Liverpool supporters feared the worst when talisman Virgil van Dijk was confirmed to have suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in his knee back in October, but little did they know, the worst was yet to come. Stay calm, no need to panic.
In November, centre-back partner Joe Gomez suffered a similar fate, requiring surgery on a knee injury he sustained while on international duty with England. No no no no no.
And having made ends meet over the next 12 weeks, stringing together a bunch of unorthodox and bizarre partnerships at the heart of the defence, Jurgen Klopp announced that backup Joel Matip would play no further part in the 2020/21 campaign. AAAAHHHHHH!!!!
Fortunately, Liverpool have come prepared - kind of. The Reds have responded to this almighty setback by recruiting Schalke defender Ozan Kabak, and Preston North End man Ben Davies.
But is this deadline day duo good enough to plug the gaps left by the injured trio and carry Klopp to a successful title defence? 90min investigates.
Let's be honest, these weren't the star-studded signings many of us were expecting. And analysing the fortunes of the two defenders this season doesn't fill us with too much confidence, either. Kabak did ply his trade in a top European division in the Bundesliga, but he was plying at the bottom end of it.
Schalke 04 were enduring one of the worst seasons imaginable before he jumped ship, facing the prospect of an unthinkable relegation, after winning only once in 19 league matches. In that time, the German outfit conceded 49 goals. Kabak was involved in 15 of those games.
As for Davies, the English defender has been asked to make the step up from the Championship, where he and Preston were lying comfortably in mid-table. The Lilywhite supporters will tell you he's a decent defender - and he may well be just that - but being part of a backline that has conceded one goal fewer than 22nd place Rotherham United does not inspire positive vibes.
Big game material
Big games will be coming thick and fast for Liverpool over the next few months. Champions League clashes, title-deciding battles, and all with the world's beady eye glaring over their fate. How will this pair fare?
Truthfully, we don't know - purely because there is such little data to go off. Kabak, as mentioned, was part of a pretty rubbish Schalke side. In their biggest games of the season against Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, Schalke conceded three to their biggest rivals, and then 12 over 180 minutes against Die Roten. Kabak is a Turkish international though, and looks a different player when surrounded by a better standard of teammate.
Davies has never set foot in the Premier League before, and was playing in League One with Fleetwood Town as recently as 2017. It's a great story and one which could have a fairytale ending, but for now, it's a punt at best.
This is where the main question marks lie. Are these two last-minute signings really title-winning quality? Do they have what it takes?
There is a lot to like about Kabak. He would fit nicely into Liverpool's style of play, given that he is extremely comfortable in possession and enjoys playing out from the back. However, he has been a 'backs against the wall' defender for most of his time in Germany, which is a far cry from Liverpool's extremely high line and high-risk strategy.
In some ways, Davies is arguably the better fit for the Reds. He reads the game very well and thus avoids diving into rash tackles or stepping out of position too often. He can also pass it out from the back, too. The only issue (but a big one) with the 25-year-old is that he has never been tested against an elite striker. The Championship is tough, but the Premier League is a whole different ball game.
This may bear little relevance on Liverpool's success this season, but the Reds have invested in players for the years to come, not just for Christmas.
Kabak has shown signs of becoming a top centre-back in the past, and was pursued by Bayern before signing for Schalke in 2019. There can be no doubts that he chose the wrong move, and ultimately, his career has stalled. But who's to say that Klopp can't turn his fortunes on their head and transform him into the defender many expected him to become?
As for Davies, there is hope too. The Championship has become a really successful breeding ground for the Premier League in recent years, with players making the transition from second-tier star to top-flight hero with great ease. There's no reason why Davies can't adapt to the demands of the Premier League and become a valuable squad player over the next few years.
The final score
And so, what did we learn from all this? Well, both players could be a success at Anfield. Liverpool's recruitment team have rarely put a foot wrong in recent years, so you'd be a fool to doubt their judgement.
But, would they have shown any interest in either of these players if even one of their main three centre-backs had stayed fit? We'll never know. What we do know is that Kabak and Davies have the potential to grow into Premier League defenders, and have earned their shot at the big time.
When it comes to an immediate impact however, there can be no guarantees. To expect the duo to hit the ground running and make a major difference in a title race, having been involved in a miserable relegation battle and an inferior division only days and weeks before is ambitious, to say the least.
If anyone can squeeze the very best out of his troops though, it is Klopp.
Source : 90min