Jurgen Klopp reviews FC Porto victory
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It’s not too often that Liverpool get it wrong in the transfer market with Jurgen Klopp and sporting director Michael Edwards at the helm.
But with Christmas fast approaching, the jury is still out on the Reds sole summer signing, Ibrahima Konate.
After last season’s defensive injury crisis scuppered any hope Liverpool had of retaining their Premier League crown, it wasn’t a huge surprise to see Klopp dip into the transfer market to bolster his backline with the £36million centre half.
At just 22 years of age, it’s clear that Konate was signed with one eye on the future rather than just the here and now.
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But it’s getting harder and harder to ignore just how much Konate is struggling to adapt to life in England.
Klopp has been very deliberate with his handling of Konate, introducing him into the first team fold very slowly.
He made just his fifth start since arriving at Anfield in the midweek win over Porto, which was also his first start in the Champions League.
Unfortunately for him, it’s not the first team this season that the youngster has looked overawed at the heart of the Reds defence.
Klopp will be hoping that, in time, Konate will begin to start putting in the type of displays that persuaded the club to part with a tidy sum to lure him to England.
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In some ways, it’s ironic that he was next to Joel Matip on Wednesday night. Like Konate, Matip had a tough start to life in England but he’s since gone on to establish himself as a vital cog in the Reds defence alongside Virgil van Dijk.
And in fairness to Konate, even when he’s not been in the team Liverpool have looked suspect at the back all season.
It’s likely that the chopping and changing of centre half combinations so far this term has played its part in Konate’s struggle to adapt to life in the Premier League. Klopp may be better off persevering with Konate alongside van Dijk for now if he is to be the Dutchman’s long-term partner at the heart of the Reds defence.
Pairing Konate with van Dijk would surely have been the smarter option from Klopp considering the youngster was making his first European appearance for the club; something that Reds icon Michael Owen alluded to in his punditry role.
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“It’s a huge game for Porto and they have got in once or twice,” Owen told BT Sport during their first-half analysis.
“Konate worries me a little bit, I must say.
“He presses a little bit, he comes in and likes to mark men and a lot of the time he gets done in behind.
“A couple of times there, we missed one or two off the reel we could’ve shown where people are getting in behind him so I think they’ve just got to be careful without [Virgil] Van Dijk there.
“Communication might be key between them. They don’t strike me as two players, Matip and Konate, that are going to speak to each other much.
“They’ve looked a little bit vulnerable. They need to tighten that up.”
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