Jarell Quansah: Liverpool’s Defensive Bedrock for the Post-Klopp Era

As the curtains close on Jurgen Klopp’s final season as Liverpool head coach, there has been an atmosphere of sadness within the Liverpool fan base and within the club itself. A manager that has come in and galvanised the whole club and made the fan base believe again, an icon who has put the memories of trophyless season, disillusioning finishes and near-misses behind them, he has reenergised the entire football club.


Whilst Klopp’s nine years at the helm have featured plenty of heartache and anguish, the German has managed to claim just about every trophy available whilst employing an attractive, high-energy style of football and developing a competitive squad. There’s no gainsaying that the Klopp era ended in a somewhat disappointing manner, but he has nevertheless given the club’s fanbase optimism for the future by utilising several academy talents.



The highlight of Klopp’s final season came on February 25 as Liverpool faced off against Chelsea in the EFL Cup Final. Despite missing a host of key players due to injury, Liverpool managed to come away with a 1-0 victory as Virgil van Dijk’s 118th-minute goal saw them narrowly avoid penalties. As the game went on, Klopp entrusted a variety of Liverpool academy products like Conor Bradley, who started the final, as well as Bobby Clark, Jayden Danns, and James McConnell, who all came off the bench and helped secure the win at Wembley.


Another Melwood graduate who has made a name for himself this season is Jarell Quansah. Having replaced Ibrahima Konaté in the 105th minute, Quansah provided security at the back and delivered a disciplined performance alongside Van Dijk to see Liverpool through to the finish line. He hasn’t looked back since then, racking up 3 goals and 3 assists across 33 appearances for the Reds.


Quansah has been at Liverpool since the age of five and has played for Liverpool across various youth levels, captaining Liverpool’s U-18 side to the FA Cup Youth final, a side that featured the likes of Billy Koumetio , Conor Bradley and Luke Chambers, all of whom have featured for Liverpool this season. He further showed his leadership qualities by captaining the team in the UEFA Youth League and the Lancashire Senior Cup, where they ended up winning the trophy.


The Warrington native signed his first professional contract with Liverpool in February 2021 and went on the appear on the Liverpool team sheet in the 2021/2022 season when Liverpool were fighting for the quadruple, although he didn’t make a single appearance. Instead, his first taste of first-team football would come in the 2022/2023 season while on loan at Bristol rovers where he was coached by the enigmatic Joey Barton.



That season he racked up 16 league appearances in League One and showed signs of promise, with his standout performance coming against newly promoted Premier League side Ipswich Town. Excelling on the ball and holding his own in defensive duels, his impressive display prompted Barton to say: “He’s as good on the ball that you’ll need to be in terms of building out from the back. He’s going to get bigger, he’s going to get stronger, he’s going to get faster. His anticipation of the game is going to be better because more senior games get you that.”


“The one concern we had when we brought him in was his heading ability because we knew he could leap, he could score a goal at the back post, but he’s getting well-versed in the physical, aerial contact. But the heading he’s doing from a defensive standpoint is what any senior would be proud of. He has an enormous future in front of him. It was tough because Bobby (Thomas) had done well for us, we had to absorb that and find someone else but I think we’ve gone a long way to solving that problem with the addition of Jarell.”


Quansah announced himself to the Liverpool faithful on August 27, 2023 when he made his Liverpool debut in a 2-1 win over Newcastle. With Liverpool losing 1-0 and playing with 10 men since the 28th minute, Quansah was introduced in the 77th minute alongside Darwin Núñez. Whilst Darwin stole the show with a brace to lead the Reds to a comeback victory, Quansah held his own and helped to shore up the backline at St. James’ Park.


His first Premier League start would come three weeks later, filling in for Van Dijk and operating in central defense alongside Joël Matip, as Liverpool erased an early deficit and pulled off a 3-1 victory at Wolves. Klopp sung his praises after the comeback win, stating, “He did well, he did really well. It was really good, a nice, wonderful experience for him. He came on always in very decisive moments, he didn’t come on to close games or whatever, we had to do something there.”



“And today he was good, I have to say. In such a disorganised team like we were in the first half, being the one who looks kind of alright is a statement absolutely. So, really happy for him. He is obviously pretty happy in the moment as well. A good boy.”


Quansah continued to take his game to a new level, scoring his first goal for Liverpool in a 2-1 defeat to Union Saint-Gilloise on December 14. Shortly after Matip suffered a season-ending ACL injury, Quansah delivered a display that swayed Liverpool against signing a new center back in the January window.


“I guess at the start of the season, when I’ve stayed and not gone on loan, I’ve thought ‘I want to play in these games” Quansah said after the match. “So obviously it’s a shame what happened to Joël, my condolences go with him. But my idea was to try and get over him anyway, try and be a starting centre-back in the Premier League at the end of the day. I’m just trying, any opportunity, hopefully more will come and I’m just trying to really push on and be the best centre-back I can be.”


Quansah’s comments surprised the media and made headlines, with some sections of the media describing his comments as brutal and brunt, whilst other parts of the fanbase and his fellow teammates saw it differently, noting a sign of confidence and maturity beyond his years. Ultimately, it was the same kind of mentality that Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard used to make it from the academy to the pinnacle of European football.



“I was obsessed,” Gerrard said in a 2017 interview with BT Sport. “Obsessed with being the best player in training every single day, and if I didn’t I’d go home and think about it and try and do it again the next day. You have to be obsessed. When you get that sniff and that little bit of hope you’ve got to be obsessed to move your teammates out of the way. Once you’re in, they’re not coming back.”


Whilst Liverpool’s form tailed off in the final months of the campaign, Quansah stood out as one of the team’s bright spots, making 16 Premier League appearances — 12 as a starter — and scoring his first Premier League goal in a 3-3 draw against Aston Villa. One of the reasons why Quansah is so highly rated is his calmness and composure on the ball. For a player making his debut in the Premier League this season, he has struck up a good partnership with Van Dijk at the centre of the Liverpool defence.


In possession, he successfully completes over 50% of his dribbles, and when he tries to build up from the back, he is adept at advancing possession to his attacking teammates. The youngster has an 88.6% passing accuracy which is essential to Liverpool’s build-up play, and he has also produced 38 accurate long balls and created two big chances which are good signs for any modern centre back, especially in a team that controls possession and relies on their defenders to help build the attack.



Far more impressive is the fact that he has hardly looked out of place or made many errors leading to goals. With Konaté and Matip struggling for fitness this season, Quansah has stepped up and exemplified maturity with his performances. Statistically, Quansah has been one of the most impressive defenders in his age group, ranking first amongst U23 centre backs in the Premier League in terms of defensive duels won, aerial duels won, aerial duels per 90 and progressive runs per 90.


What’s more, he is also the only centre back in Europe’s top 5 leagues to rank in the 95+ percentile for both defensive duel win rate and passes completed, bettering the likes of Jarrad Branthwaite, Cristhian Mosquera, Castello Lukeba, Leny Yoro, Pau Cubarsí, Radu Drăgușin, Marc Guéhi and William Saliba and Mickey van den Ven.



This stat is hugely impressive considering the fact Liverpool’s midfield is constantly being overrun, making them susceptible to conceding cheap goals and leaving the defence with a lot of work and recovery to do. This problem hasn’t affected Quansah too much as he has shown how good he is in ball recoveries, making crucial tackles and stepping in with last-ditch tackles to stop opponents from scoring and getting into dangerous positions.


This lack of protection in midfield as well as a lack of clinical finishing from the front line has seen Liverpool’s form fall off a cliff and relinquish a golden opportunity to win the quadruple, with the Reds watching from the sidelines as Arsenal and Manchester City challenged each other for the title. In order to not be so heavily reliant on Wataru Endo, and in order to get the most out of Alexis Mac Allister as opposed to shoehorning him in a deeper role, signing a new defensive midfielder must be a priority for Liverpool this summer.


Overall, the future looks bright for Jarell Quansah. With Joël Matip departing Anfield on a free transfer this summer, Ibrahima Konaté continuing to struggle with injuries, and Virgil van Dijk approaching 33 years of age, Quansah may not just be Liverpool’s long-term leader in defence, but their short-term leader as well. At 21 years old, he’s already earned a maiden call-up for England’s preliminary Euros squad, and he looks set to play a vital role for Liverpool as they enter a new era under Arne Slot next season.


By: Oscar Ihua / @oscarihua

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Vince Mignott / MB Media / Getty Images