From their opening nine Premier League games of the season, Liverpool have only conceded six goals thanks to the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip, and Ibrahima Konate, who have all played their part in the Merseyside club’s blistering start to the season from a defensive point of view among others.
However, with Van Dijk and Matip both having hit the age of 30, the Reds will have to make sure they find sufficient replacements for the duo when they eventually depart Anfield.
One player the Reds currently have in their youth ranks who we feel could be a good replacement for Van Dijk in the future is centre-back Tom Clayton.
As a product of Liverpool’s youth academy, the 21-year-old has made 28 appearances for their under-18 side, scoring one goal in the process, as well as playing 45 times for the under-23 side, scoring three goals and providing one assist.
So far this season, he has played the full 90 minutes in all of Liverpool under-23s’ league games prior to their match against Blackburn Rovers, donning the captain’s armband on all but two occasions and swapping between centre-back and the defensive midfield position.
This shows just how important he is to the team, partly explaining why he has been praised for his leadership qualities and why he could be the heir apparent to Van Dijk in Klopp’s first team, considering that the Dutchman has been praised for his leadership skills by Reds captain Jordan Henderson in the past.
Moving forward, while it may be difficult for Clayton to get much senior playing time anytime soon considering the centre-backs in Liverpool’s senior squad at the moment, we feel that his time to shine in the first team could come soon and that he has what it takes to show why he could be a regular figure for them in the future who can provide leadership from the back.
If he makes the breakthrough and lives up to his early promise, he could also save the club millions in the transfer market, as he may well eliminate the need for FSG to splash out on an expensive centre-back.