If Liverpool did not need to defend, the Reds would be the best team in the world. Okay, I may be slightly over exaggerated there, but they would be a much better team. Unfortunately, for the Merseysiders defending is a crucial part of football and until recently, they have not been very good at it.
Boss Jurgen Klopp prefers to see his team concentrate on their attacking play. However, their defensive vulnerabilities have cost Klopp’s side a real chance of winning the title in the last few seasons, as their attacking options are fantastic.
It seems the tide might be changing at Liverpool. The team are producing far improved defensive displays heading into tonight’s trip to Arsenal (hopefully I have jinked them with this article!). Liverpool are underdogs to win the clash at odds of 9/5.
An improvement at the back
A defence involving Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan does not exactly scream solid. It screams something more akin to there is a mistake in those two. The pair are not exactly world-class.
For me, Joel Matip is a slightly better defender. However, he should not escape the defensive criticism either, while the less said about Alberto Moreno the better.
However, for all their weaknesses in defence, Liverpool’s defensive record has improved majorly in recent weeks. The Reds have now kept clean sheets in four of their last six games in all competitions, conceding just two goals in the process.
Klopp’s side also now have a good defensive record on home soil, keeping clean sheets in six of their last eight home games in the top-flight.
Full-backs the key to improvement
The positioning of the full-backs is one of the keys to the improvement in the Reds defensive record it seems. Klopp likes his full-backs to push up and play a part in the team’s attacking play.
However, in recent games, the full-backs Joe Gomez, Alexander Trent-Arnold and Andrew Robertson have played in a less adventurous fashion, while still supporting the attacking play when they can.
The Liverpool defensive midfielders like Jordan Henderson have been part of the problem. However, if the full-backs have deeper positions, then Henderson and the like do not need to worry about covering them. A scenario that has cost the Reds points at times in recent seasons.
Having watched Liverpool quite a bit of late, Andy Robertson should definitely be the team’s first-choice left-back. I am not sure why Klopp decided to pick Moreno ahead of the Scot for so long.
Apparently, Moreno had a decent pre-season, but the Spaniard has proven repeatedly he is not good enough defensively. His strengths are going forward, but they are not enough to negate his lack of defensive nous.
Robertson seems to have a nice balance between both and has impressed me whenever I have seen him play for the Reds and for Hull before that.
Joe Gomez and Alexander Trent-Arnold are both very bright young players who should go on to have good careers at Liverpool.
Can they keep it tight at Arsenal?
Liverpool’s seemingly newfound defensive solidity will be fully tested at the Emirates, as the Reds take on Arsenal. The Gunners have won 13 of their last 14 games in the league on their own patch.
However, Klopp’s side have been devastating in attack in recent away games in the top-flight. The Merseysiders have recorded four consecutive away wins in the top-flight, scoring 16 goals in the process.
Arsene Wenger’s side have conceded in just two of their last eight home games at the Emirates Stadium in the top-flight. Something has to give in north London.
Arsenal are a dangerous team to play against at the Emirates Stadium. It will be majorly interesting to see if Liverpool can keep it tight against the Gunners and keep a clean sheet. If not then it will be back to the drawing board for Jurgen Klopp and his team.
Has Klopp finally stabilised Liverpool’s defence?
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