The Konate Conundrum

This was supposed to be the solution. We had an heir apparent in our hands. Resources were meant to be utilized elsewhere within the squad. For heaven’s sake, he was a vital cog on two sides that played in the sport’s two biggest finals in a single season. But here we are. As Liverpool begins a new era there has to be a discussion about Ibrahima Konate.

READ MORE: Should I Stay Or Should I Go? by Trevor Utley
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When Liverpool brought in the French center half for £36 million from RB Leipzig in 2021, the intentions were clear. Konate was going to be the understudy to Virgil van Dijk, cover and an eventual replacement for Joel Matip, and the leader of the next generation of LFC defenders. I don’t think that is an overstatement of expectations. His speed, power, and intelligence were lauded by many in the footballing community. Yet despite all the accolades and praise, there were questions about him from the jump.

An Issue Of Durability

For both club and to a lesser extent country, Konate has an issue with fitness. I’m not a kinesiologist, but please if you stumble across this article and you are one, please tell me what is wrong with this man.

Even taking the COVID-hampered campaign into account, the Frenchman has just 51 league appearances to his name over three seasons. His 22 this year was far and away the best figure he’s produced. The most frustrating part of this factoid is that there was a run from his introduction to the club of close to 20 matches where the side was undefeatable with him in the lineup. It was uncanny how just having him in the Starting XI was almost a guaranteed three points for the better part of a year.

ASTV Shorts: Konate Concerns

But the caveat to that was how infrequently the matches in that run strung together. Konate missed countless fixtures his first season with a myriad of ailments. He began his second season at the club on the sidelines. And crucially this season, when his team needed him to help stop the bleeding of a late-season collapse, he was nowhere to be found.

I am aware that injuries happen and certain ones can persist even if treated with the gentlest of care. But for a physical specimen who was meant to provide a stable running mate for our captain, his only consistency has been being consistently unreliable.

The Quansah Quandary

Had you asked me to pick Jarell Quansah out of a lineup before the season, there would have been no shot. I try to keep up with the academy products as best as I can, but Quansah wasn’t one of the ones on my radar entering 2023-24. So imagine my surprise when what looked like a one-or-two-time rotation turned into a full-fledged takeover.

Now don’t get me wrong. We all love a good out-of-nowhere tale. A kid plying his trade on loan at Bristol Rovers bucking the trends and displacing one of the two preferred centerbacks for a European superpower. It should warm the cockles of your heart. But as a Liverpool fan, for all the joy I felt for Jarell Quansah getting this opportunity and running with it, I felt equal parts disappointment towards Ibrahima Konate.

And the thing is I don’t truly believe we’ve had a 100% Lou Gehrig/Wally Pip moment yet. As much as Quansah has impressed, the position next to Virg isn’t locked in as his. It will be interesting to see what the new regime feels is the best pairing to start. If I was Arne Slot though, I wouldn’t put too much stock in the Konate portfolio.

A Much-Needed Disclaimer

For as much of a Konate hit piece as this sounds like, I feel I need to make one thing clear. Liverpool FC is better as a club with a focused Ibrahima Konate at it. The key is that focus. Because everything so far I’ve mentioned about his fitness and the emergence of Jarell Quansah, none of that means anything if our #5 capitulates in meaningful moments.

I want this article to be something that is thrown in my face in 12 months time. There is nothing that would warm my soul entering this new era than for players who’ve fallen flat to rise back up. This is not a “SELL KONATE IMMEDIATELY” piece. What I want the biggest takeaway from this to be is that there are players that we need to have difficult discussions about. And in my opinion, he is one of the most difficult.

The talent is there. That is unquestioned. He seems to have a good understanding with van Dijk. He’s more than capable of covering for Trent’s nomadic defending. But if Liverpool is going to challenge on all fronts again, we have to have higher expectations for him. A sporadic 7.9 rating on Sofascore is not a faith-builder.

In the end, I want there to be enough challengers to his proverbial throne for him to give enough of a shit about defending it. We know what Ibou is capable of. And I think I speak for us all in saying that this better be the year that he remembers that capability himself.

No host, no trivia, all gas, no brakes American Scouser Podcast

No Timucin this week so no one to watch the kids…. and you get to see the result
  1. No host, no trivia, all gas, no brakes
  2. Well… We're Waiting!
  3. Thank you for calling, Please Hold For Arne Slot
  4. All Roads Lead To Mo
  5. Ugly Crying and Tissues