As the end of the season ticks closer, the futures of several Liverpool players creeps higher up on the agenda. Gini Wijnaldum looks certain to be leaving, while for others like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Xherdan Shaqiri, the waters are much less clear.
Plenty of discussion will be had around many players, and even the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané until they pen new deals. But for one man – Ben Davies – his future has almost been forgotten. That is mainly because he has not been playing, and is yet to make his debut, despite the central defensive issues that Liverpool have been having.
Davies arrived on deadline day in January as an emergency signing, someone at the time who appeared to be the creative solution to a glaring problem that Liverpool needed (they should have had two signings wrapped up to come in on January 1, in truth, but that is another argument entirely). Yet, given the transfer took place only because Liverpool were so desperate, that only makes it even more bizarre that Davies is yet to play a single minute.
With five games remaining and arguably all five must-win if Liverpool are to get into the top four spots, the chances of Davies coming into the XI, either from the start or off the bench, are almost zero. Against Newcastle, even though Nat Phillips was injured, Davies did not even make the substitutes bench at Anfield – a damning sight indeed, with Rhys Williams preferred.
The idea, as Jürgen Klopp outlined when Davies came into the club, was that he would take the place of Williams, who would then be able to continue his development with Liverpool’s U23s, the level at which he should currently be at. But instead, Williams has mainly been the man to make the bench, with Davies nowhere to be seen.
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Liverpool could make a profit on the £500,000 arrival from Preston come the summer – Celtic were close to agreeing to sign him on a free transfer and could come back to the table for Liverpool to double or quadruple their money – but that surely is not the reason he was signed? Liverpool and Michael Edwards are transfer market leaders and certainly know how to spin a profit, but the deadline day scramble for defensive reinforcements was not the time for that.
The Davies transfer must be the strangest and weirdest deal Liverpool have made for some time. Davies was regarded as one of the best central defenders in the Championship and had been linked with the likes of West Ham at times in the past. His strengths, say those who have watched plenty of him, are his ability on the ball and his pace – two things that Phillips and Ozan Kabak can reasonably be scrutinised over.
The likeliest scenario is that Liverpool took a low-risk gamble, and have since decided that Davies is not good enough to put onto the field, but that seems a strange position to be in. Rhys Williams was exposed at times when on the pitch earlier in the season, and the idea that a high-end Championship player could not at least perform similarly, allowing the youngster the development minutes he needs, is a hard one to get your head around.
Another hypothesis is that Davies has found adapting to life in a Klopp team tough in training, and still needs time to adjust to the intricacies of the German’s system. That undoubtedly makes sense, but that Davies has not even made the bench on most occasions is still a warning sign with the desperation for more central defensive options clear.
If it transpires that Davies is simply not good enough and is worse right now than Rhys Williams, that will be a plausible explanation for his absence. But what that would not explain is how highly-rated he was in the Championship, how he was set to earn a move to Celtic having been courted by several sides in the Premier League, or why Liverpool signed him in the first place.
So far, Davies has been the strangest addition that Klopp has ever made to his Liverpool squad. But should he move on in the summer transfer window without kicking a competitive ball for Liverpool, and the mystery will only become greater.
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