lewandowski. I do not believe Liverpool will want to match those wages… but again, I said the same thing about Thiago…
Accurate Passes: 2201 (91%)
Tackles succeeded: 17 (57%)
Last man tackle: 0
Blocked shots: 6
Cleared off the line: 1
Headed Clearances: 11
Errors leading to goal: 0
Virgil Version 2.0
I have been following Liverpool transfer activity for a long time. Based on what I have seen in the past, I do not expect Liverpool to break the bank as part of some emergency center back signing to replace Virgil Van Dijk in January.
I believe that there was always a plan to sign someone next summer, whether that signing will be a big name signing or another diamond in the rough no one outside the club really knows. Unless Fabinho or Matip suffer another serious injury before the January window closes, I see us finishing this season with those three and Rhys Williams / Nat Phillips filling in.
One of the first things Jurgen Klopp said in reference to Van Dijk’s injury was that Liverpool would “wait for Virgil like a good wife waits for her husband in jail.” For me, that is an admission that Liverpool will not replace Virgil Van Dijk.
You could call me crazy – and I preface this statement with the confirmation I am not a doctor nor do I have any medical training or experience with sports injuries of this magnitude – but I think Van Dijk will defy the odds and heal quicker than anyone expects him to. This man is no mere mortal. We have all witnessed it. In all seriousness, when you look at Van Dijk’s injury record over his career, the man is almost invincible. The only notable absence he has ever had from the game of football was due to having his appendix removed – not even a true injury or even football-related.
If Liverpool did move to sign someone in January, I think realistically a move for someone like Ozan Kabak is the most likely of the outcomes. It kills me to say this, because emotionally I want Coady. If we are focusing on potential I like Upamecano, but if we are talking about defensive styles and like for like Van Dijk, Kabak is probably the best choice. All the players I have discussed are great center backs, but if we are focusing on the way Liverpool play and what Virgil Van Dijk brings to our defense, Kabak is the closest match.
I am Jordan Gerrard and as always I thank you for reading.