Has Dejan Lovren now proven himself as Liverpool's first choice defender?
In a convincing 4-0 victory, it is rare for a defender to shine as one of the star men, but that is what Dejan Lovren managed in Liverpool’s victory over Barcelona at Wembley. Playing on his less comfortable right hand side of the central defensive pairing, Lovren kept Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi quiet, no mean feat regardless of the competition. Now one of the side’s leaders, the Croatian international has seen his importance grow in abundance over the past year.
With the departures of Kolo Toure and Martin Skrtel, and the arrivals of the likes of Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan having signed this summer, it is all change in Liverpool’s back line and Lovren has plenty of competition. In addition, Mamadou Sakho will return following an Achilles injury, and Joe Gomez is nearing fitness after suffering a setback in his recovery from a knee injury. Despite all that, Lovren has proven that he will be the first choice at the back for Jurgen Klopp.
Following a nightmare debut season after his £20 million arrival from Southampton, Lovren became somewhat of a scapegoat for much of Brendan Rodger’s failings following the sale of Luis Suarez in 2014. His penalty miss against Besiktas in Turkey which went flying above the crossbar and sent the Reds out of the Europa League summarised his first season at Anfield, and it couldn’t come to an end quickly enough.
Now, the Croatian is fresh from a summer break, having missed out on being selected for Euro 2016 after a fall out with his national team’s manager, and looks raring to go under Jurgen Klopp. Part of the preferred back line for the second half of last season alongside Mamadou Sakho, Lovren performed well and also popped up with some important goals, none more so than a memorable injury time winner against Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League quarter final.
Calm and composed on the ball, Lovren shows all of the confidence that was missing in his first season in red. To play for Klopp, a defender has to prove his ability to withstand pressure and show good distribution, both of which Lovren has more than proven in recent months, and he has at times seemed like the only defender not at risk under the new German manager.
In the Kopites’ impressive performance against Barcelona, he demonstrated his excellent timing when making a challenge which has been evident as he has picked up just twelve yellow cards in 77 games in a Liverpool shirt, and alongside Ragnar Klavan dominated any aerial threat that head the way of Simon Mignolet’s goal.
With doubts over Joel Matip’s fitness after an ankle injury, and Sakho and Gomez out injured, now is the time for Dejan Lovren to prove that he deserves to be Jurgen Klopp’s first choice defender. When selected on his preferred left side, Lovren will be forced to be on his toes, providing cover for the erratic Alberto Moreno with no replacement signed yet. That is the kind of responsibility that a leader like Lovren will take on as he hopes to lead his side towards the top four again after missing out on European football this season.
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