Liverpool confirmed the signing of Preston North End centre-back Ben Davies on deadline day, as Jurgen Klopp looks to remedy his defensive injury crisis.
The Reds tried out their 12th different centre-back pairing in the recent 3-1 win over West Ham on Sunday, with Jordan Henderson partnering Nat Phillips to see off the Hammers in the Premier League.
Asked about the potential incoming of Davies at the London Stadium, Klopp remained tight-lipped but confessed his “eyes are always open”, before praising the defensive heroics of Phillips and Henderson.
He said: “Phillips played a decent game and Milly [James Milner] shouted at Hendo [Jordan Henderson] ‘you better be careful, if you play like this you’ll play there for the rest of his career’.”
On Sky Sports commentary for the West Ham encounter, Gary Neville also name-dropped Javier Mascherano when discussing Henderson’s recent defensive showings. The Argentine, formerly of Liverpool, famously made the transition from holding midfielder to ball-playing centre-back, and Henderson could follow a similar trajectory.
But the Reds required surefire reinforcements, with Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and now Joel Matip long-term absentees, while Fabinho is also currently sidelined, which may explain the club’s late move for Preston’s Davies.
The deal for Davies saw unheralded teenager Sepp van den Berg go the other way on loan, doubling up as a very astute piece of business, while Schalke central defender Ozan Kabak also arrived.
But, what exactly can Liverpool fans expect from Davies?
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) February 1, 2021
Style of play
At 6ft 1in, Davies is far from the most physically-imposing defender, but what he lacks in muscle mass he makes up for in other areas. The 25-year-old is a tidy left-footed centre-back and is renowned for his ability on the ball, as well as distribution, two essential attributes of a Liverpool defender.
He’s composed in possession and makes ball-carrying runs from deep, a move regularly exhibited by Liverpool defenders. But, perhaps more importantly, his long-range distribution is one of his stronger areas, which bodes well when you have players like Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah making regular runs over the top.
Since the start of last season, Davies has completed 268 long-passes, which places him in the Championship’s top five for that particular metric among centre-backs. When you consider Liverpool have completed the third-most long-passes in the Premier League this season (615), it appears Klopp has done his homework.
There may certainly be some scepticism that at 25, turning 26 in the summer, Davies is yet to make it out of the Championship, but one only has to look at Jamie Vardy, who didn’t make his Premier League introduction until his late 20s, as a perfect case study for reason to believe Davies can make the step up.
And at a reported £2m it really can’t be considered a significant risk to the champions’ coffers. Klopp has got himself one of the Championship’s most impressive and consistent centre-backs across the past four years, a defender who fits the Liverpool ball-playing mould, someone who provides greater squad depth, and all while seeing Van den Berg gain valuable experience the other way.
Under sporting director Michael Edwards, Liverpool have proven assured and resourceful in the market since Klopp took the reins on Merseyside, and the Davies deal has the potential to be another Andrew Robertson-style signing, with the Scot joining from relegated Hull in 2017 for only £8m.