In one of the most swiftly completed transfers I can ever remember as a Liverpool fan, Steven Caulker has joined Liverpool from QPR on a 6-month loan deal until the end of the season after Southampton agreed to cancel his loan deal. His name had not even been linked with Liverpool until this morning when a number of reliable journalists revealed that Klopp wanted him as an emergency stop-gap solution to his defensive injury crisis. At 1.pm today, the club officially announced the signing. Caulker will train with his new Liverpool team mates (traffic permitting) this afternoon, and could potentially make his debut tomorrow night versus Arsenal, depending on whether Mamadou Sakho passes a late fitness test.
After having approached Schalke and Dortmund for Neven Subotic and Joel Matip respectively, neither club was willing to sell their centre back this January. It seems likely, however, that Matip will join as a free agent at the end of the season. Liverpool had also considered a move for Inter’s Andrea Ranocchia prior to targeting Caulker. When the deal was announced, it was generally greeted with a wave of disapproval from many Liverpool fans via social media, and with hilarity from fans of opposition clubs. Admittedly, it is hardly the most inspiring signing but that is hardly the point here. It was a pragmatic decision, to swiftly bring in a senior centre back to provide short term cover until the end of the season. Currently, Martin Skrtel is still out for several weeks, whilst Joe Gomez will not feature again this season. Tiago Ilori has returned from his loan spell at Aston Villa, but has no Premier League experienced and is far from being fully match fit. Mamadou Sakho and Dejan Lovren are the first choice pairing at the moment, but the former is only just back from injury and the latter is still recovering with a chance of making his comeback at the weekend versus Man United. This leaves Kolo Toure, aged 34, as Klopp’s only fully fit and available centre back option, who was struggling with a hamstring problem last week too.
Therefore, the decision to draft in Steven Caulker is merely a stop-gap solution to an immediate problem. Caulker is also nowhere near as bad as some are claiming. He was once considered a strong prospect before joining QPR, earning himself a solitary England cap as he scored on his international debut. From then on, his progress stalled dramatically, but QPR is hardly a stable club for a young player to develop. He struggled to gain a starting place at Southampton with Jose Fonte and Virgil van Dijk ahead in the pecking order. Nonetheless, Caulker has the ability to do a job for Liverpool in the short term. He is still only 24, and if Klopp can make a decent defender out of Dejan Lovren then surely he can help get Caulker’s career back on track. He is physically imposing at 6ft 3in, very strong in the air and surprisingly quick. His presence at set pieces could help prevent Liverpool being bullied when defending aerial balls, whilst he provides a genuine goal threat from set pieces at the other end.
Essentially, it’s a risk-free, low-cost signing. In reality, Caulker is likely to be third choice at best once Sakho and Lovren are fully fit again, so he is unlikely to start many games. Liverpool have a fixture every three days for the next few weeks, and with the squad already threadbare with injuries, Caulker provides solid and much-needed cover. He has played over 200 senior games and has Premier League experience. He is a much better alternative to Lucas and Jose Enrique who have featured as emergency centre backs in recent games. January is a difficult time to find the best deals, and Klopp will wait until the summer before making his higher-profile signing rather than splashing £10 million on a short-term solution this month. If Caulker fails to meet the required quality, he will leave at the end of the season. If he surprises everyone and impresses Klopp, we could sign him for a small fee in the summer. Either way, it’s a sensible and necessary, albeit underwhelming signing and not one to complain about. Now he’s a Red, we back him to succeed.