Beautiful revelation of Liverpool this season, Ibrahima Konate has adapted well to the Premier League. The young French defender is taking another stature alongside Virgil van Dijk or Joel Matip.
The adjective titanic shouldn’t bother him as a big fan of the animated series “Attack of the Titans”. Ibrahima Konate (22) arrived from RB Leipzig for Liverpool in the summer, but he has shown his personality as soon as he put on the Reds’ shirt. While last season Virgil van Dijk’s long injury had disturbed the balance of the team on the banks of the Mersey and it was necessary to provide an alternative to Joel Matip and Joe Gomez whose physical fragility was sometimes lacking, the former Sochalian has put himself in the tone. Yet, like the majority of Jürgen Klopp’s recruits in recent years – and of which the most convincing example is Fabinho – Ibrahima Konaté has already had to blend into the mold. While in the 2019/2020 (11 matches) and 2020/2021 (21 matches) seasons, his playing time had been quite limited due to physical problems, Ibrahima Konate was passing a real test by going to Liverpool. Especially that the Reds had not hesitated to put 40 million euros on the table.
Preceded by Joel Matip and Joe Gomez in the hierarchy behind the indestructible Virgil van Dijk, the French international hopeful had to wait to make his debut during the 5th day in a large victory against Crystal Palace (3-0). A first successful performance followed by another convincing one in the Carabao Cup against Norwich City (3-0). Finally, it was against Manchester United last October 24 in the Premier League that he had the opportunity to express. Shortly before the game, Trent Alexander-Arnold valued his teammate: “He is a very athletic defender. It’s like center backs are becoming the new wingers today. The speed these center backs are getting is unbelievable. What an athlete! His power, his speed… He’s still so young, but he has so much potential. There’s a lot of competition for spots in his position, but he looks like a really good fit for us.” On the field at Old Trafford in a 5-0 showing, he totally ate up the Red Devils’ attack while forming a nice duo with Virgil van Dijk.
Liverpool never lost with Ibrahima Konate
Playing a little more afterwards, he took part in important matches like Tottenham (2-2) and Chelsea (2-2) in the Premier League, but he was also a starter in 5 of the last 6 games of Liverpool in the Champions League. In 22 games played, it’s simple, he had 16 wins and 6 draws (including 2 wins in the TAB) for 0 losses. A status of precious talisman that shines particularly well in recent weeks. Against Benfica in the Champions League, he scored a goal from a corner in both games and even if he made a mistake in the first leg, he has a real ability to get back into the game quickly. Last Saturday, in the FA Cup semi-final, he scored again from a corner kick against Manchester City in a 3-2 win. Once again solid alongside Virgil van Dijk, he confirms that there is a real competition between him and Joel Matip to play alongside the Dutchman.
Speaking to the BBC after the game against Manchester City, Virgil van Dijk praised the level of his young teammate: “He is very impressive. He had a great impact, he works very hard every day, he has a very good mentality and his work rate is incredible. He’s still so young, but it’s unbelievable how good he is already. Everyone at Liverpool must realize what he brings, the future is bright.” An enthusiasm also shared by the Reds coach Jürgen Klopp. After the game, the German coach praised his offensive contribution: “Ibou scored his third goal for his third consecutive start if I’m not mistaken. This is also very useful. Set pieces are very important, especially when teams focus a little bit more on Virgil (Van Dijk) so it’s very important that the second target player can use it. He’s done it three times now, so that’s really cool.”
Yet, some criticisms intervene like the one left last March by Mark Lawrenson, a former Reds defender: “I just think defensively if you look at yesterday (in the 1-0 win at Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup 1/4 final ed.) and if you also looked at West Ham, he sometimes disappears from his position and as good as Van Dijk is, he can’t put his finger in the dike every time something happens.” Sometimes paying for his over-commitment and willingness to initiate his team’s offenses from the back, Ibrahima Konate shows some flaws that need to be corrected. For all that, the overall picture remains positive. While the Reds play this Tuesday against Manchester United (to be followed on our live commentary) and will face a titanic schedule thereafter (FA Cup final against Chelsea, Champions League semi-final against Villarreal and possible final against Real Madrid or Manchester City as well as matches against Everton, Newcastle, Tottenham, Aston Villa, Southampton and Wolverhampton in the league), Liverpool will need Ibrahima Konaté at his best level. One word of order: Tatakae, Tatakae, Tatakae (Japanese word meaning “Fight” used in the Attack of the Titans).