JÜRGEN’S wild boys; a lethal attacking force who run like crazy and take opposition sides apart with fluid, dynamic, heavy-metal football. If only Klopp could fix Liverpool’s defence, then they could be serious title challengers.
This has become the stock narrative of mainstream British media. Irresistible going forwards; dodgy at the back. Klopp won’t win titles with a leaky defence like that.
Yet here we are, nine games into the Premier League season and the Reds sit pretty on 20 points, joint with Arsenal and Man City, with only goal difference preventing us from sitting top of the table. 20 goals scored, 11 conceded. All that from away trips to Arsenal, Spurs, Chelsea and with home fixtures against the reigning champions and Manchester United out the way already.
The bookies make us second favourites for the title, while a rapidly increasing number of Liverpool fans are jumping aboard the title bandwagon every week, with the sense that something special is in the making. And Liverpool haven’t even hit top gear yet, according to Klopp.
If only they could defend, though. Except the fact is, Liverpool can defend. They are doing so very well on a consistent basis, although this has not been widely acknowledged by much of the press and punditry analysis. In truth, it’s all getting rather boring. After Liverpool’s utterly dominant display against West Brom, there were groans of disapproval that we had conceded yet another sloppy set-piece goal. Why are we concentrating on that, rather than celebrating a well-earned three points?
I did some research after the West Brom game and the numbers are quite revealing regarding Liverpool’s defence. Here they are, as follows:
- On just two occasions this season Liverpool have conceded two or more goals in a game. Coincidentally (or not), these were the two opening fixtures of the season.
- Liverpool have conceded just seven goals in their past ten fixtures in all competitions.
- Liverpool have not conceded a single goal from open play in their last six fixtures in all competitions.
That last statistic is perhaps the most impressive of them all. Loris Karius has come under an enormous amount of scrutiny in the early stages of his Liverpool career. Granted, he has hardly been massively convincing but it is quite remarkable that he has now played five games for Liverpool and has yet to make a single save of note.
Therein lies the truth about this Liverpool defence. Klopp has now got his settled back four in place: Nathaniel Clyne, Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren and James Milner in front of Karius. It’s an extremely effective unit and is restricting opposition sides to virtually no chances whatsoever from open play. One cannot underestimate how difficult that is to do and it requires an extraordinary degree of organisation and discipline.
At left-back, no questions remain over James Milner’s capacity to play the position. He has answered all his questions and on the evidence so far this season looks as good a left-back as any in the league. On the right, Nathaniel Clyne is just about the best right-back in the league (Hector Bellerin might have a case), improving the attacking side of his game this season while remaining extremely reliable in defence.
The settled centre-back partnership of Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren is becoming a formidable one. In Matip we have what looks like a £30 million+ defender signed on a free transfer; easily one of the signings of the season. Aerially dominant with excellent reading of the game and the ability to stride forward into midfield and launch attacks, there are shades of Sami Hyypia and Daniel Agger in the way Matip plays his football. He’s still just 25.
Then we have Dejan Lovren, whose astonishing turnaround has seen him become an established regular under Klopp. Dominant in the air, strong in the tackle and with the presence of mind to play out from the back simply but effectively without over complicating his role, Lovren now looks like the commanding £20 million centre-back we signed from Southampton in 2014.
Of course, an injury to any one of the first choice back four would be problematic. Ragnar Klavan is an able deputy at centre-back but quality cover in the full-back positions is an issue. For now, though, that’s not worth worrying about. We just have to hope they stay fit.
With the way Liverpool play under Klopp, defending is more than just about the back four. It is the job of the entire team to defend as a unit and every single individual buys into that policy. With Jordan Henderson screening the defence superbly in his redefined number six role, the likes of Adam Lallana, Gini Wijnaldum and Emre Can are industrious in their tracking back and play a crucial role in regaining possession.
The same applies to the front three, with Roberto Firmino, in particular, pressing aggressively in order to defend from the front. All these players are intelligent in their pressing movements, cutting down passing lanes for the opposition and playing their part in the overall defensive performance. It’s a very well-oiled machine.
The flip side to all this is that Liverpool remain susceptible at set pieces; indeed, the last three goals conceded have all come from corners. Karius is still learning and aerial dominance is not a strength of his, while Liverpool are also smaller than many opponents- such as West Brom – meaning we are more likely to concede a higher percentage of goals from set-pieces than other sides.
It’s an area which needs improving, no doubt, and Klopp has made no secret of the fact it is something he has identified a need to work on in training. On the one hand, this set-piece weakness means sides do not have to create much in order to score. They can wait for a corner or free-kick knowing there is a high chance it will result in a goal.
Yet, if set-pieces are virtually the only way sides can break through us, is this really such a bad thing? At the moment we are conceding practically nothing from open play. You would also expect as the season goes on, with more training and time to develop a better understanding between the new keeper and the defenders that our organisation will improve and we will concede less frequently from set-pieces.
If we can do that, we’re going to be almost impossible to play against. There are no signs of the goals drying up at the other end. And, ultimately, it’s hardly affecting us right now anyway. We’re conceding the odd goal from set-pieces but we’re still winning matches and taking three points. That’s what matters most. When we concede one, we don’t concede another. This Liverpool side knows how to shut up shop and see games out by managing the situation.
There are no perfect football teams and there will always be weaknesses to exploit, no matter how good a team you are. Klopp is a perfectionist, though, and right now set-pieces are a small speck of dust on what is a very, very good Liverpool side. If the media want to continue trotting out the line about our supposedly ‘dodgy defence’, that’s fine. Go for it. But it’s simply not true.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
Like The Anfield Wrap on Facebook
We’ve been shortlisted for Best Podcast at the FBAs. You can vote for us here.
Liverpool allow the fewest number of shots by almost 1 per game, which relative to that particular table is a pretty big margin.
As the article says, Liverpool aren’t bad defensively at all, the problem has been officials either unable or refusing to enforce the rules of the game.
Off the top of my head this season (in the league) both west brom and leicester’s goals should have been disallowed – strike those two and Liverpool have conceded the same amount as the three sides around them.
Look at us now. After so many games Jurgan’s defence still can’t defend. Simple, schoolboy errors all the time. Palace beat us yet again easily. If Conte or Jose managed us, even with our current players..do you think our defence would be this poor? What drills do they do in training? We defend better on Monday night astro turf matches. How can CB score unmarked from 6 yards? Actually makes my blood boil watching us at the moment.
Title is a bit misleading there’s 3 stats and they’re all simple descriptors… More of an opinion article with no analysis
The media need a narrative to feed to a footballing audience that needs things simplified. It happens in football and indeed life.
Anything more than a brief look at the way we are actually defending will show we are almost as mean as it gets from open play. I genuinely cannot even remember the last game in which we conceded any clear-cut chances. The fact that Costa’s ugly, scuffed finish against us at Stamford Bridge was the last goal we have conceded from open play is stunning set against the context of the criticism our defence gets.
To clarify further, Sky Sports for example need the narrative around us to be exactly as it set out in the opening paragraph of this article i.e. exciting, fluid yet flawed in defence. This is so we can hear this repeated ad nauseum by ‘pundits’ like Stelling, Merson, Redknapp etc WHENEVER they are asked about our prospects.
They don’t really know so they resort to the stock answer when asked about us.
Very poor argument. No stats that mean anything. Comical descriptions of the central defenders.
Poor, but fitting for this website. Have to follow the party line. No criticism is allowed, that’s the TAW way.
What the hell are you on about mate? The article is spot on and stats can be very misleading anyway! If you’re a red then thank god i’m not a mate of yours because talking to you about the reds would have me put in jail!
It would be useful if we stopped sloppily giving away set pieces which lead to the goals – like Karius fumbling the ball behind the goal line against West Brom and Milner miscontrolling when under no pressure against Hull. Although overall I think the defence are playing a lot better than they are being given credit for.
Its a stick that the media uses to beat us with. Its like how we treat Moreno; no matter how he plays, we will always have something against him.
Lets look at the stats:
Man city have conceded 9 goals and kept 1 clean sheet
Arsenal have conceded 9 goals and kept 4 clean sheets
Liverpool have conceded 11 goals and kept 1 clean sheet
Chelsea have conceded 9 goals and kept 4 clean sheets
Tottenham have conceded 4 goals and kept 5 clean sheets
Look at Man city’s defense; you don’t hear the media singing about the goals city have conceded. The same media that handed the title to city is the one that can’t stop talking about how our defense is going to prevent us from winning the league. I haven’t seen that level of hypocrisy. Oh wait, I have seen it a countless time before. Just mention Benitez and you’ll never hear the end of it.
We have conceded just 2 goals more than the teams in the top 5. That is insignificant at this stage of the season as it can easily change the next game. So, don’t worry about a thing.
Thanks for saving me the trouble of posting this and saying it better than I could.
One aside, I cant help but think how much uncertainty would be added if you put Skrtel or Sakho back in the side. I love Sakho, does brilliant, mad things, but it does feel a bit of a roulette wheel.
Some stats that actually mean something here. Thanks for posting this.
The media will resort to their rubbish analysis every chance they get. They have to justify their jobs sometime. Most of these people have never really played the game we are watching from the stands, so they have to put in their worth using their keyboards these days or mouth off every chance they get.
What I have seen so far is some level of improvement, not perfection with the defending. Some previous problems still remain. Stats are relevant at times, perhaps in hindsight. On any given day the team can outperform or under-perform in specific or all areas. Who knows why!
I just prefer to watch the game (stands, TV or livestream), turn off the half-time analysis and don’t leave till the final whistle. Don’t care to predict the future, especially given the Reds history with the premier league title, and take it one game at a time.
Up next is Palace. Fuck the stats, defend like hell to prevent Benteke from handing us a thank you note for letting him go. He’s going to be tough to play against if he is any form like he was at Villa. Palace is another banana skin for the Reds.
So I wish Jurgen and the team get the Red Machine in full effect and do their best – stats aside.
Up the Reds!!!