Nostradamus himself might’ve had a difficult time predicting the emergence of Nat Phillips at Liverpool this season, but here we are.
As the central defender dubbed the ‘Bolton Baresi’ celebrates his 24th birthday today, what better time to appreciate the fine work done in stepping up to the plate this season when the Reds needed him most.
Jurgen Klopp would’ve been excused for allowing Phillips to leave the club before the start of the season, with a move to Swansea believed to be almost over the line before the Championship club pulled out.
Fast forward six months and the man who spent last season in the German second tier is an integral part of Klopp’s plans.
Whilst it’s clear to see the opportunity came around due to unforeseeable circumstances as each centre-back Liverpool begun the season with went down with a long-term injury, Phillips has more than staked his claim for a prolonged squad role heading into next season.
With reports claiming a contract extension could be on the table, let’s see how Phillips’ stats stack up compared to his would-be teammates.
Having played 10 Premier League matches to date, the Bolton-born uncompromising defender has completed more long passes (72), more interceptions (13), more blocks (9) and won more aerial duels (50) than each of Virgil van Dijk (five matches), Joel Matip (10 matches) and Joe Gomez (seven matches) managed respectively (Squawka).
Only Matip (67.65 per cent) has a higher aerial duel success rate than Phillips (60.24 per cent) – underlining the now 24-year-old’s aerial prowess.
Outside of Liverpool’s squad, the unlikely Reds star when compared against Manchester City’s Ruben Dias and Manchester United’s Harry Maguire comes out with glowing colours.
As the pair have played considerably more matches than Phillips, judging the trio per 90 minutes played, the Liverpool man leads the way in both aerial duels won (5.5) and tackles made (1.1), although both Manchester men have helped their side keep more clean sheets on average (Squawka).
Whilst statistics in many ways only tell half the story, there’s no doubt that Klopp and co when evaluating their squad options for next season will take numbers into consideration.
Regardless of what happens between now and the end of this campaign, based on his showings so far, Phillips has done enough to remain at least part of Liverpool’s squad for next season, albeit perhaps only as a backup option – something the player himself may not be comfortable with given his rise to stardom.