Jurgen Klopp has transfer decisions to make on two Liverpool warriors after top four feat


    It was a real battle for Liverpool but it was a battle, and a war, that they won. A 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace crowned a 10-match unbeaten run to put the Reds – somehow – third in the final Premier League standings.

    That of course means that they qualify for next season’s Champions League despite having been well off the pace and down in eighth in England’s top flight on March 8.

    Their form from then until May 23 marked a remarkable comeback even though ultimately on paper the season looks like a disappointment having surrendered their crown to Manchester City without a fight.

    Yet Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp rightly acknowledged that given the scale of their injury misfortune, they were never going to be able to muster such a challenge. They effectively had one arm, if not two, tied behind their back in a fistfight against Mike Tyson.

    But there were two players who showed incredible fight in Liverpool’s run-in, quite literally showing the scars of battle after helping to beat Palace – Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams.

    Klopp explained post-match: “We win 3-0 at Burnley, happy camp, everything fine, we go home and Rhys Williams needs to have a scan because he has a hamstring [injury].

    “He didn’t train for three days, but could play today and that was the lucky moment but nobody knew that until a few hours before the game.

    “Today they [Williams and Nat Phillips] both get a cut, we had to fight through and the boys did that. Let’s talk about them: how they played is absolutely incredible.

    “The steps they made this year, they should be really very proud of because it is absolutely a different level now, that’s really nice to be part of that.”

    With Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip, the on-loan Ozan Kabak and stand-in centre-back Jordan Henderson all injured, Phillips and Williams rose to the task of getting Liverpool over the line in the final few games.

    They had iffy moments, of course, and against Palace in particular were grateful that Andros Townsend fired wide at the Kop end at 0-0.

    But they also provided a rearguard that helped keen clean sheets in wins over Southampton, Burnley and Crystal Palace and despite being unfancied, produced commendable and determined performances.

    It was no surprise that the late equalisers conceded in draws with Leeds and Newcastle came without Phillips on the pitch, such is his aerial ability.

    While Williams has demonstrated an impressive passing ability, and is clearly a player whom Klopp rates.

    The German will be grateful to their contributions, which mean Liverpool do not take a backwards step and can plan to go again for the title and the European Cup next term off the back of decent summer investment into the squad.

    It’s a different scenario with Phillips who turned 24 in March and may be eager for regular minutes again next year after 20 first-team appearances.

    Trouble is, Van Dijk will be fit, Matip and Gomez will be back and Ibrahima Konate is expected to join from RB Leipzig. When available, all four are ahead of Phillips as they are superior players technically.

    Phillips has been a brilliant stand-in for Liverpool but lacks the on-the-ball ability to ever be a regular starter. He would be a more-than-welcome fifth choice for the Reds, but it depends what his ambition is.

    His time at Anfield suggests at worst he would be a week-in, week-out starter for a mid-table Championship side. At best, should he leave, he might start for a team lower down the Premier League. You can picture him at a Burnley, for example, given his skillset.

    If it comes to the resolution that Phillips is best off elsewhere, Liverpool boss Klopp will be sad to see Phillips go – as he will be with Williams in a few years’ time if he does not improve sufficiently.

    But the pair will be forever remembered for their contributions in the most chaotic of campaigns. They were the warriors that stood up for Liverpool exactly when Klopp needed them.


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