Seems like a long time ago a team has scored a really special goal against us where our defence hasn’t at least contributed due to poor clearance or not closing down the second ball. The problems with our defence are evident to see, but what is equally evident is the changing in personal due to injuries etc. However we can’t kid ourselves either, these defensive problems have blighted the Brendan Rodgers reign, and was none too evident in that spectacular collapse at Selhurst Park when we were coasting 3-0, and our defence collapsed allowing palace to claim an unlikely point.
In fact the back four (five counting the goalkeeper situation) for Liverpool you could argue has been a problem since the reign of Rafa Benitez came to an end. I think Rafa was the last tactician, who got the balance just right, and who presided to a new defensive record that surpassed our great defenders of the 80’s marshaled by the excellent Alan Hansen. I believe that record was broken in the World Club Championships where we ended up losing finalists. Rafa arguably had a superior spine throughout the team than this current team, but don’t forget money has been made available for each Liverpool manager (okay not enough to compete with the Manchester City’s, Chelsea, and Arsenal’s), but this money is just wasted.
We have arguably better wing backs than we had under Rafa Benitez, Nataniel Clyne looks to be a level above Steve Finnan (who was a great defender for us by the way, shame we didn’t sign him earlier), Alberto Moreno looks on a par with John Arne Riise, time will tell of course, but Moreno needs to add defensive stability to his game, but we can all see now why we bought him. Maybe in the future he can be utilized in the left wing position with Jon Flanagan in behind. Really delighted to see him back. Perhaps Joe Gomez will eventually fit in as center back to allocate room for Jon “Cafu” Flanagan. Joe really impressed at the start of the season, and big things will be expected of him when he comes back next season.
So the full backs are fast, they love to get forward, where is the problem?. Well they’re very fast, but they are physically small especially for defending set pieces. Remembering under Houllier we defended with physically taller full backs in Marcus Babel and Jamie Carragher, the latter who didn’t get forward much, but we were blessed to have Marcus Babel play arguably his best football in that sole season at Anfield when we won the treble, and his contribution was immense. We certainly defended set pieces very well, and then going forward we had Sami Hyppia, Steven Gerrard, Babel, Carra, all guys who like to attack the ball get on the end of so many set pieces. When have we last scored from a corner? It could be a good idea that the ball is played to the edge of the six yard box, and flicked on to an Emre Can, to allow our center backs attack the ball whilst having an Adam Lallana in and around the goalkeeper. I would like us to have more threat in and around set pieces. We’re getting hammered at set pieces whilst offering very little in return. And also keep two players on the posts, it’s this obsession with zonal marking that is hurting us. We had our ex-manager on Sky Sports last week saying he prefers man marking, well why didn’t he do it then, because his team certainly didn’t defend set pieces with man marking.
Okay so the full backs are small, the center backs will take care of it. Well whether it is injury, or loss of form, our center back pairings have changed so much kopites can argue what the best defensive pairing is. No matter what pair you have they are all making individual mistakes. When you are struggling to score goals at the top end of the field then you can’t concede, and we’ve been making mistakes all season in our ability to defend set pieces. Then we have the curious case of Simon Mignolet, who a lot of people claim is a great shot stopper, well so is every keeper in the Premier League, else they wouldn’t be there. Is he a keeper to command his box like a Ray Clemence or Bruce Grobbelaar? Absolutely not, I think he would be okay to have in the squad but not as a number one. And until now we haven’t had a challenger for his position, Adam Bogdan came in and flopped spectacularly. Danny Ward is still an unknown at this level, although reports are refreshing. Individual mistakes at the back has already cost us points now in loads of games, noticeably Crystal Palace, Manchester United, Arsenal, and Southampton at Anfield. Yes it looks like an issue that Klopp has to sort out but I don’t think he will have one hundred percent capacity to do this before the summer.
When I played football as a keeper I was told before the match that organizing the defence was my job at corners, there was never such a thing as zonal marking, you went man for man, and the keeper came and claimed the ball. Nowdays I look at how we defend set pieces, and it looks like we are trying to mark the space. We have to go back to man marking, and by doing so we move with the man. We tried zonal marking and we failed spectacularly. Now we push on.
I would be very disappointed that if after the summer, and for the start of the new season we don’t find ourselves with a new keeper, center back, attacking midfielder and a striker. The need for a center back like Mats Hummels would be a great coup for Klopp, especially as he has long been targeted by Manchester United. Hopefully Jürgen can use his knowledge and personal experience to bring in the additional quality needed at Anfield. As for a striker, Daniel Sturridge is not dependable, Christian Benteke just doesn’t look a Liverpool player, I do like the movement of Divok Origi, and the energy of Danny Ings, but are these the strikers that can turn us from eighth position into title challengers? I don’t see it anyway. Maybe that striker is already being courted with the news of liverpools interest in Alex Teixera, hopefully we’ll get the deal done, and if that doesn’t encourage sturridge to get and stay fit then we should think about offloading.
An attacking midfielder, someone in the shape of Mkhitaryan, who Brendan was certainly in for but who Jürgen took to Dortmund. I think with the position our club is in now we have to pay that bit extra, to firstly beat the competition and wages on offer in London, and the offer of Champions League football. We may well have to accept as supporters that we are not a top four team, and probably fighting for sixth or seventh is our true position. That hurts, but we have fallen so far behind, and what is frustrating is that the league is wide open this year, Spurs could push through and win it, Leicester are giving it a go. We have to ignore all that, implement the Klopp’s way of football, get rid of the deadwood, invest in quality and not quantity. Prepare to pay big to get Liverpool back to the pinnacle. It’s been a frustrating year and a half, and we deserve more, but we have the right man to bring us forward, just give him a level playing field.