With Liverpool in dire need of a Premier League win, Nat Phillips may not be the first name on the lips of fans looking for a saviour.
The Reds welcome Burnley to Anfield on Thursday night after a run of four winless league games. They failed to score yet again in the North-West Derby on Sunday, drawing 0-0 with Manchester United.
Jurgen Klopp’s side simply must get three points in the bag, or they risk talk of a full-blown meltdown.
One way that Klopp may decide to beat Sean Dyche’s side is by adding fringe player Phillips to his starting line-up.
While scoring goals has been an issue, conceding them has not. So you may be questioning exactly why we are suggesting a change in the backline.
The answer is simple: Liverpool need to free up their midfielders. Jordan Henderson simply must be playing in midfield against such a physical side, rather than being restricted to play at centre-back.
Depending on the fitness of Joel Matip, Fabinho should also be moved up the pitch to his former home in the No 6 role. The Brazilian has probably been Liverpool’s player of the season in his new position at the back, but he has been sorely missed in midfield.
So, assuming Matip is fit, he should be partnered at the back by 23-year-old Phillips.
Why Phillips is perfect to play against Burnley
In short, Nat Phillips would look more at home in the Burnley defence than he does in Liverpool’s. His strengths are his physicality and heading ability.
A no-nonsense approach is exactly what Liverpool need against the Clarets. They will be sitting back and hoping to score from a set-piece or a counter-attack.
Their two big men up front, Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood, will try to bully the centre-backs. It is the type of battle that Phillips cherishes.
Dyche’s men have only scored nine goals this season, the fewest in the league. Phillips will not be under much pressure apart from set-plays and crosses into the box.
Compared to Fabinho, Matip and Rhys Williams, he is the best centre-back available at clearances and aerial duels.
He is not quick, but against Barnes and Wood, this probably won’t matter as they aren’t exactly Jamie Vardy-type forwards. The only issue is if he comes up against Dwight McNeill in a foot race, but it shouldn’t be too big a problem.
His passing is also very poor, but Burnley will be parked at the edge of the penalty area. This means that the ball will be at the feet of the midfielders for the most part, so Phillips won’t have to make any difficult passes.
If Matip is beside him and Fabinho is just ahead of him, he can play simple passes to them and let them do the ball progression.
Aside from a new centre-back partnership, Klopp should also look into making a few more changes in the side.
Trent Alexander-Arnold’s form is beginning to get quite worrying. Of course not in the long-term, as he is still young and it is about time he’s had a bad spell, but in terms of this season.
That is why James Milner should get a start at right-back, alongside Phillips, Matip and Andy Robertson.
As mentioned, Fabinho should play at 6 in order to box Burnley in and prevent counter-attacks from developing. Henderson at 8 would also help this.
Thiago has been sensational in his few games for the Reds. He has played at No 6, but Liverpool would benefit from having him 15 yards higher up the pitch against such a deep defence.
The misfiring front three has been a big talking point for a few weeks now. Liverpool should look to change it up in order to a) give them a rest and b) give them a wake-up call.
Xherdan Shaqiri had a superb first half against United so should keep his place, but he should be moved to the right wing.
Sadio Mane hasn’t been getting on the scoresheet lately but he is always Liverpool’s most threatening player. His dribbling should give Burnley lots to worry about.
Roberto Firmino has been the biggest culprit for missing chances, so he should have a game off. Liverpool need an orthodox No 9 in this game rather than a false 9 dropping deep.
Mo Salah could move position to play as a striker. He probably deserves the opportunity to find his shooting boots. If not, Divock Origi should come into the side. Taki Minamino is too light-weight to play against Burnley.
If Matip is not fit, then Fabinho would have to drop to centre-back with Henderson in the 6. Gini Wijnaldum needs a break, so Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s direct running would be a useful weapon in midfield.