We’re over two years into Jurgen Klopp’s tenure, and Liverpool find themselves facing the same old problems; a venomous attack offset by a far more modest, far less reliable defence. That was evident once again on Sunday as the Reds found themselves coming away from a Merseyside derby they entirely dominated with just a single point. While criticism can be drawn from profligacy up top, it’s nonetheless hard to ignore that Liverpool conceded from what was Everton’s only real attack of the match.
That soft underbelly continues to cost the Reds invaluable points and it’s what most Liverpool fans will expect Klopp to address in the coming transfer window, preferably by reviving the club’s interest in Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk.
But it remains to be seen whether the south coast outfit will feel more open to a sale mid-season after threatening to report Liverpool for an improper approach during the summer, and there’s also a debate over whether the ball-playing Dutchman is truly what the Reds need. Yes, quality on the ball is more important at centre-back than ever before – but the biggest concern amongst Liverpool’s current defensive personnel is their lack of reliability in simplistic defensive situations.
And if alternatives are to be considered,Burnley’s James Tarkowski is fast becoming a potential candidate. Many feared for Sean Dyche’s side after the sale of Michael Keane to Everton during the summer, shortly followed by the departure of top scorer Andre Gray, but Tarkowski has more than filled the void of a centre-back expected to make England’s World Cup squad if fully fit by the time next summer comes around. In fact, he’s arguably improved upon the level of form Keane produced to earn a £25million move to Goosion Park.
We’ve seen that consistently throughout the season, Tarkowski featuring in every minute thus far of a Clarets campaign that has pushed them up to fourth place in the Premier League, and last night’s 1-0 win over Stoke City provided yet another example. In a victory that owed everything to Burnley’s rear-guard, Tarkowski won 12 aerial duels, made eleven clearances and completed three interceptions.
If there’s one concern, it’s that Burnley’s style of play has a knack embelishing the performances of their centre-backs because they’re so well protected and their duties are made as simple as possible – predominantly, defending the box with headers and clearances.
Just as it made Keane stand out last season, Tarkowski is quickly emerging as the new defensive star at Turf Moor. A pass completion rate of just 67% last night suggests Tarkowski will struggle with the extra demands placed on centre-backs at Anfield.
But valued at just £2.7million by Transfermarkt and on the verge of entering the final 18 months of his Burnley contract, Tarkowski seems worth the mid-season gamble for Liverpool, especially at the age of just 25. Would you back a swoop for the promising Englishman? Let us know by voting below…