Where Is The Lov? What Lies Ahead In Dejan Lovren’s Liverpool Career

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 4, 2017: Liverpool's substitute Dejan Lovren on the bench during the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

STUCK for something to do on a cold Sunday night, I decided to see what this “Blue Planet” thing on the BBC iPlayer was all about.

To be honest, when I first saw the title of the show I assumed it was some Evertonian fantasy where all the “Redshite” had been eradicated and Bill Kenwright was president and unquestioned ruler of the world.

All remaining football fans were forced to switch allegiance to Everton, all the world’s best players were immediately transferred to Anfield, which Kenwright had taken back for the Toffees in an act of defiance 125 years in the making, and yet somehow they still managed to finish seventh in the league.

Anyway, the show was actually all about fish and things, which was a nice twist to my admittedly far-fetched assumption.

There was a scene in episode one that showed some birds landing on the water, only for some sneaky fish to leap out and grab them in their mouths, consuming them whole like Neville Southall consumes pies and Tories. Incidentally, Big Nev would have been vice president in my version of Blue Planet.

It was quite difficult watching these poor unsuspecting birds get chomped one by one, but then they later showed examples of when it doesn’t work out for the fish. The bird is playing silly buggers and dares it to have a go, then flies out of the way just in time as the fish leaps out of the water, misses completely, and splashes back into the sea with all the grace and elegance of the drunkest bloke at a stag do.

Watching that moment in slow motion immediately led my mind to thinking, “I wonder how Dejan Lovren is getting on for Croatia.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 4, 2017: Liverpool's James Milner and Dejan Lovren after the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

We all remember what happened at Wembley. As Lovren was made to look a fool time and again by Harry Kane and company, our collective patience in him wore so thin that there was only relief when he was hooked on the half-hour mark. Jürgen Klopp was entirely justified in his decision to take off a player who was having as bad a game as it was possible to have, whether there really was any injury involved or not.

For many, myself included, it raised serious questions about whether Lovren had a place in Liverpool’s first team from then on, even considering highly-inexperienced centre back Joe Gomez to take his place.

Then days after the hammering by Tottenham Hotspur, it emerged that Lovren and his family had received a death threat on social media. A death threat, because he had a bad game of football.

The 28-year-old posted a direct message he had received from a user on Instagram which read “I’m gonna murder ur family u Croatian prick”.

Lovren replied with “horrible what kind of people we have,” before adding in another image, “I don’t mind when people talk shit about me, it says more about them! But I cannot ignore when my family is threatened. I just can’t and won’t accept that. Disgusting.”

He is of course absolutely spot on. We can debate the merits of players being good enough for Liverpool, but that is a shocking way to address any human being, let alone one who plays for the team that the individual supposedly supports.

Pointing out that emotionally-stunted trolls like the one who attacked Lovren need binning is like shooting fish in a barrel. (Lot of fish talk today, that David Attenborough’s got right in my head.) This isn’t a general call to our fans to not threaten to kill players who make mistakes, a sentence I didn’t think I’d ever have to write on a football website.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 22, 2017: Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool manager) Dejan Lovren (L) during the FA Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at Wembley Stadium. (Pic by Paul Marriott/Propaganda)

However, there is a more general issue with all football fans, not just Liverpool’s, about the way we write off underperforming players.

Klopp summed it up best when he said following the Tottenham defeat and Lovren threats: “I don’t wish one of you to have your mistakes discussed in public. You cannot even imagine how it feels. The boys are in the first place still human beings but you look like you are watching an accident and you are the kind of people standing around with smartphones instead of helping. I’m not this kind of person.

“Of course it’s not the nicest week in Dejan’s life but it’s only football. People don’t become a better or a worse person through making a mistake in a football game. If I think about Dejan, I have much more positive things than negative things.”

There is no doubt that Liverpool’s defence needs improving, and I am still of the opinion that an ideal first-choice Reds defence doesn’t contain Lovren, but does perhaps have him as an option. However, to try and destroy him because his form has taken a dip seems incredibly counter productive.

For all those reading this now just saying to themselves: “Nah he’s shite, get rid asap”, just look at Alberto Moreno. Sure he’s still not the perfect player, but there was a time not all that long ago that the majority of Liverpool fans would have rather fielded a scarecrow at left back than him. Now he’s putting in consistent performances that have seen him earn a call up to the Spain squad.

The same with Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto. Two players completely written off by Liverpool fans as not good enough to tie Jean-Michel Ferri’s bootlaces before they were moved on, now also justifiably in their national squad having been standout players in La Liga and Serie A respectively.

I saw Lovren and his Croatian teammates celebrating their qualification for the World Cup last night after a 4-1 aggregate win over Greece. It was nice to see him smiling again, and it could well be a turning point on his way back to confidence and form.

Russia evo nas 😁💪🏻 #2018 bravo momci

A post shared by Dejan Lovren (@dejanlovren06) on

Klopp intelligently gave him the last few minutes at the London Stadium last week to shake off cobwebs and get back into the right mental state to play for his club again. There’s a good chance he’ll be lining up against his former team, Southampton, next weekend. He’ll get roundly booed by the visiting fans, which affected him at St Mary’s a couple of years ago to the extent that he had to be brought off at half time. If they can be drowned out by supportive home fans, maybe it can spur him on to prove a point against them.

Dejan appears to wear his emotions on both sleeves. During his best moments in a red shirt he has clearly been pumped up and pushed on by general positivity and momentum. The two times in 2017 where he dominated Romelu Lukaku at Anfield, he looked like a man on top of his game and ready to tackle the world. When he’s been in a negative atmosphere/mindset, he’s struggled. That’s a characteristic that probably keeps him from being an elite defender, but it means we as supporters can play our part in helping him along.

Let’s not forget that until that Spurs game, the partnership between Joel Matip and Lovren was statistically quite promising, and will likely be the main unit of choice for Klopp until he’s able to bring in Virgil van Dijk or similar.

Lovren is a front-foot defender, one who attacks the ball and tries to be proactive in stopping danger before it happens. This means that when it goes wrong, he’s invariably caught out of position and his error often leads to a goal or clear-cut chance at least. More passive players might find themselves in more natural positions and looking more in control, but they can also be found guilty of not snuffing out an opportunity before it has escalated to a shot on goal.

Something that would also give Lovren more benefit of the doubt would be if he contributed more at the other end. After THAT header against Borussia Dortmund, he appeared to finally be accepted by many Reds fans who had been sceptical until that point. Not many goals have followed since then (just the one I think), in spite of the fact he’s very good at getting on the end of corners, just not all that good at directing them into the goal. Add more numbers in that column and people will likely forgive the odd brainfart at the other end.

He’ll make mistakes again, as will all of our players, and we’ll rightly be pissed off at it, but just as we want Lovren to keep his head in key moments, we must do the same. To paraphrase the manager, shattering our own players’ confidence by vociferously criticising them in the stands and on social media “makes no sense”.

Like the Giant Trevally fish, I’m sure big Dejan will be successfully chomping birds again in no time, another sentence that I didn’t expect to write.

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21 Comments

  1. Great article Dave-O, made me pine for the days of Sami. So, I naturally hit the Tube for a look at all of his goals, great stuff, but Tony LeT’s hair on 2:52. . .oof.

    https://youtu.be/kq6VKCWjFz0?t=172

  2. Havnt seen the match myself buy heard Lovren was at fault for Greeces goal.
    Anyone confirm?

    • that’s the spirit…

    • Yes, it was his man who easily got the better of him at a corner to score a header.

      https://youtu.be/BPqEdb3cPSM?t=1m22s

      He just isn’t good enough for us if we want to consistently finish top 4, never mind win the league. His first season was the worst I can ever remember from a major summer signing, especially one not coming from abroad. Since then he’s tended to go between awful and average and back to awful again. Then we went and gave him a pay rise and another 4 years, which has to be one of the most bewildering off the field decisions in the clubs recent history.

      He’s been given chance after chance. This isn’t a 19 year old kid with only one season in a red shirt – it’s a 28 year old international here three and a half years. His confidence is shattered because he’s been crap and rightly been criticised for being crap. If he isn’t crap he doesn’t get criticised. Blaming fans for his confidence issues is quite literally unbelievable.

      It’s amazing we have fans annoyed at the club accepting mediocrity and at the same time saying we should keep our head after watching Lovren under-perform for three and a half years, and not only get away with it, but actually be rewarded for it.

      • I think the point of the article is that until we can replace him in the first team – it helps the team to get behind him. That’s not accepting mediocrity – it’s just common sense.

        Personally I don’t think he’s good enough to be our starting centre half if we wish to compete for the league on a reasonably regular basis. I do think he’s good enough to be our third centre half though and, as such, again it make sense to support him.

        • its interesting that not a single “neutral” match report I read in any way suggested Lovren was at fault. Several saying it was a decent header.

          We see what we want to see I guess.

          • Or you can watch the video and see clearly it’s his man he is marking who scores. If you think marking someone at a corner and allowing him to score isn’t his fault l, then I don’t know what to tell you.

          • @KM1806 “We see what we want to see I guess”

  3. I applaud the fact that TAW is speaking out against the death threats, good on ya! Lovren needs the fans’ support on that front. I also applaud your optimism about his future and that he may turn it around like Moreno did.

    IMO Lovren is just not good enough. We need a world class center back if we want to win the league….winning the league should be THEE goal. i also think Matip is not good enough to help us achieve what we want to achieve.

  4. I think people are wrong. Lovren is good enough for LFC. He’s certainly better than Gomez and Klavan who people aren’t demanding we get rid of. If we bought 2 centre halves and kept Lovren and Matip then we’d be in a good place. Whether he’s 3rd choice or 4th doesn’t bother me. The other things that goes over the heads of many of our fans is the importance of centre half pairing. Let’s say we get VVD. He may or may not turn out to be a success because it’ll depend how he gets on with his partner. Name me a side in history where we talk about 1 good centre half in the team. Doesn’t happen. It’s always Hansen & Lawrenson, Adams & Keown, Pallister & Bruce, Ferdinand & Vidic, Terry & Carvalho, the only exception in any of the dominant league winners perhaps being a lack of a parter for Kompany. We’ve not found Lovren a suitable partner. He may be good with VVD. There must be a player and a brute in the partnership. It’s the most important thing. In saying that, it will probably transpire that he’s not good enough to be first choice. Skrtel and Matip haven’t helped us see if he is.

    • Hi Robin, I agree that Lovren is better than Klavan, considering the age and experience, but Gomez isn’t as experienced and is still quite young. So I expected him to have improved and still have more to offer given all the hype he came with from Southampton.

      I agree about the pairing but also add that when he played at Southampton he was paired with Fonte and had Wanyama in front of them. Wanyama seemed to be the key.

      So even with a good pairing day with VVD he might improve but that player in front of them might also be the necessary component to build a better defense.

      What do you think?

      • Hi Sash, Lovren has disappointed, there’s no two ways about it. I just can’t stand this world of extremities we live in. Lovren is the worst player ever to put the shirt on, Matip is absolutely quality – the new Alan Hansen. The truth is smack bang in the middle. They’re both ok. Nothing has shown they’re good enough for LFC’s first choice team, there’s plenty of evidence they’re both good enough for 3rd choice. Obviously, 3rd choice means they play 20 first team matches. I’m ok with that. All I’m saying is neither have had a decent partner with them or more accurately, a compatible one. Sometimes 2 centre halves click. Sometimes, as you say, a defensive midfielder helps form a triangle of solidity. LFC haven’t had that for a long time. Lovren’s a good player but he’s very front foot. I often say he just lacks a brain but a good partner can help him. It’s too early to write him off. I simply can’t buy he was at fault for Spurs first goal. Both centre halves left Kane because he was 2 yards offside except he wasn’t because Gomez was asleep. Both CH’s were in line. Both had their backs to Gomez. It was up to Gomez to step up. He realised far too late. Gomez may be a good player in time but he’s not ready to play CH. I was in Liverpool last night watching Billy Bragg so I missed his England game. Regardless of his performance I stand by my belief that he’s not ready ‘yet’.
        I’ve always defended Henderson as much as I defend my kids. Recently, I’ve started to think about him more in that position. The narrative has changed. He’s not wank anymore he’s just average and LFC need better if they’re to win the win the league. Even 6 weeks ago I’d have rubbished that narrative. Now, I’m not so sure. I suppose deep down, I’m leaning more towards a new trio of CH’s and a DM.

        • Hi Robin, How was the Billy Bragg show? I have not listened to any of his music yet, but chanced upon this one since you mentioned him.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DG4wRpemEM

          I liked the song, and the location since I lived and worked in Chicago and especially love trains. So many great films were shot at the Union Station, they both looked right at home.

          Any particular album you recommend I give a listen to?

          Re Lovren, and the fab back four/five (Henderson), I get the impression that Lovren and Henderson might be trying too hard to live up to the hype (and big paychecks) they came with.

          Maybe Jurgen also needs to realize when the gig’s up – not everyone is an Aubameyang, Lewandowski or Hummels. In retrospect, these guys looked like they already had it in them to begin with.

          Well, Jurgen opted to assess and see. So it might be that he will give it until the end of this season and make the tough decisions in the summer…though I’m still hoping for some kind of turnaround by all of them (including Jurgen) till then.

          Looking forward to this weekend’s match up.

          Up the Reds!

          • Hi sash. That link you posted was from his recent album where he travelled from Chicago to LA on the train looking for inspiration to write modern day folk songs based on his heroes such as Woody Guthrie.

            To answer your question I’d have to give you some background. I got into him in 1984. At the time the miners strike was on and he was touring with the Red Wedge tour raising money for miners families. So, he was very left wing or a socialist to be more accurate. He single handedly shaped my politics. In 2011 he wrote Never buy the Sun which has the chorus Scousers never buy….. All money. He donated all the proceeds from it.

            I was obsessed by his music in the 80’s but after that till now just liked him (and continued to listen to his 80’s releases, haha). His songs were quite political then plus he wrote a lot of love songs but ones mixed with what I’d call cynicism but he wouldn’t like that description. 10 years ago he told me not to be so cynical as it was the worst thing going. The other night he said capitalism isn’t the enemy it’s cynicism. I knew he was going to say that haha.

            Anyway, I digress. My point is although his songs have stood the test of time to an extent they were written to reflect the current political, social, ecomonical and cultural climate so I can’t recommend those 80’s albums now. They’d sound dated. All I’ll say is I loved his work between 83-87 and still do because it shaped my youth. Back to basics was a compilation album of his first 2 albums and my favourite is talking to the taxman about poetry. He’s done some good ones recently but they’re on things like English identity. Not sure what you’d think of those over there. He’s constantly touring the states so I may be wrong. So, maybe it’s time and place music, maybe you’d like it. Hard to know.

        • @Robin, thanks for the information on BB. Sorry but I think my essays errr comments seem to take up too space so had to reply to your comment above.

          I’ll give those 80s tracks a listen, partly because I am biased over that decade and others before 2000. Just seemed to have a lot more going in those days.

          Anyways will catch up with you after Saturday’s match up.

  5. this is a man who was put on his backside by someone waving their hand over the ball, just not good enough, however the abuse is totally unacceptable, it won’t help him in the slightest.

  6. James Lambert

    He frustrates me most I think, because he really seems to have the talent to be an ‘elite’ defender. He has all The footballing attributes, he just doesn’t seem to have the mentality to perform at a high level for a run of games.

  7. Making a death threat against someone’s family because they didn’t do well in a game of football is about as embarrassing as it gets really.

  8. nosredneHnadroJ

    Exactly. He might not be great, but we get behind him, he’ll be better than he would otherwise be. Criticism it ridiculously counterproductive. If we realised the detrimental effect it had, we wouldn’t do it half as much.

  9. Paul McMaster

    Great article and exactly what every fan needs to be telling themselves. Hopefully he gets the full backing of the support on Saturday if he plays.

  10. Didn’t TAW recently publish an article where a suggested solution to the team’s problems was to hold down Sturridge and kill him like you would an animal? or did I miss the joke.

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