CENTRAL PARTNERSHIP: Kabak and Phillips impressing in Liverpool’s back four
Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips have been praised after keeping three clean sheets in their last three games.
The Reds have won three straight games in all competitions with the duo at the heart of the back four.
Kabak joined the Reds on loan in January while Phillips has featured more since Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joël Matip were struck down through injury.
Together, Kabak and Phillips have allowed Fabinho to move back into central midfield which is also a huge part of Liverpool's apparent return to form.
Many had concerns that Kabak wasn't good enough for Jürgen Klopp's side early on with Phillips being seen as a stopgap until the injury list dwindles.
However, after recent performances, it's difficult to see anybody else coming into that position until the likes of Gomez and van Dijk potentially return as mooted.
Ben Davies is also awaiting a debut, but Klopp said he'll take time before he's thrown into the first team.
Both him and Rhys Williams are there as backup but may struggle to break into the starting eleven at this rate.
— Ozan KABAK (@ozankabak4) March 15, 2021
Kabak and Phillips against Wolves
Both of them won four aerial duels against Wolves, one of which started the sequence that seen Liverpool score the opening goal.
Phillips won the header that ended with the front three combining and Diogo Jota scoring the game's only goal.
Kabak prevented Morgan Gibbs-White from getting through on goal with full-time approaching.
Obviously, at this current moment, they are the best choice at centre half. Going forward, however, is a different matter.
Phillips in particular is a limited player. He can win headers and be strong in the tackle, but in possession, he is lacking.
Against Wolves, he completed just 77% of his passes which is below standard in Klopp's tactical style of play.
Considering he had 4.3% of the ball from all of the players on the pitch, that's a massive limitation of Phillips' play.
Only Trent Alexander Arnold and Andy Robertson had more possession than Phillips, who shared the same amount as Thiago.
Phillips also didn't make any successful tackles in the game while Kabak successfully made two.
Both have question marks next to their speed too. The high line that the Reds implement means players will need to be able to recover quickly.
Kabak did well to recover when Gibbs-White was in behind. However, if it was a quicker, more experienced player would he have been able to prevent a clear goal?
The future for the duo
The question is, when Liverpool have their strongest players back, where do these players fit in.
Will Kabak be kept on for a rumoured £18m if Liverpool miss out on Champions League football this season?
Does Phillips have a future when there's a fully fit group of central defenders available?
Liverpool may be able to cash in and make some money off Phillips in the summer if he continues to get by in this side.
He's certainly good enough to play at Premier League level. He would arguably fit in with a team that don't rely on their centre backs to be good in possession.
Kabak is effectively on trial for the next couple of months. He may well win Klopp and his staff around - or they may have seen enough already.
The loanee certainly has a better chance to be in the Reds squad next season compared to Phillips realistically.
Nat Phillips and Ozan Kabak have now played the third most minutes by any Liverpool CB partnership this season.
They've kept three clean sheets out of three in their full matches, and the only goal they've conceded was a penalty.
— Andrew Beasley 💙 (@BassTunedToRed) March 15, 2021
For now though, both are doing enough in a red shirt to deserve the praise coming their way.
Let's hope they can prevent the Reds from losing their seventh straight home game when they welcome Aston Villa in April.
Or, more to the point, let's hope they can stay fit until then.
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