Liverpool have been desperately unlucky with injuries to key defenders this season but 23-year-old Nathaniel Phillips has stepped up and shown that he can be relied upon by Jurgen Klopp.
The centre-back, who reportedly earns £70k-p/w at Anfield, was selected alongside Ozan Kabak for the 2-0 win against Sheffield United on Sunday and produced a solid display, earning a 6.8 match rating SofaScore.
Sheffield United’s forwards are certainly not easy to deal with, as both Oliver McBurnie and David McGoldrick possess an aerial threat, but Phillips dealt with them superbly, winning nine duels in total during the game.
The Englishman’s best quality is arguably his ability in the air as so far this season in the Premier League, he has averaged 5.1 aerials won per game – the second most of any Liverpool player.
He has also averaged a very solid 6.95 rating for his performances in the top-flight – the joint-sixth highest of any Liverpool player this season, which is even more impressive when you consider that he has never really had a run of games under his belt.
Following the Sheffield United win, Klopp suggested that both Phillips and Kabak were “super“, so perhaps we will see them continue as a partnership for upcoming games.
The German manager may well be tempted to reintroduce Fabinho in his defence, with the former Monaco man returning to training after injury recently, but he may be better served playing him in his natural position in defensive-midfield rather than at the back.
After all, Phillips scores higher than his Brazilian teammate when it comes to aerials and average rating, whereas Fabinho is better when it comes to interceptions, tackling and passing, something he can utilise best in a defensive midfield role.
Therefore, Klopp should forget about playing Fabinho as a centre-back in future fixtures and instead keep faith in Phillips, who has performed well on nearly every occasion that he has featured this season.
And, in other news… 95% pass accuracy: £90k-p/w LFC beast stole the show with near-perfect display