Liverpool’s plummet in form this season has been shocking and unforeseen; despite the glaring need for reinforcements, this crop of players has won it all under the tutelage of Jurgen Klopp and contested for a historic quadruple right up to the closing weeks of the season last year.
The unrelenting intensity has dispersed like a shadow in the sunlight, but Liverpool’s fortunes are anything but bright as the season approaches the business end.
Mired in mediocrity and languishing in seventh place after 23 matches, nine points behind Tottenham Hotspur in fourth – albeit with two games in hand – Klopp’s last realistic hope of silverware this term was all but eradicated after Real Madrid waltzed into Anfield and emerged 5-2 victors after trailing by two in the early stages, illuminating the sheer gravity of the club’s defensive mishaps and the burning importance for reinforcements this summer.
The midfield department is the most prominent area of concern this season, but after conceding at least three goals on eight occasions already since the campaign’s inception, something needs to change.
And with the unthinkable prospect of missing out on top-four growing ever more likely, Klopp might be inclined to switch things up and turn his attention to the academy ranks to open up a new dimension to his withered crop and steer toward success once more, and 21-year-old Oludare Olufunwa could find an unlikely spot among the seniors.
Should Klopp really ditch Matip for Olufunwa?
Granted, the circumstances were different, but when Liverpool fell apart due to injuries in the 2020/21 term, a series of unlikely central defensive partnerships threaded together to ensure a late surge for Champions League qualification was successful.
Notably, Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams played pivotal roles in ensuring a place in Europe’s premier competition did not slip away, with Klopp revealing the duo were among the first he messaged to thank after the Reds advanced to the Champions League final the following year.
Should Olufunwu be given a shot at Liverpool?
And given the likes of Joe Gomez and Joel Matip have both been under fire for several lacklustre showings this term, history may yet repeat itself with confidence entrusted in someone of Olufunwa’s ilk.
Having been released from Southampton’s development squad last summer and snapped up on a free by the Merseyside outfit, the U21 ace has made four appearances since his arrival, and while he has not earned regular minutes thus far at Kirkby, placing him inside the senior fold and pushing him toward a starting appearance at some stage could be a move that bears fruit for Klopp and co.
Hailed as “athletic” and boasting “good leadership abilities”, according to Saints B head coach Dave Horseman, Liverpool could certainly benefit from his robust and dynamic skill set.
And with Matip branded as “awful” by CBS reporter Nico Cantor for one of his increasingly poor performances in the last few weeks, the £100k-per-week earner, distinguished as he is within the fold at Anfield, might have to make way for the younger alternative.
Liverpool face a battle to secure what at the start of the year was deemed the bare minimum, now an onerous task indeed.
And while the current fortunes do not favour Liverpool’s chances, injecting some youth and vibrancy could be the key to salvaging a scrap of positivity, and Olufunwa must now be unleashed.