With a 3-1 victory over Newcastle United on Thursday evening, Liverpool cut Manchester City‘s advantage at the top of the Premier League standings to a single point. Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, and Curtis Jones all tested positive for Covid-19 on the eve of the match, but Jurgen Klopp’s team did not let that impact their performance, recovering brilliantly after going down early on to record a comfortable win.
Liverpool were dealt a big blow ahead of the contest. Virgil van Dijk was ruled out, along with Fabinho and Curtis Jones. But Konate proved a real point with his performance. He was a dominant figure in absence of Van Dijk, and he seemed to have adapted to the Premier League brilliantly. He was very good in possession and played his part in ensuring that Allan Saint-Maximin was not able to cause too many problems once he was through to the backline.
Konate joined Liverpool for about £36 million from RB Leipzig and has quickly integrated into the Reds’ team, both on the pitch and in terms of squad dynamics. During Liverpool’s injury problem earlier this year, Klopp appears to have made the correct decision in waiting for his chosen defender rather than making a quick transfer. This season, Konate has started five of Liverpool’s 17 games, the most recent of which was an outstanding effort against Newcastle on Thursday night.
Konate is a right-footed centre-back and has started his games in the Premier League on the right side of the two centre-halves. Konate fits right into the Liverpool squad as a ball-playing centre-back with a strong and hefty physique that is fit for any defender playing in the Premier League. The 21-year-old French central defender is a true defensive presence who reads the game intelligently and is a great team player.
The above visual shows us the defensive metrics for Konate so far in the five games that he has played for the Reds. Konate ranks very high in the league for the defensive duels he has won per 90 minutes. He has won 40% of the defensive duels he has attempted. He has also attempted 6.55 aerial duels per game and has won 60% of these aerial duels. He is very strong in the air and can deal with most of the aerial balls played by the opposition. The defender has also attempted 15.16 recoveries per 90 minutes.
Konate has won several duels in this half and these duels have been a mixture of ground duels, aerial duels as well as 50-50 duels. Against Newcastle, he won the battle for pace, but more often, he either guided the forward out into the channel or simply won the lofted clearance in the air. He is also a huge threat in the opposition penalty area from set-pieces as he has won several aerial balls in the box.
Konate has great pace and also reads the game very well. He can predict most of the passes played into the final third and positions himself accordingly to win back the ball. Even when Saint-Maximin did evade the centre-half initially, Konate was adept at getting to the second ball or positioning himself to intercept return passes to the Newcastle man. Most of his interceptions from passes have been higher up the field as Liverpool play a higher line of defense.
Konate may have perhaps hoped to have played a bit more following his summer move. But when he has featured, he has usually done well. And that run continued on Thursday. He made everything look so easy. And the fans are extremely excited about the prospect of him playing alongside van Dijk.