Liverpool have suffered a setback with the news that Virgil van Dijk is out for more than a month. But it can offer a dual boost, including a transfer uplift.
Virgil van Dijk’s injury against Brentford, which most — even Jürgen Klopp — thought was just a niggle, but morphed into something more serious, just about summed up the mood in the Liverpool camp.
Liverpool were a mess against the Bees, even before Van Dijk was taken off, and the news that the club’s best centre-back is out for more than a month will hardly brighten spirits around Kirkby. Nor did the laboured draw with Wolves in his absence do anything to lighten the mood.
Despite having horrid time against Brentford, Ibrahima Konaté will undoubtedly be first choice for Klopp in this Van Dijk-less period, as evidenced against Wolves. Joël Matip will also most probably continue as his partner unless the Cameroonian picks up another injury. But there could also be room for Joe Gomez and Nat Phillips to have a say over the next couple of weeks.
Liverpool have three games coming up over the rest of the month, which will rise to four if they win their replay against Wolves. That means plenty of games to be shared among Klopp’s available central defenders. And Gomez will undoubtedly be ready to seize any opportunity.
The Englishman has had a tough time of it recently. He’s found it difficult to break into the Liverpool XI in his preferred position, and when he does, he doesn’t tend to perform to the standard he once did. Naturally, this is due to a lack of rhythm. All players will say that they need to be playing consistently in order to bring back match sharpness, and so it’s no real surprise if Gomez has struggled.
He’s found more playing time at right-back, filling in for Trent Alexander-Arnold when the 24-year-old has been unavailable. But the absence of Van Dijk could open the door for him to get playing time in his natural position. As things stand, he is the long-term heir to the throne alongside Konaté, and more game time is essential if that plan is to be executed.
Phillips is another one who could benefit from the Dutchman’s absence. Almost a forgotten figure at Anfield, Phillips has only played four times this season in all competitions, and Liverpool’s attempts to sell him have proved futile, perhaps due to the fee the club want in order to let the ‘Bolton Baresi’ go. According to The Athletic, the club previously set a price of $18m (£15m/€17m), seemingly with no takers.
Yet should he get a game or two in the next few weeks and perform well, it could put him in the shop window towards the end of the month, and there is every possibility a side in urgent need of a centre-back notice Phillips’ performances and make an offer.
His contract doesn’t expire until the summer of 2025, so Liverpool hold all the cards, yet with the demand for him not exceedingly high, they may just need to accept whatever offer comes in: should it be in the $12m (£10m/€11m) region, then the club would likely accept it.
Yet these are all hypotheticals. What we do know for certain is that Van Dijk is out for a month or more, and the pressure will be on Konaté and Matip to carry the load — but Gomez and Phillips will be waiting, seeking their chance.