May 12, 2021

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Nat Phillips’ no-nonsense style is Terry Butcher-esque and it’s just what Liverpool need right now – Opinion

When I look at Nat Phillips I’m reminded of that famous bloodied picture of Terry Butcher in an England shirt after a crucial World Cup qualifier against Sweden in 1989.

He epitomised that no-nonsense defender which every team would love to have guarding their back line.

Never shrieking from a challenge or aerial duel.

Never afraid to risk injury to save his team.

Nobody gets past him, unless of course you’re Diego Maradona and we can probably let him off in that instance.

Whisper it quietly but Liverpool might have uncovered a real gem in Phillips.

Even Jamie Carragher, another from the school of hard knocks defending, was full of praise for the 23-year-old from Bolton.

“He is a monster in the air,” Carragher said on Monday Night Football after the victory over Wolves. 

“So when you talk about what Liverpool lack when other ones are playing, they get a great deal in terms of defending set-pieces and his ability in the air. He’s a real monster in that position.”

In a season where it’s been hard to take positives and full of setbacks, Phillips has been a shining light.

It’s very early days in his Liverpool career but in the midst of a nightmare run of form, he has shown exceptional colours.

For the first time in two months against Wolves, arguably, you didn’t expect the opposition to score.

Fabinho’s return to the defensive midfield slot has been key to this transformation.

He has added another barrier to the emerging partnership of Ozan Kabak and Phillips – our 19th pairing in all competitions. 

Any team would miss arguably one of if not the best defensive midfield player in the world, which Liverpool have suffered from all season.

But praise must go to the rookie defenders who have kept three clean sheets in the games they’ve played together.

No defender surely relishes lining up against Adama Traore but they kept his pace and power at bay admirably.

It’s not an exaggeration to say Google searches for the plethora of defenders linked with Liverpool must have dropped dramatically in the past few weeks.

If this season has taught us anything, it’s that Liverpool need as many centre back options as is financially viable.

And if Kabak’s loan is not made permanent then another defender must be high on the list.

But recently this defensive crisis which has engulfed the club all season and wrecked our title hopes might have subsided somewhat.

In the eye of the storm, Nat Phillips has emerged.

We might be alright now. We have our own Terry Butcher.