Jamie Carragher believes Nat Phillips is at an advantage over Fabinho in his bid to replace Virgil van Dijk at the heart of Liverpool’s defence due to his greater physical presence in the penalty area.
With Fabinho, Van Dijk and Joel Matip out injured, Phillips slotted in alongside Joe Gomez in the back-four and will now stake his claim to keep his place.
Liverpool legend Carragher thinks Phillips is well placed to do so, particularly given he’s more of a like for like replacement for Van Dijk than Fabinho.
‘The fact that there was a lot of talk going into this game, who would fill this role,’ Carragher told Sky Sports.
‘He mentioned that the manager told him to get himself ready for Saturday, so he knew he was there, there’d been talk in the press.
‘But it was what he did aerially, really, and whatever you talk about Fabinho being out and Gomez being there – and that’s a worry now Fabinho is out – but what they lack is domination aerially.
‘And when you play against teams, certainly not against the top teams, but most teams in the Premier League they look for set-pieces, direct balls at times, crosses into the box, second balls.
‘And Liverpool didn’t deal with that at all against Sheffield United, that’s what caused them big problems.
‘But him [Philipps] today, to be the one, the leader at the back, to make sure you get your head on it, because normally that would be Van Dijk’s role.
‘He found himself at the near post [in stoppage time] and that was a vital header, and that won Liverpool the game really. If he doesn’t get that head on it, who knows what’s going to happen.
‘West Ham are a really big team. So I love the actual maturity he showed within the game. Gomez obviously wasn’t great on the header for the goal, but he was a lot better in the air than he was against Sheffield United.’