Liverpool centre-back Ibrahima Konate finally returned for the Reds this week in what will be a massive boost for the team.
The 23-year-old has played just three games for the Reds this season, meaning manager Jurgen Klopp has often been forced to field a centre-back pairing of Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk.
Unfortunately, this partnership has failed to really flourish – Van Dijk has looked a far cry from the player he has been in seasons past and Gomez has been guilty of a plethora of errors.
The latest defensive mistake from the Englishman came against Leeds, where a misplaced back-pass to Alisson Becker found its way to Rodrygo instead, costing Liverpool a goal and ultimately the points.
With this being said, the return of the French defender is very much a welcome one for the Anfield outfit, and the former RB Leipzig man showcased his quality in his first game back against Napoli this week.
On the Chalkboard
Facing Serie A leaders Napoli is a baptism of fire for a comeback game, however, the 6 foot 4 centre-back took it in his stride.
The returning colossus won five duels, recorded a pass accuracy of 74% and made two vital clearances. Sofascore awarded him a score of 6.8, which isn’t bad considering the calibre of opposition and the inevitable match rust.
The £31.5m rated man was an assured presence at the back, comfortable on the ball and offered his physical presence – making him a key figure in securing the clean sheet.
On FBref, the centre-back ranks amongst the top 10% for aerials won, while also making the top 30% for blocks – highlighting what a combative figure he is at the back.
Sky Sports pundit and former Reds centre-back Jamie Carragher labelled the defender as “brilliant” last season, he said:
“He has had a brilliant start to his Liverpool career, he really really has, Ibrahima Konate.
“Hasn’t played every week, Konate, young player with great attributes, is a very good passer of the ball, can play out from the back.”
And the praise has been abundant, speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live earlier this season, another former top-flight central defender in Jonathan Woodgate gushed about the defensive titan:
“Ibrahima Konate is having a great game. He’s such a solid defender, he’s been magnificent this half”
Indeed, it’s the ability to remain calm and composed on the ball as well as possessing the defensive presence and instincts necessary that really makes the Liverpool man such a lauded player by all.
WhoScored list Konate’s passing ability as a key strength, whilst the former Leipzig star averages 3.04 aerial duels won per 90, which ranks him within the top 10% of central defenders across Europe over the last year, as per FBref.
If Liverpool are going to be successful in some capacity this season, then it’s vital that Frenchman and Van Dijk are able to form a solid and consistent partnership at the back.
Gomez’s mistakes have been too costly, and the 25-year-old has seemingly lost all confidence – ironically looking less experienced than the centre-back who is two years his junior.
And this opinion is seemingly shared by ex-Liverpool defender Steve Nicol, who blasted the inconsistent English centre-back on ESPN recently:
“Gomez, let’s be honest, has had one incredible game but every game he’s making mistakes,”
Liverpool now face Tottenham at the weekend, and if they want a victory then it may be wise to ditch Gomez and start their number 5 Konate instead.