While the pursuit of a new centre-back is ongoing for Liverpool, an in-house option has emerged throughout pre-season in Jarell Quansah.
In modern football, the role of the third-choice goalkeeper has become one of the most uniquely captivating.
A player, typically in his 30s, who would not be expected to feature even once throughout an entire season – and often, not more than a handful of times over a number of years.
It is a role that is difficult to understand from the outside; a break-glass option more readily seen warming the bench or simply keeping busy in training.
For Liverpool in recent years, similar could be said of the fifth-choice centre-back – a situation that has left Nat Phillips in limbo.
With this summer one of seismic change within Jurgen Klopp‘s squad, it was unclear heading into the transfer window who would fill out the defensive ranks.
Now, though, pre-season has presented another viable option in Jarell Quansah.
Since then, he has made it three times in the senior squad on matchdays, along with rapid progress through the academy ranks.
Last season brought a real step up as Quansah excelled on loan with Bristol Rovers, maturing against the backdrop of League One football and seemingly earning admirers among Klopp’s staff.
Quansah has been with the first team since the third day of pre-season, and has since travelled to camps in both Germany and Singapore.
His involvement has partly been due to a lack of options elsewhere, with the knock-on effect of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson‘s absence and injuries to Thiago, Stefan Bajcetic, Tyler Morton and later right-back Conor Bradley.
But as Joe Gomez has shifted over to right-back, Quansah has more than held his own as a progressive, physical presence at left centre-back.
He has displayed his front-footed defensive prowess along with his ability on the ball, keeping his head up and playing forwards whenever possible.
There have been timely interventions, too, as Liverpool get to grips with their evolving system – not least a brilliant block to deny Leicester‘s Patson Daka.
At times, he has looked the senior centre-back while Matip has struggled to find his footing, though it is clear that issue is one Klopp to willing to ignore until next summer.
Matip is not expected to leave until the expiry of his contract is 11 months’ time, while Gomez is likely to remain as a valuable squad player.
But while a new left-sided centre-back has been identified as a priority for Liverpool beyond their midfield rebuild, Quansah may present an in-house solution.
He should not be relied upon as a regular starter as of yet – and would not be, with Klopp explaining after the 4-0 win over Leicester that “if these boys play the main role next season, we will have a problem.”
There would be little harm, though, in Quansah gaining further experience as part of the first-team squad while filling the role Phillips has long held.
Phillips himself could attest to the benefits of training as part of Klopp’s squad week in, week out, but it would be hoped that his successor of sorts could go one better and be considered a viable option for the long term.
It could even come alongside the addition of another centre-back, given that hypothetical signing would almost certainly replace Kostas Tsimikas instead.
Crucially, too, with Quansah turning 21 in January, the Warrington-born defender would then become eligible as a homegrown player from 2024/25.
At present, Liverpool have just four homegrown players in their senior squad, one of which is Phillips, which has made the signing of Romeo Lavia – who would not need to be registered until he is 21, and homegrown – even more important.
In order to name a full 25-man squad of over-age players in the future, Klopp will need a minimum of eight classed as homegrown.
Therefore, getting the wheels in motion this season by promoting Quansah on a full-time basis would be even more beneficial.
Not only would that allow Liverpool to finally cash in on Phillips, who is attracting interest from Leeds and Feyenoord, but it would future-proof a defence in need of regeneration.
Whether Klopp views Quansah as a long-term option remains to be seen, and there remains every chance the decision is made to loan him out again this summer.
But the manager has already lauded the youngster as a “proper centre-half,” and Liverpool could certainly do with one of those.