Liverpool face a problem with unreliable Ibrahima Konate

Ibrahima Konate is one of the best centre-backs in the Premier League. Sadly for Liverpool, however, he’s a luxury. 

The Frenchman sat out of the 2-2 draw with Manchester United on Sunday and uncomfortable questions are beginning to pop up in conversation when he’s the focus. The only thing more important than ability is availability.

Virgil van Dijk has been brilliant over the years for the Reds but what has made his performance levels even more impressive is the fact he’s averaged 40 games per season across the five full campaigns he’s been on Merseyside. He’s already on 39 appearances this term and there are still seven Premier League matches and at least two Europa League games to be played.

If you exclude the 2020/21 campaign when Van Dijk was limited to just eight appearances before his knee injury, his average across the four campaigns jumps to 48.

Not only is the skipper consistent, but he’s also reliable.

READ MORE: Every Liverpool first-team injury, suspension and potential return dates

While Konate has nailed the former, he’s the complete opposite when it comes to the latter. The 24-year-old has racked up just 1,418 minutes in the English top-flight this term having made 15 starts. For further context, the former RB Leipzig man has been in Jurgen Klopp’s starting XI in just 48% of the matches in the Premier League this term.

He played the full 90 minutes against Sheffield United in mid-week but missed potentially season-defining games against Brighton and Manchester United either side of that.

It is galling to think that a player of his age needs his minutes to be managed when he should be able to play two games per week without any real issues. But this has been a pattern throughout his time at Anfield. During his debut season with the Reds, he made just 11 starts in the Premier League as Klopp looked to ease him into life with the club following a summer move from the Bundesliga. It also helped that Liverpool had options in defence which allowed the German tactician to rotate as and when needed.

Last season, Konate started 17 times in the Premier League. So, across his three years with the club, the French centre-back has started 43 of a possible 107 games. Simply put, he’s started just 40% of the games in the league.

'He can't be relied upon'

The No. 5 has had a number of muscle injuries during his time with the club but arguably the most concerning thing is just how often Klopp feels the need to rest him.

Needing to protect a 24-year-old athlete who should be a key part of your first team is a worry. Konate should be a pillar of this Liverpool team alongside Van Dijk and Alisson Becker. He can’t be relied upon though.

Konate missed both games against Manchester City this season. He didn’t start either of the matches at Old Trafford. While he was also out of the squad for early season wins over Newcastle United and Aston Villa. A thigh injury forced him to miss the second leg of the last 16 tie in the Europa League.

Bournemouth v Liverpool Premier League 21/01/2024. Ibrahima Konate 5 of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Bournemouth and Liverpool at the Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth, England on 21 January 2024. Bournemouth Vitality Stadium Dorset England Editorial use only DataCo restrictions apply See www.football-dataco.com , Copyright: xGrahamxHuntx PSI-18861-0191

How do Liverpool deal with Konate issue?

The one-time Sochaux youngster isn’t just missing games, he’s missing big games.

Liverpool are set to make defensive changes this summer and there’s now a genuine debate over whether or not Konate should be relegated to squad player so that the Reds can bring in a more reliable centre-back to partner Virgil van Dijk.

Jarell Quansah has done an admirable job and looks to be a serious talent but a fourth defender is required, especially if Joe Gomez is seen as a utility player.

Do Liverpool demote Konate to understudy and have him form a centre-back pairing with Quansah for cup games? It is one of the elephants in the room that so few people want to address right now, but the season is coming to an end soon and you can’t ignore these questions forever.

Konate is a problem. He’s a luxury rather than a necessity right now and Liverpool need guarantees rather than unknowns if they're to build a title-winning team.

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