When news of Joel Matip’s ankle injury was reported, Liverpool fans were left to question who could fill his role. Dejan Lovren has always seemed like a player with a mistake in him, while Lucas Leiva is more of a makeshift centre back.
Few would have foreseen fellow summer signing Ragnar Klavan having such a positive impact on the side in recent weeks and that was the case once again against Everton. Winning 100% of his tackles while also registering 7 clearances and 3 interceptions, Klavan kept Lukaku largely at bay for the entirety of the ninety minutes.
As a result, Everton found it hard to muster up any real attacking threat on Simon Mignolet’s goal. His performance built upon his impressive display against Middlesbrough as the Reds recorded back to back clean sheets.
The 31-year-old has been the reliable figure at the back for Liverpool, using his experience to help nullify attacking threats. Furthermore, his confidence on the ball has seen him fit comfortably into Klopp’s system. The Estonian managed a passing accuracy of 88% at Goodison Park, illustrating his composure in possession.
Not much was known of Klavan when he moved to the Premier League, but the defender’s recent performances in the absence of Jurgen Klopp’s first choice centre back illustrates the quality he possesses.
In response, Liverpool fans have been quick to praise Klavan, with their fears over the defence in the absence of Matip well and truly eased by the centre-half’s emergence.
Here’s how Twitter reacted to Klavan’s performance. Do you agree with these thoughts?
Klavan outstanding tonight, especially first half. That tackle he made on Lukaku was massive.
— James Pearce (@JamesPearceEcho) December 19, 2016
Klavan was class 👍🏻. Didn't look shaky at all and dealt with everything thrown at him.
— Anfield Leak (@AnfieldLeak) December 19, 2016
Klavan was fantastic, credit to him.
— Indigo 🉐 (@IndigoLFC) December 19, 2016
Great photo of Klavan during the game tonight pic.twitter.com/IwX355TELe
— The Redmen (@LiamLFCButler) December 19, 2016
In his first Merseyside Derby, Klavan rose wonderfully to the occasion and produced exactly what was needed of him. Timely interceptions and incisive blocks were key to ensuring Mignolet was never called into severe action, thus the plaudits for the Estonian are warranted.
Not to mention a crucial tackle against Lukaku that prevented Everton from taking the lead in the first half. Jamie Redknapp certainly believes that the veteran has what it takes, stating that he “might be just what they need at centre-back.”
Having only finished higher than sixth place in the Premier League once in the last seven years, Jurgen Klopp will know the importance of keeping Liverpool’s back line tight.
Klavan’s no-nonsense style have given a much bigger sense of control to the defence and based on current performances, he could find himself partnering Matip in the near future.