Why Jurgen Klopp desperately needs to fix Liverpool's leaky defence
Liverpool have been notorious in recent seasons for leaking goals at important moments. Conceding late in the match or from set pieces has been so frequent that every Reds fan dreads narrow leads of one goal and opponent free-kicks, or corners. Almost all the defensive players in the squad that finished 8th last season have been culpable for major mistakes, leading to goals – Simon Mignolet and Alberto Moreno being the latest targets of fans’ ire. And although Jürgen Klopp has addressed every issue in the starting line-up, the goalkeeper and left-back positions still remain a major concern.
The goalkeeper position is one of the most talked about issues among the Kop faithful. Simon Mignolet is a very impressive shot stopper; however, he lacks the commanding nature to confidently gather crosses into the penalty box, which has led to massive blunders in the past! In addition to that, his abysmal clearances and distribution of the ball makes the team much less effective on the counter-attack. Loris Karius has been brought in as an alternative to Mignolet, but fans will still question whether he is an upgrade for the keeper they all love to hate. Karius will, however, miss around two months due to a fractured hand; Mignolet remains the 1st choice ‘keeper till he returns. Alex Manninger, the 39-year old brought in as a 3rd choice, and possibly a mentor for the younger ‘keepers, has gone unnoticed in the news so far; fans would hope Mignolet’s game will improve under his guidance.
Meanwhile, the full-back position is a very sensitive issue at Liverpool – they have not had a good left-back ever since the days of John Arne Riise; those are big boots to fill, but no one has even come close. Alberto Moreno is a pretty good player – he has excellent ball control, he can attack very well with speed and his crosses cause trouble to opposition defenders – but he just is not a good enough defender. He gets caught out of his position too often when the opposition counter-attacks and his tackles are too rash, giving away cheap free-kicks in dangerous positions. It doesn’t help that Coutinho, who has played with him on the left-wing most often, isn’t really the best at tracking back and covering his defenders.
The defensive midfielder is another player that needs to cover the full-backs when he attacks, but Lucas is not at his best anymore and Emre Can is not a defensive-minded option. Moreno, thus, becomes a huge liability, even if he isn’t entirely to blame. James Milner looks destined to play the role of a utility man this season and he has played at left-back in pre-season. If he shows the talent and hunger at his new position, that he has shown in his time at the club so far, it would not be farfetched to think that he might replace Moreno pretty soon. Klopp seems to trust Moreno and believes he can work with him, as he has not brought in another left-back. The supporters, nevertheless, still have hope for a late signing like Ricardo Rodriguez or Jonas Hector.
Another concern for Merseyside outfit is the lack of a leader in the central defence – a player in the ilk of Jaimie Carragher, John Terry, or even Ashley Williams (now with their rivals, Everton) – someone who can marshal the defence and keep the rest of the defenders in line. Mamadou Sakho and Dejan Lovren did a decent job in the latter half of last season, but they are not strong leaders; hopefully one of Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan can assume that role. Jürgen Klopp will hope that these reinforcements can reduce defensive errors and fortify the defence.
The Kopites will hope that their German head coach does enough to ensure he can fix the leaking goals, because in spite of a good attack, if the Reds keep conceding goals frequently (as they did in the Arsenal game), they are certain to drop important points.
Article written by Atish Kulkarni (@atishk22)
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