Liverpool were back to winning ways with a resounding 3-1 win against Tottenham on Thursday. However, Joel Matip’s half time departure left a sour taste on what was an otherwise excellent night. The injury piles further pressure on Liverpool’s owners to delve into the transfer window for a much-needed centre back.
Reds manager, Jurgen Klopp, has already highlighted the difficulty of a mid-season purchase. “I am not sure there is an £80 million centre-back available at the moment and a club thinks, 'We can get £80m for him so we will sell him’”.
If business were to be completed by Monday’s transfer deadline, it seems a stopgap defender would be the likeliest option. “We need to find the right player and one which suits our financial situation”.
So, who is available that fits Liverpool’s criteria? A somewhat surprising name to have been mentioned is Arsenal’s Shkodran Mustafi. The German’s time at the club looks to be coming to an end after nearly five years in the capital.
Despite a relatively successful career, his defensive capabilities have been questioned in recent years. With a World Cup, FA Cup and Confederations Cup to his name, the defender knows how to win big trophies. Mustafi also provides valuable Premier League experience, with over 100 appearances for the Gunners.
This would eliminate the conceivable adjustment time required by other transfer targets like Eder Militaoor Aaron Long.
On top of this, he is intriguingly fast. In a 2018 Arsenal speed test, leaked by forward Pierrre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mustafi finished fifth overall. His impressive 9.48 metres per second places him in a similar bracket to Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez – arguably the fastest centre backs in the league.
This speed would allow him to play in a high line like Liverpool’s, thus fitting their defensive mould. Notably, other targets Neven Subotić and Ezequiel Garay are lacking in this department.
On the other hand, how match fit would the German be upon arrival? Coming off a nasty muscle injury, he has not played regularly since the 2018/19 season. Considering the urgency surrounding Liverpool’s defensive issues, his delayed introduction could be an issue.
Mustafi is also one of Arsenal’s highest earners, with a weekly wage of £90,000 (via totalsportal.com). That is more than Fabinho, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez and Matip all earn for the Reds.
Following hints made by Klopp about the club’s current financial complications, a cheaper alternative may be a shrewder option for now.
Most importantly, however: is the German genuinely good enough to propel the Reds to success this season? Mustafi is no stranger to making mistakes. He has racked up more errors leading to goals than any Liverpool defender in the Premier League. Can Klopp rely on him in the big moments?
Fundamentally, the Reds need to address their defensive frailties. The club has only two fit, first team centre backs: youngsters Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips.
All it may take is a couple of further injuries to wipe out Liverpool’s defensive options altogether. Therefore, success this season could very well hinge upon whether FSG decide to finance a deal this month.
Time is off the essence, it is deadline day, what will happen in the closing hours?
Written by: Will Morley