Liverpool were dealt another costly blow to their title-holding campaign after Fabinho was forced off the pitch against Midtjylland on Tuesday. Already standing in to replace Virgil van Dijk, the Brazilian has been ruled out with a hamstring problem, although the club could be looking at weeks as opposed to months (via David Maddock).
But any length of time out will be huge loss to the Reds. Fabinho had been impressing alongside Joe Gomez in defence and looked to be a solid option to consider moving forwards. Now, it looks like Jurgen Klopp will be forced to put his faith in 19-year-old Rhys Williams, who replaced Fabinho in the Champions League fixture earlier this week.
Until Joel Matip returns from injury, Williams will have a huge responsibility on his shoulders. This doesn’t look like it’s going to be a problem for the teenager though, who has already impressed fellow academy graduate Trent Alexander-Arnold.
“That position [centre-back] is probably a little bare at the minute to say the least but we’ve got an amazing squad,” the right-back said following Liverpool’s win over Midtjylland. “You’ve seen Rhys Williams stepping in and doing a world-class job.
“At such a young age with such little experience, unbelievable from him. He never really put a foot wrong.”
Indeed, the centre-half won 100% of his attempted duels and contributed one tackle and one interception. Williams also maintained an 86% passing rate, keeping the Reds’ defence sturdy in the absence of a more senior player (via Sofascore).
Whilst it will be a huge boost for Klopp to know he can trust the 19-year-old to perform, it’s important that he plays more of a fringe role once Fabinho returns. Alexander-Arnold’s unique situation of usurping Nathaniel Clyne at such a young age will arguably never be recreated. Williams certainly has a future at Anfield, but these things cannot be rushed.
The young defender will learn a lot from Gomez and Fabinho, whilst making full appearances in cup competitions moving forwards. By shadowing the senior centre-backs in the team, he could be ready to lead a new era of youngsters in a couple of years’ time.