Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes new loan signing Steven Caulker can be key to the success of the 'gegenpressing' tactic which has defined the German coach's spell at Anfield. The England defender has moved to Merseyside until the end of the season from parent club Queens Park Rangers, following the cancellation of his loan deal at Southampton.
The 24-year-old made just one Premier League start at St Mary's but his involvement under Klopp is expected to be more significant amid the Reds' defensive injury crisis. Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren are both out for a number of weeks with hamstring problems, while there are concerns over Mamadou Sakho and Kolo Toure's ability to play in successive matches, though their current knee and hamstring injuries can be managed.
Such are Liverpool's problems with injured defenders they were forced to give recalled loanee Tiago Ilori his debut in the FA Cup third round trip draw with Exeter City, alongside Jose Enrique at the heart of the back four. The League Two side scored twice and were minutes from knocking out the five-time European Champions before Brad Smith equalised at St James Park.
Klopp has therefore taken the decision to recruit Caulker – twice relegated from the Premier League with Cardiff City and QPR – for the remainder of the campaign. The Liverpool believes the new signing's prowess in the air can assist in the narrow pressing game his team are trying to implement and looks forward to working with the player.
"Now, we've had to make a decision whether we wanted to get another player for the position," Klopp told the Liverpool official website. "The situation is Martin Skrtel is not available for around about the next four-and-a-half weeks, five weeks.
"Then we have the problem with Dejan – it's only a little muscle injury. I think he'll be available in one to one-and-a-half weeks. Then you have Mama with a little knee issue – he can play, but it's not perfect and you cannot bring him three or four times in a row throughout the season. And it's the same for Kolo and so would mean we are always in this situation, do we have enough or not? So we thought, 'Yes, good idea'.
"We looked for Premier League experience because in this short time, you need that experience. We looked for a good header [of the ball] because that's what we need – we want to play good pressing, we want to press the opponent and so they have to play long balls. If they play long balls, you need people in the last line who can help you with headers.
"And we've found it with Steven Caulker. He was not in the best situation in Southampton, didn't play too much, but this is January and we want to have the best solution for us and we are absolutely convinced that Steven is the best solution for us."
Caulker becomes Liverpool's second signing of the January transfer window after the addition of Marko Grujic from Red Star Belgrade. The 19-year-old must wait to make his debut for the club however, after being loaned back to the Serbian side for the rest of the current term.