Liverpool have confirmed the Deadline Day coup of centre-back pair Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies.
After a whole month of debate about whether the club would sign a centre-back, the Reds have shocked the football world by signing two of them on the last day of the window.
The news broke during last night’s win over West Ham that the club was in talks to sign Davies from Preston. A fee was agreed as were personal terms, while a medical was completed this morning.
The Englishman has signed for a reported £1.6m, having entered the last six months of his contract at Deepdale. Sepp van den Berg has gone the other way on loan.
Then, late last night, the word broke that Davies would not be the only centre-back signed on the last day of the January window.
The name being linked was Marseille’s Duje Caleta-Car. RMC Sport claimed that the Croatian had gone as far as travelling to the airport to board a plane to Manchester before a move was binned due to the French side’s inability to sign a replacement at such a late stage.
Instead, Liverpool pursued long-time target Ozan Kabak.
A day of hectic negotiations eventually ended with the Turk penning a contract to join the Reds. He joins on an initial loan deal with an option to buy at the end of the season.
Issues over Schalke finding of a replacement of their own almost scuppered a deal. Debate over whether it would be an option to buy or an obligation meant Liverpool had numerous plates spinning.
However, Arsenal’s Shkodran Mustafi joined the Bundesliga outfit, freeing Kabak up to move to Merseyside.
Davies a solid rotation option
Barrow-born Ben Davies has been one of the Championship’s best centre-backs for a few seasons now. His contract situation certainly made him an attractive option for Liverpool.
He is a left-footed, left-sided centre-back.
His pass success rate is a very impressive 79%, so there is no doubting his ability on the ball.
One issue with Davies might be his ability in the air. He is not particularly tall for a centre-half, standing at 6’1″. His aerial duel success rate is 64%. This isn’t awful, but it’s certainly nothing special.
All in all, it should be a very good deal for Liverpool.
Signing a homegrown player of Davies’ quality for such a small fee can only be a positive. He should be more than capable of being an excellent fourth-choice option. If he isn’t good enough, then he will be moved on for a profit.
While Davies does not have Premier League experience, he is already used to English football. This means that he will be trusted to go straight into the team a lot quicker than others might be.
Ben Davies isn’t the big name that fans were hoping for, but he has been joined by an elite young prospect.
Kabak a top prospect
It is common knowledge that Schalke are in the midst of a crisis. At the time of writing, they have lost 13 and drawn five of their 19 Bundesliga games. They have conceded 49 goals.
This may leave fans wondering why Liverpool are signing a centre-back playing for a team that looks doomed for relegation.
And no, Kabak has not had the best season. But the Gelsenkirchen outfit’s issues do not lie with their 20-year-old centre-half. The entire club is a shambles recently, with their recruitment and management to blame for their season.
One thing for certain is that Ozan Kabak is about as good as you can get for a 20-year-old centre-back.
He has shown this season that he is capable of making a mistake and can be quite rash at times. But that is the case for almost every centre-half, especially those under 25. Kabak is not more error-prone than others his age.
He is outstanding from a physical aspect. He stands at 6’2″, but is much broader than the likes of Davies. The Turkish international bullies forwards, proved by his outstanding 76% aerial duel win rate. For context, this is better than that of Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip this season.
His 71% long ball completion rate is excellent, and this would probably improve in Liverpool’s system.
Again, the circumstances of the deal will suit Liverpool perfectly.
Crucially, this is an option to buy, not an obligation. If Liverpool decide that Kabak is not good enough to be the future of their defence, then they do not have to keep him.
Davies and Kabak: The verdict
In summary, the last-minute double deal represents fantastic business for Liverpool.
Everybody knew of the team’s need for a new centre-back to see them through to the end of the season, so to get two in the door is fantastic news. Especially because the club has to pay just £3m in total before add-ons.
Ideally, Liverpool would have signed a Caleta-Car, Konate or Botman to see them through to the end of the season before then becoming a crucial player in the long run.
But the deal for Kabak seems a perfect compromise. He is less likely than those mentioned above to make an immediate impact, but it is still very possible. If he isn’t up to scratch, the club can let him go in the summer and move onto other targets.
Davies is a very sensible deal due to the low price. As mentioned, it is risk-free. The chances of him being comically bad and costing Liverpool majorly with an error are fairly low.
It will be interesting to see how Jurgen Klopp uses his new men. He famously does not like to throw new signings straight into the starting XI, but Liverpool cannot afford to ease them in at this stage.
While Fabinho and Matip may still be the first-choice centre-back pairing when both are fit, the new signings at least allow for Jordan Henderson to be moved into midfield.
It is hard to tell exactly when the Brazilian and Cameroonian will be back, but Henderson will be freed up to go back to midfield whenever one of them returns.
Ideally, Matip and Kabak would form a decent partnership. Then Davies and Nat Phillips could provide cover, with Fabinho in reserve if needs be.
The 27-year-old is a world-class No 6 and Liverpool have missed him there, so if the ex-Schalke pair can stay fit and in form, it would give Klopp the chance to play his first-choice midfield.
Then in the summer, Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez will return to full fitness, so the defensive options will be van Dijk, Gomez, Matip, Davies plus either Kabak or a new signing.
Both the immediate and long-term future of Liverpool’s defence now looks to be in safe hands.