As far as opening fixtures go, there’s not many more difficult that Liverpool could have than Arsenal at The Emirates.
It goes without saying that to get any kind of result at The Emirates, the Reds will have to be on top form defensively and not as vulnerable as they were last term at the back. In terms of goals scored, you never got the impression that scoring goals was an issue under Klopp.
In 2016 the Reds scored more than any other side. In terms of goals conceded however, Liverpool conceded more than 6 other teams in the league. When you think of the points dropped to Sunderland at home, Newcastle at home, Norwich at home and Southampton away from winning positions, it becomes frustratingly clear how much Liverpool’s defence cost them Champions League qualification last time out.
Even in the two finals we contested last year, a goalkeeping howler in one and a total collapse defensively in another meant the goals we scored weren’t enough.
Jurgen Klopp seems to have recognised this, signing two centre backs and a goalkeeper in the shape of Joel Matip, Ragnar Klavan and Loris Karius. In typical Liverpool fashion, Karius has broken his wrist meaning he will miss the first two months of the campaign. This ensures that Simon Mignolet will get a chance to redeem himself for his failures last year early doors this time out.
Whereas last year outside of Lovren and Sakho we had bog standard replacements in Kolo Toure and Martin Skrtel, this time out we have four strong competitors for central defence in Lovren, Sakho, Matip and Klavan. There is a good balance between these four defenders as two are right sided primarily (Lovren and Matip) and two are left sided (Sakho and Klavan). Despite these options looking good on paper, there have been difficulties this pre-season.
An injury to Joel Matip has halted his pre-season after a solid start for the Cameroon international. As well as this, a lack of punctuality has cost Mamadou Sakho his place on the American Tour, being sent home early by Jurgen Klopp. As a result, Liverpool may be forced into going with Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan for the trip to the Emirates on Sunday 14th.
Clyne really In terms of right back, you’d imagine there won’t be much change from last year. Nathaniel impressed in his debut season at Anfield. Cool defending coupled with a few decent ventures forward meant Clyne was able to consolidate himself under Jurgen Klopp and get an England call up.
Whereas a lot has been made about other Anfield recruits in the past, the club can take solace in the fact that Clyne, Firmino and Milner have slotted straight into the LFC team and haven’t been the subject of online trolls and ridicule. Clyne will be an ever-present this term you’d imagine and got the better of most of his opponents last year. More of the same from him is required.
It wouldn’t be harsh to say there were two weak links for the Reds last season at the back. Simon Mignolet being one and our left back Alberto Moreno being the other. Often you can get away with weak links in normal games however they always are exposed the further as a team you get. Mignolet’s league cup final error and Moreno’s second half against Sevilla can be looked at as evidence for that.
Jurgen Klopp has decided that the pair are worth sticking with this season, and largely it hasn’t gone down well. You can tell Klopp rates some aspects of Moreno’s game. His engine means he can transition from defence to attack instantly. Whereas Mignolet will be second fiddle to Karius you’d imagine, Moreno has had no real competition brought in to challenge him. With Brad Smith gone and Jon Flanagan reportedly leaving on loan, Liverpool fans are worrying that they’ll be witness to another season of odd defensive choices and positioning by the Spaniard.
With James Milner as his only real competition at left-back with bids for Ben Chilwell rejected, you’d imagine Moreno will begin the campaign at left back. Reds fans will be hoping that youngster Joe Gomez can put his injury woes behind him and also push Moreno for this spot. Hopefully Klopp can develop Moreno as he has done with the likes of Lovren, Lallana and Origi and turn our marauding fullback into a safe one.
In the long term, you’d imagine Loris Karius and Joel Matip will be ever-presents for the Reds. Hopefully the latter will feature at Arsenal, however if he is to miss the game, LFC are more equipped this year to deal with a centre back injury than they were last time out. The competition for places at the centre of the defence and in goal should hopefully ensure LFC are more of a solid outfit than they were last season.
My prediction for our back 5 against Arsenal:
Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Moreno
Written by Jack Mitchell (@jm97lfc)