EXCL: Liverpool eyeing trio of centre-backs, Sancho's past LFC links and Ten Hag's mistake with the player, plus could 23-year-old talent replace Salah?
This week's exclusive Liverpool FC column, featuring defensive targets, Sancho analysis, and more!
Luis Diaz incident is like nothing I’ve seen before - but replaying games isn’t an option
It’s fair to say it’s been a testing couple of weeks for Liverpool in terms of the refereeing of their games! I’m not sure I can ever remember an incident like the one we saw at Tottenham with the Luis Diaz ‘goal’, and I think that was shown with the fallout which followed.
It was a quite bizarre, and really quite troubling, episode, and listening to the audio from the VAR room, it is easy to see why Liverpool (and other clubs, by the way) believe significant changes are needed in terms of the way VAR is used in the Premier League.
In a world of VAR, the Diaz incident simply should not be happening. Managers, players and even supporters can accept an assistant referee getting a marginal offside call wrong on the field, but the idea that two extra officials could look at the decision, use technology to prove it incorrect and then, through complacency and poor communication, allow that incorrect decision to be upheld, is just baffling, and worrying in the extreme for the PGMOL. It’s an extreme (and to my mind unprecedented) example, but it makes you wonder how many more cases such as this exist, where an incorrect decision has been allowed to stand because of confusion and unclear communication from the VAR. I’m sure fans of every club could think of an example or two involving their own side, right?
Liverpool were right to be aggrieved after the Tottenham game, and had reason to ask questions of referee Anthony Taylor and VAR Craig Pawson after the draw at Brighton too - how Pascal Gross was not sent off remains a mystery - but I’m not in the camp of believing that replaying games should be an option, even in the event of such clear and obvious mistakes. That box should not be opened.
Rather, the original game at Tottenham should have been stopped, the mistake explained to the managers and captains (and, via the big screen) supporters, and restarted with the correct score-line. If that is what happens in the future, then at least something will have come out of a messy, and completely avoidable situation.
Liverpool have three centre-back targets and it needs to be a priority for 2024
I think it’s clear that centre-back is an area that Liverpool need to look at in 2024. Joel Matip’s contract is expiring and Joe Gomez seems to now be viewed as more of a right-back than a centre-back by Jurgen Klopp. That leaves Virgil van Dijk, who is well into his 30s, the talented-but-fragile Ibrahima Konate and the youngster Jarell Quansah as Liverpool’s longer-term options.
Quansah has been a real bonus, and looks at 20 to have all the tools to become a decent Premier League centre-back. He’s inexperienced, yes, but his potential is clear.
Both Goncalo Inacio and Piero Hincapie have been looked at by Liverpool, as has Benfica’s Antonio Silva, but any move in January would depend, I think, on two factors. One is whether Liverpool’s current centre-backs are fit (at the moment, they are) and two is whether those players are available and affordable, mid-season. Bayer Leverkusen, Sporting CP and Benfica all have designs on challenging for league titles, remember, so obtaining key players from them in January won’t be easy. Next summer would be more likely, unless circumstances change.