Manchester United’s win over Liverpool in the FA Cup on Sunday might not mean anything for the Premier League table, but it certainly showed the reigning champions a glimpse of their future without Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez.
Liverpool’s decision to save their money for the summer transfer window and not buy a new centre-back this month could end up costing them the Premier League title.
The Reds are falling behind in the race to defend their title, and were poor again on Sunday as they were beaten 3-2 by Manchester United in the FA Cup.
Jurgen Klopp’s side were more lively going forward, but were made to pay for a defensive error by young Rhys Williams for the second United goal.
The teenager, who has been thrust into the side perhaps before he is ready to make the leap to the first-team picture, was left for dead by Marcus Rashford, who skipped past him and slotted past Alisson Becker.
His partner at centre-back, Fabinho, put in a decent performance, but the performance will once again raise the question of whether Liverpool are doing the right thing by staying quiet in the January transfer market, with Williams looking like he still needs time to develop before being thrown in at the deep end by Klopp.
Liverpool officials have stood firm over their transfer stance this month, and are unlikely to make any signings despite Klopp appearing to urge the owners to spend some money on reinforcements, saying: “Most of the time in my life I didn’t get what I wanted, so pretty much used to that. We talk about a centre-half, and yes, it would help 100 percent.”
The Reds were expected to bring in a new centre-back before the window began, with the likes of Dayot Upamecano, Ben White, Perr Schurrs and Ozan Kabak all linked.
Injuries to Van Dijk and Gomez have left them short of options, and it seems Joel Matip is unable to play regularly without having to take breaks and sit out of matches.
This season, their two full-backs have contributed just seven assists between them in the league. For reference, Alexander-Arnold nearly had that total by himself at this point last season.
The lack of a threat from the wing-backs has made Liverpool change the way they play completely, as they no longer have the same ability to attack from out wide.
Liverpool instead have been far too predictable and unable to break down opposition teams who sit back and let the Reds have possession.
Next up for the defending champions – Tottenham away, a game where they will largely dominate possession, but will have to be cautious of being hit on the counter-attack.
Liverpool’s lack of an accomplished centre-back in the side could end up costing them dearer than first feared.