Mainz form shows Sepp van den Berg deserves Liverpool chance


Sepp van den Berg is yet to make an appearance for Liverpool following his 2019 arrival from PEC Zwolle. The towering Dutch centre-back has been out on a number of loans after joining five years ago, with the defender sent to Preston, Schalke and, most recently, Mainz 05. It is with the latter than Van den Berg has really started to make a name for himself. 


A nine-game unbeaten run in the final months of the season contributed towards Mainz's eventual safety, with the German side finishing the campaign two points clear of the relegation playoff spot. Die Nullfünfer boasted one of the better defensive records in the division, too, having conceded just 51 times with a profligate forwardline contributing towards a relegation dogfight. 


And in their solid backline, Van den Berg was key. Indeed, the youngster earned a better WhoScored rating (7.04) than any other centre-back in Germany's top tier this term to make the team of the season. Understandably, Mainz are keen to make his loan move permanent, and make him a club-record signing for a rumoured £9m. However, the least Liverpool could do would be to allow Arne Slot the chance to assess his compatriot before a final decision is made. 


The Reds last week confirmed the worst kept secret in football, announcing that Slot would succeed Jurgen Klopp in the Anfield hotseat for next season. There remain lofty expectations on Merseyside so the Dutchman needs to make a quick start at life as Liverpool boss if they are to mount another title push. There do remain areas of weakness within the squad that need solidifying in order to remain competitive, however.


The 2-0 win over Wolves last weekend not only spelled the end of Klopp, but Thiago Alcantara and, crucially, Joel Matip at the club. The latter were are out of contract and the Reds may need to add another body at the heart of the defence if they are to compete on multiple fronts next season. Slot does have options at present in captain Virgil van Dijk, Ibrahima Konate, Jarell Quansah and Joe Gomez but with Konate and Gomez both struggling with injuries in the past, Van den Berg's return would help swell the centre-back ranks and ease the need for the latter duo to remain injury-free. 


Van den Berg's performances for Mainz may not have been as refined as the current centre-backs on Anfield, with his pass success rate of 81.3% worse than Van Dijk (91.5%), Quansah (88.8%) and Konate (88%) this season, but he showed a knack for being in the right place at the right time to alleviate pressure on his side's goal. Fans saw Van den Berg rank second for aerial duels won (173), second for shots blocked (36) and fourth for clearances (154) in the 2023/24 Bundesliga campaign, and this proactive approach has helped win admirers. 



That said, the drop in pass success rate will have been down to the differing styles between Mainz and Liverpool. The former had the sixth lowest possession average (45.6%) in the Bundesliga this season, the latter, meanwhile, ranking third (61.3%) in the Premier League. It was more backs-to-the-wall than front foot for Mainz. Van den Berg also ranked top for passes per game (44.3) for the German outfit, and in theory; in a more dominant Liverpool side, the centre-back would be able to exhibit this side to his game more frequently than did for the Bundesliga team in 2023/24. 


Mainz will be desperate to retain Van den Berg's services beyond the summer and the appointment of Jan Siewert in December had the desired effect for both player and club, and they will feel confident of convincing the eight-capped Netherlands U21 international. Yet Liverpool may just want to give Van den Berg a chance of consolidating a regular spot in the first team. 


With the 2024 Carabao Cup winners believed to be in the market for another centre-back this summer, they could do a lot worse than save the funds to invest elsewhere. Van den Berg's stock has soared over the course of the campaign, and he's proven he deserves an opportunity to make a name for himself at Liverpool.

Mainz form shows Sepp van den Berg deserves Liverpool chance