Dayot Upamecano was supposed to be the replacement for Virgil Van...

Dayot Upamecano was supposed to be the replacement for Virgil Van...
Dayot Upamecano was supposed to be the replacement for Virgil Van...
Liverpool have already been advised to be on the lookout for a new option for the center-back, but speculation ahead of the January transfer window has increased after Virgil van Dijk was excluded for an extended period.

Dejan Lovren’s summer exit left the Reds with just three recognized high-profile center-backs and now Jurgen Klopp faces the rest of 2020-21 with Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and midfielder Fabinho as options.

There’s never been a shortage of transfer rumors about Liverpool at best, and Van Dijk’s injury only accelerated the volume of the stories.

The last player to be connected is Schalke’s Turkish center-back Ozan Kabak. The mirror Liverpool have been reported to have opened talks on a £ 20m transfer but it is believed that these new connections have hit headlines at the club.

Should a deal be concluded, Kabak would represent a fourth club in just three seasons, which had already played for Galatasaray and Stuttgart at the age of 20.

Schalke really struggled with them during his time so it’s difficult to get a good idea of ​​what kind of player he is from his stats. They must have defended way more than the Reds usually do.

But it has one important quality: it is strong in the air. It’s an area where Liverpool will struggle without van Dijk as the Dutchman is the Premier League aviation champion.



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Kazak had the ninth-best percentage of aerial duels in the Bundesliga last season (via FBRef) and is already second in the early days of 2020/21.

Die Player-Analyse-Site smarterscout also suggests that his performances last season were statistically the most similar to Diego Godin’s efforts for Inter Milan. There aren’t many better defenders to compare with.

However, there are other center-backs that Liverpool have been associated with in the past who are also good options for living in Anfield.

Ben White from Brighton is one such player. He made a name for himself in the championship with Leeds United and played every minute of their title campaign last season.

It’s interesting to note that it’s in the air where he tends to fight. Indeed, Football insider I’ve even claimed that this lack of white ‘play prevented Liverpool scouts from chasing the player. It could be that he could be a good partner for van Dijk and not a substitute while the number four is on the sidelines.

And there are no problems with the other aspects of his game. At the time of writing, he has the 16th best pressing success rate in the top division (for FBRef), and he also led the championship for interceptions last season, despite Marcelo Bielsa’s side dominating possession for most weeks.

However, if Liverpool want the best of both worlds – and since they’ve built their success on a remarkably good hit rate on transfers, they obviously will – Dayot Upamecano should be the man they choose.

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The central defender of RB Leipzig has more experience in the big league than Kasak or Weiß and has also appeared in the Champions League. The French international also has the air ability of the former with the expectation of the latter.

Upamecano won 81.1 percent of its aerial duels in 2018/19 (for FBRef), which was the second best rate in the Bundesliga this year and even just surpasses van Dijk’s best season. While his form has deteriorated in this area, he has still won over two-thirds of the headers he has played since the start of last season.

And in 2019/20 he was also one of the continent’s top defenders for successful pressing and dribbling and is going into the last third. He is good at defending, helping his team get the ball onto the field and should be the man in this trio that Liverpool are targeting as the next central defender.

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