In a summer of radical change for Liverpool as Jurgen Klopp looks to seamlessly regenerate his squad, one position that has been overlooked is the centre of defence.
When you’ve got someone as ridiculously talented as Virgil van Dijk sweeping up back there, it’s pretty clear to see why.
But for as complete as Van Dijk is – from the gorgeous tackling, endless composure and devilishly handsome looks – father time stops for nobody.
Sure, Liverpool have brilliant sidekicks for their imperious Dutchman, but that’s all they are. Sidekicks.
What is Batman without Robin? What is Matt Hardy without Jeff? What is an expensive ice cream by the seaside without a flake? The best things come in pairs. They compliment one another. That’s the beauty of a brilliant centre-back partnership.
Unfortunately, though, at 32, those chips in Van Dijk are slowly but surely beginning to turn into cracks – another headache which Klopp will inevitably have to solve.
We’re not saying he’s as good as done. Far from it. And for as long as he’s still lacing up his boots, he’ll be the main man in Liverpool’s defence, while Ibrahima Konate, Joe Gomez et al continue to fly in and out of the revolving door.
Somebody has recently stepped into that revolving door, however, wedged their foot in it and told Gomez and Konate to wait outside for a little while. That man is Jarell Quansah.
Not only is Quansah knocking on the door of Liverpool’s defence, he might just be the man to sit in the seat Van Dijk occupies when the time comes for change.
A towering 20-year-old born in Warrington, Quansah has been with the Reds since the age of five. It’s all he knows – well, alongside the art of defending with supreme style.
Captain of the side that made the 2020-21 FA Youth Cup final, Quansah began to sniff around the first team in the season where Liverpool were a matter of wins away from a quadruple.
That was the first step on the ladder. He’d smelt it, but wanted more.
Since then, Quansah has been quietly learning the ropes, and a loan to Bristol City at the beginning of the year has been the catalyst in sharpening an incredible armoury of skills.
So, why is he so good and what makes him the heir to the throne that Van Dijk still holds?
This season’s performance against Leicester City in the Carabao Cup tells you everything you need to know.
Jarell Quansah (03) vs Leicester City | Carabao Cup 🏴 pic.twitter.com/9DzpOEtmUG
— Maurizio (@videos_MDamiano) September 28, 2023
Talent pouring out of the lad. But what stands out the most is his exceptional reading of the game and a frightening composure to match it.
The kind of composure that takes years to develop – if you ever develop it at all, that is.
At 20 years old, Quansah – while rough around the edges – is already excelling in areas that are difficult to learn. Skills you pick up with experience. And when you combine that with his freakish physical attributes, it’s hard not to see the similarities with his colleague Van Dijk.
And his manager agrees. After his full Premier League debut away to Wolves a few weeks earlier, Klopp said: “In such a disorganised team like we were in the first half, being the one who looks kind of alright is a statement, absolutely.”
Time is on the side of Van Dijk – for now. And while it is, it’s up to Liverpool to best engineer a master and apprentice dynamic between himself and Quansah, who ought to be soaking up information from the Dutchman like a sponge.
If he can do that and get the reps in alongside the man he’s built to replace, the thought of how good he could potentially become is a scary one.
By Mitch Wilks