Liverpool’s surprise £2m signing Ben Davies learned his craft in the lower leagues and isn’t afraid to dribble out of defence… but will new arrival from Preston actually play as Jurgen Klopp’s side enter season-defining month?
- Liverpool are set to sign Preston defender Ben Davies for £2m on deadline day
- It comes amid a defensive injury crisis within Jurgen Klopp’s squad
- Left-footed Davies, 25, can play as a central defender or as a left-back
- He has been a regular in Championship Preston’s back line for four years
- Davies isn’t afraid to carry the ball out of defence, which could suit Liverpool
- But how much game time he actually gets will depend on the injury situation
Liverpool are poised to complete a deadline move for Preston North End defender Ben Davies in a deal worth £2million.
The news has certainly raised a few eyebrows but with Jurgen Klopp dealing with serious injury problems in defence, cover was certainly needed for the remainder of the season.
So why have they gone for Davies? Here’s everything you need to know about the new arrival at Anfield.
Preston North End defender Ben Davies is poised to make a £2million move to Liverpool
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is grappling with a defensive injury crisis ahead of big games
How bad is the defensive situation at Liverpool?
It’s not good. Klopp is without three senior centre-halves – plus one makeshift one – at the moment after Joel Matip joined Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Fabinho on the injury list.
Matip suffered an ankle injury during Liverpool’s 3-1 win at Tottenham last Thursday and though it isn’t believed to be serious, he is likely to be out for a few games.
He joined long-term absentees Van Dijk and Gomez, who are both expected to be sidelined for most if not all of the remainder of the season.
Midfielder Fabinho, who has been slotting in at centre-back this season, is also sidelined but could return for the game with Manchester City next weekend.
Joel Matip (right) is the latest defender at Liverpool to be added to their injury list
Jordan Henderson (left) and Nathaniel Phillips (right) combine to stop Said Benrahma
Captain Jordan Henderson and youngster Nathaniel Phillips started at the centre of defence in Sunday’s win at West Ham – it was Liverpool’s 12th different centre-back combination in 21 league games.
After the Spurs game, Klopp said: ‘If you have a centre-half available at a reasonable price, and one with the quality we need, then send me a message.’
Now, with the transfer window closing on Monday, Liverpool have moved to bring in some defensive cover.
How did the move for Davies come about?
Contact with Preston was first made on Thursday and just in the nick of time because Davies had agree to join Celtic in the summer before Liverpool stepped in.
This was firmed up on Sunday and a fee of £2m agreed with the Championship club including a 20 per cent sell on clause for the 25-year-old.
Davies, 25, seen in action against Reading last week, had been poised to sign for Celtic
Davies will undergo his medical on Monday. Liverpool under-23 centre-back Sepp van den Berg will head to Deepdale on loan for the rest of the season.
Davies, whose Preston contract expired in the summer anyway, is the third player to leave the club during this window after right-back Darnell Fisher joined Middlesbrough and midfielder Ben Pearson left for Bournemouth.
How experienced is Davies?
He’s played 250 competitive games in his career, which is significant for a 25-year-old, and he’s been a first choice in Preston’s defence for four seasons at Championship level.
Signed by the Lancashire club from junior side Furness Rovers – in his Cumbrian home town of Barrow-in-Furness – at the age of 11, he progressed through the ranks and made his senior debut at 17.
Davies’ left foot is certainly an asset and he has been known to pick out long passes
A series of loan followed, with League Two York City in 2013-14, brief stints at Tranmere Rovers and non-league Southport, then with Newport County in League Two and Fleetwood Town in League One.
It was in the 2017-18 season under Alex Neil that Davies became a regular in Preston’s team and they’ve since finished 7th, 14th and 9th in the Championship.
While Preston are currently 11th in the standings, they are only six points off the play-off spots with almost 60 points still to play for.
What are his strengths?
There’s no doubt Davies ranked highly among centre-backs in the Championship though more naturally he’s a left-back and is left-footed.
His left foot has become a weapon in setting up attacks for Preston as Davies is confident enough to play the ball out of defence and deliver searching passes out to the wings.
Davies wins an aerial duo with Birmingham’s Scott Hogan in a recent Championship game
His willingness to carry the ball out of defence will suit Liverpool though obviously he won’t be afforded as much time in the Premier League and so composure and pass selection will be key.
Davies, who is 6ft 1in, is decent in the air and not afraid of putting his head in where it hurts to win aerial duels. His grounding in the lower league has helped develop that.
What are his weaknesses?
Davies isn’t the quickest defender so it will be interesting to see how he copes against the speediest Premier League attackers.
He has been guilty of sometimes losing possession in dangerous areas when dribbling the ball out of defence but you’d expect the movement of Liverpool players ahead of him will make it easier to pick a pass.
Davies is closed down as he prepares to shoot against Nottingham Forest last month
We’ll certainly see less of those direct long ball with his left-foot and more simple passes to the wing-backs or the likes of Henderson in midfield, who’ll drive them on.
And obviously there’s the points that Davies is completely unproven at the top level.
It may only be one level in the English league structure but the middle of the Championship and the top end of the Premier League – and even the Champions League – are worlds apart.
However, it’s been said that Davies is a student of the game and a fast learner who even watched footage of opposition strikers when on loan at Southport to anticipate what he was coming up against.
Will he actually play?
That will depend on how quickly the injury situation eases. Matip and Fabinho could be back in a week or two and Phillips has proved himself to be reliable. 19-year-old Rhys Williams is another option.
So Davies will be fourth choice centre-back at best and is likely to spend a good deal of time on the bench.
Davies is a robust defender having played a number of games on loan in the lower leagues
Premier League unless stated
Wednesday Brighton (H)
Sunday Manchester City (H)
February 13 Leicester City (A)
February 16 RB Leipzig (A)
Champions League last-16, first leg
February 20 Everton (H)
February 28 Sheffield United (A)
But, as we’ve seen, Liverpool aren’t enjoying much luck with defensive injuries this season so who knows what lies ahead amid a hectic fixture schedule.
Nonetheless, the experience of playing for the reigning Premier League champions will be a hugely valuable one for Davies and he will improve his game just by coming up against world class players in training.
As former Liverpool and Preston defender Mark Lawrenson told the BBC: ‘I am not sure he will play very much at Liverpool, but the experience along should be fabulous.
‘I hope he experiences playing in the first team, but even if he is just sitting on the bench then it is still great for him.’
What games are coming up for Liverpool?
It’s been a good mini-revival for Liverpool. They followed up that shock home loss to Burnley with back-to-back 3-1 wins over Tottenham and West Ham to move up to third and just four points off leaders Man City.
They host Brighton on Wednesday night and then will come two real tests of whether they can retain their title. The Reds host Man City on Sunday afternoon and the following week are away to Leicester.
After that, it’s the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with RB Leipzig and the Merseyside derby.
So if Davies is thrown into the team right away, it will come at an absolutely pivotal moment in Liverpool’s season.
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