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Klopp should avoid reunion despite Liverpool defensive injury crisis

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Liverpool have had a transfer success rate in recent years that is the envy of just about every other football club in the world.

They have prospered by rigorously identifying targets, determining what they believe to be a fair price to pay for their services, and pursuing the specific players they desire rather than signing somebody purely for the sake of it.

But desperate times can call for previous plans to be torn up. The club is facing an injury crisis in the heart of its defence that is worse than anyone can remember, and that probably applies to all teams and not just Liverpool.

Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk sustained long term knee injuries, while Joel Matip seems incapable of keeping fit for more than a handful of matches at a time. The Cameroonian’s longest streak of games played this season is only three, and he is currently recovering from his fifth absence of a campaign which is not yet at its half way point.

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With the Reds’ absenteeism rate in defence as high as it is, it’s no wonder that numerous centre-backs are being linked with a move to Anfield. The latest – though this rumour has appeared in the past – is Sokratis Papastathopoulos of Arsenal.

According to transfer expert Fabrizio Romano, the 32-year-old, who isn’t in Mikel Arteta’s squad for either the Premier League or Europa League, has been offered to Liverpool. However, he also noted that “At the moment Liverpool have not decided whether they’re signing a centre-back or not.”

This could simply be a case of Arsenal trying to drum up interest in a defender they’re looking to remove from their sizeable wage bill. With Liverpool’s impressive transfer record, if they are attracted to a player then he must be good, right?

Whether Michael Edwards is genuinely about to work his magic here or not, it’s still worth considering whether Sokratis would be a sensible acquisition for the club.

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And as Liverpool are known to favour a statistical approach, there could be something in it. A look at the Arsenal man on player analysis site smarterscout reveals that two of the top six Premier League players who are most similar to Sokratis in statistical terms are Gomez and Matip.

He also knows the challenges of playing for a Jurgen Klopp team, which is no bad thing for a short term signing who would need to hit the ground running. They were together at Borussia Dortmund for the Liverpool manager’s final two seasons with the club.

"Klopp and his coaching staff are among the best in the world," Sokratis once said, though his former manager once stated “You’re never quite sure if he’s about to kill you,” when referring to the Greek international.

But the other side of the coin is that while he might be familiar with Klopp’s style, he has barely kicked a ball in months. One appearance in the EFL Trophy – a 3-0 loss to AFC Wimbledon – and one in Premier League 2 ( per Transfermarkt ) is hardly ideal preparation for a title tilt and a Champions League campaign.

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Sokratis is also weak in the air, which is an area where Liverpool already have issues when Matip and van Dijk are unavailable for selection. While he won 75.8 per cent of his aerial duels in his final Bundesliga campaign – the third most in Germany that season – he has been successful with just 62.5 per cent in the Premier League ( per FBRef ).

The Reds also rely on their centre-backs to get the ball up the pitch, often at speed. But while Sokratis’ long pass accuracy of 75 per cent is healthy enough, it’s still below that displayed by Liverpool’s current centre-back options this season. He also carries the ball towards the opposition goal less frequently than Klopp’s other central defenders, though this could have been a result of tactical instruction from Unai Emery and Arteta.

If Liverpool’s interest is authentic, then the club’s impressive transfer hit rate means supporters should trust them in their choice. But from the available evidence, it feels like this is one rumour destined to remain as no more than that.

For more news relating to Arsenal, visit our sister site AFC Latest Live.

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