With Joël Matip’s season-ending injury, it became very clear that Liverpool need to bring in defensive reinforcements before the January transfer window came to a close. The club’s hierarchy had, at one stage, been intent on waiting until the summer to solve the back-four crisis. But as injuries struck Matip and stand-in centre-half Fabinho, the Reds were left with no choice; having to explore recruitment options – such as Schalke’s Ozan Kabak.
Of course, the first man through the door was Preston North End centre-back Ben Davies; the player impressing in the Championship and receiving glowing recommendations from all those who worked with him. A small initial fee of £500k, rising to £1.6m with add-ons, suggested that Liverpool had done a good bit of business. That’s especially the case when you consider that Davies is likely to act as back-up to the first team.
Is Ozan Kabak the answer?
As transfer deadline day wore on, however, there were murmurings that Liverpool weren’t done. Other options emerged that’d give Liverpool that extra bit of choice at the back. And with a potential deal for Marseille’s Duje Ćaleta-Car scuppered, the club moved for Ozan Kabak; the defender ultimately arriving on a loan deal with an option to buy in the summer.
While Davies represents a solid option to have in reserve, it’s fair to say that Kabak is a more exciting acquisition for Liverpool fans. The 20-year-old is touted as one of the best young talents in Bundesliga. While Schalke lie bottom of the table, Kabak’s performances were highly impressive. The fact that Liverpool have secured a kind of ‘try before you buy’ deal for the Turkish international is a shrewd bit of business from sporting director Michael Edwards. It also means Jurgen Klopp can get a sense of Kabak’s true ability. After that, he can decide whether or not to pursue a permanent transfer come June.
Liverpool have recently recovered a bit of form and re-established themselves as title contenders. It’s been hard to know how to bet on the Premier League this season due to the undulating nature of the table and the topsy-turvy results we’ve seen all campaign. But the Reds are beginning to look like they could yet have a major say in the title race. Be that as it may, it was only so long they were calling on the likes of Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams; neither of whom are at the required standard to play consistently in the top flight.
Ozan Kabak: Lifting the pressure?
The arrival of Kabak eases the pressure on those inexperienced players. Liverpool’s new signing may be young, but he proved himself in one of Europe’s top leagues; a quality defender who revels in the basics. Having both him and Davies as additional options to fill in at centre-half helps to ease the pressure on Klopp’s team selections. And it could free captain Jordan Henderson to return to a midfield role.
Despite injuries to Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Matip, the Reds’ defensive record isn’t terrible. You can exclude the outlier of the team’s 7-2 humiliation against Aston Villa back in October for a start. With Kabak arriving, however, there will be a sense of relief around Anfield. Here is a centre-back with high potential is coming through the doors, and the team as a whole should benefit as a result.