Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool fielded what was their eighteenth centre back pairing of the season in the recent defeat to Everton.
It’s important to start with that stat to emphasise the amount of change at the back for Liverpool this campaign.
A truly remarkable run of injuries has decimated Liverpool’s reserves, and injury to Jordan Henderson added to those woes.
It leaves Klopp in a strange position where he now has back-ups to his back-ups filling in at the heart of his defence.
Too many changes at the back?
But strangely, this could present an opportunity to build a period of stability at the back in terms of personnel.
Nat Phillips, Ozan Kabak, Ben Davies and Rhys Williams is hardly an inspiring choice to have at your disposal, but they are four centre backs.
The former look the most likely to be Klopp’s favoured options at present, with Phillips again impressing in the derby.
For me, the first three names on that list should now be utilised regularly throughout the season.
Klopp’s brought in Davies and Kabak for that reason, so it would make sense for them to fulfil their purpose.
In doing so, you get two benefits: rhythm and the basis of a partnership and freeing up midfielders to play (shock) in midfield.
As a big believer in rhythm, it seems odd that Klopp doesn’t want to regularly pick an anchor in this position.
His insistence of using Jordan Henderson and Fabinho there has been detrimental to building stability there, especially so for the Bolton-born Phillips.
No more Fabinho at centre-back
That reliance on the Brazilian at the back, for me, has to change to shake things up for the side.
Fabinho has returned to training this week and will be a welcome addition to the beleaguered ranks.
But his return now shouldn’t be seen as a chance to bolster the defence, but rather to defend the defenders.
We’ve seen in recent years how effective the 27-year-old is in the number six role, and would certain help Liverpool at present.
Moving him out of defence also allows genuine centre backs the chance to build partnerships and understandings for the remainder of the season.
That’s something that’s been missing, and why I started this piece highlighting the 18 different combinations Klopp’s used so far.
Giving midfield more attacking freedom
Fabinho also allows players like Thiago to play the football he was brought in to play further up the field.
We’ve seen him playing far deeper and doing far more of the ‘dirty midfield work’ than could ever have been imagined when he signed.
This comes as a direct result of the defensive injury crisis, and Henderson and Fabinho having to provide centre back cover.
But by moving the makeshift central defender back to his number six role, you give the flair players more of a platform to develop off.
Regardless of their abilities, playing players out of position is never going to see them reach the levels they’re capable of.
Fabinho’s natural habitat is shielding the defence. Let him do that.
Thiago’s is probing at the gaps between opposition midfield and defence. Let him do that.
Phillips, Kabak and co are most comfortable playing centre back alongside a regular partner. Let them do that.
Something needs to change
As previously mentioned, the side needs shaking up at the moment as it’s clear what Klopp’s trying just isn’t working.
While it’s a risk blooding new centre back pairing of new centre backs in a competitive league, Klopp needs to try it.
Maybe the problems we’re experiencing in midfield will be remedied somewhat by Fabinho’s return there?
Maybe this in turn will have a positive impact on the defence and their confidence?
It’s probably one of the only options the German Head Coach got left to try this season, and now’s the time to try it.
There’s nothing stopping him from using the skipper or Fabinho at the back if absolutely necessary.
But at the moment, it’s not that and there’s cover there from those who know the position innately.
Something’s got to give somewhere if Liverpool are to salvage something from the season.
Maybe this is it.