Liverpool find their Virgil van Dijk replacement and two new options for Jurgen Klopp


Konate making Van Dijk step

This could easily have become an afternoon all about the one centre-back who wasn’t there.

While at one end Arsenal could boast the dominative duo of Gabriel and William Saliba, the absence of Virgil van Dijk through a late illness meant Liverpool were compelled to turn to Jarell Quansah alongside Ibrahima Konate

Quansah has exceeded expectations since making his breakthrough this term, but this was always going to be his sternest test thus far. A difficult first half suggested as much, the youngster’s inexperience occasionally telling against a hard-pressing Arsenal, possession too often coughed up cheaply.

Learning on the job, though, is part of any young player’s development. And, similar to the team as a whole, the 20-year-old grew in confidence after the break, his composure rarely swaying. Come the closing moments, Quansah was unruffled at the Arsenal cavalry charge.

Konate, meanwhile, assumed senior responsibilities and replicated his outstanding showing against Arsenal a fortnight ago, his first-half blocks – most notably one from Reiss Nelson – crucial in keeping Liverpool in the game.

Now 24, the Frenchman is no longer wet behind the ears. Instead, the last few weeks have offered evidence he is now in the next stage of his career – becoming Van Dijk’s long-term successor.

Mac Allister times it perfectly

Timing is often everything in football. And the return to fitness of Alexis Mac Allister was particularly opportune given the absence of Wataru Endo for most likely the next six weeks at the Asia Cup with Japan.

It says much about the recent form of Endo that the defensive midfielder will be sorely missed having taken time to adapt to the pace and physicality of English football.

Mac Allister, though, had been the first-choice in the position during the Reds’ strong start to the campaign before a knee injury from which he returned when replacing the Japanese for the finale of Monday’s win over Newcastle United.

Understandably, the Argentine was a little rusty here, losing the ball to Declan Rice dangerously in the first half for a chance that ended up with Kai Havertz tamely shooting at Alisson Becker. But Mac Allister, a different type of number six compared to Endo, grew into the game, his passing starting to probe. Both he and Liverpool will benefit from the minutes.

It was five years to the day Curtis Jones made his senior Reds debut and, with a 14th appearance, he has featured more for the club in the FA Cup than any other present player. And while not his most eye-catching performance, Jones’s work ethic and selflessness – and one audacious embarrassment of Ben White – underlined his value to Klopp.

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