Our man Dave Tindall is worried about Jurgen Klopp’s newly-formed Liverpool rearguard, in fact he’s very worried and outlines why with the three I’s.
On the face of it, our defence has done a solid enough job in pre-season.
Tranmere 0-1 Liverpool, Fleetwood 0-5 Liverpool, Wigan 0-2 Liverpool, Huddersfield 0-2 Liverpool, Chelsea 1-0 Liverpool.
One goal conceded in five matches and that to Premier League heavyweights Chelsea in the U.S. But it’s surely not off the mark to say that Liverpool’s backline looks unsettled and unconvincing with the new Premier League season just over a fortnight away.
The problems? The three I’s. Indiscipline, inexperience and injury.
Let’s start with the first. Mamadou Sakho is a hugely popular figure amongst team-mates and fans. He does a lot of great work in the community too. He’s a character. But he’s also not the sharpest tool in the box. You’d think that after causing the club all sorts of negative publicity by failing a drugs test in April he’d be doing everything in his power to be a model citizen despite eventually being cleared. And it doesn’t necessarily mean lying low and suppressing his obvious enthusiasm.
But, despite not being fit for selection, it’s somewhat dumb to act like a lackadaisical teenager on Liverpool’s trip to America and be late for the plane, miss a treatment session and fail to make a meal on time. In isolation, all are petty; as a series they smack of unprofessionalism and taking the p*ss.
As soon as I saw the clip of an apparently jovial Jurgen Klopp making mention of Sakho holding the flight up, I thought trouble was brewing. So when the stories emerged that he’d sent the Frenchman home it was no surprise that indiscipline was the cause rather than those hopeful counter-stories about him going back to get more treatment.
Sakho. Silly boy. Raise your game mate.
We need the Frenchman’s passion and leadership on the pitch because there are problems elsewhere.
— Melissa Reddy (@MelissaReddy_) July 28, 2016
It begins in goal where Klopp has been giving Loris Karius a run of games. As yet, the young £4.7m signing from Mainz hasn’t had an awful lot to do but so far we’ve seen him almost commit a howler against Wigan after letting a back-pass slip under his foot and then punch Dejan Lovren in the head when coming for a cross against Chelsea.
Okay, it’s pre-season and he’s settling in but that’s the point. If Klopp does promote him above Simon Mignolet, errors are also likely to creep in when the real stuff starts. That’s not a criticism; just an acceptance of reality. The alternative is sticking with Mignolet and last season the Belgian just wasn’t reliable.
Nathaniel Clyne is a strong presence on the right side of defence but how about the back-up? Connor Randall is still learning the ropes so again it’s not an area overflowing with options.
In the middle, there are more question marks due to injury and inexperience. Joel Matip is a proven performer in the Bundesliga and a Cameroonian international but he has no knowledge of the Premier League and there have been comments in pre-season that he’s been knocked off the ball a bit easily. It hardly helps that he’s suffered a bruised ankle and had surgery over the summer to remove a screw in that same area.
Cover has been provided by Ragnar Klavan (who?), the new £4.2m signing from Augsburg. Reaction in Germany was that he was more suited to a mid-table Premier League side (awkward cough given that we were eighth last season) but, to be fair, the Estonia captain did a good job against Chelsea and Kolo Toure couldn’t go on forever.
Klavan will be fourth or fifth choice though (Joe Gomez surely above him in the pecking order) when everyone is fit so that’s the reality.
And so finally to the very confusing issue of left-back. Alberto Moreno was a huge weak link last season despite his obvious athleticism and brightness going forward. But here’s what the Liverpool Echo said about his performance in the 1-0 friendly defeat to Chelsea: “A bit of a nightmare 82 minutes for the Spaniard. He was shown a yellow card early on for a rash challenge on Willian and generally used the ball poorly. Needs competition to push him further.”
In other words, nothing has changed. In addition, the Echo’s last comment resonates further given that earlier this week we sold young Aussie left-back Brad Smith to Bournemouth.
Okay, getting £6million for a squad player is good business on one hand but it’s a drop in the ocean in a Premier League awash with more money than ever. We need players not loose change and I can’t quite fathom out why Smith was let go.
Klopp loves to make players better through training but Moreno is the boy at the back of the class not taking anything in.
Jon Flanagan? The stories of a loan move to Burnley suggest he’s not the answer for now. Of course, the other option is that our German boss could have some surprise new signing up his sleeve. But, even if he has, it’s asking a lot for a new man to come and slot in straight away.
The bottom line is that Moreno is our first-choice left-back going into the new season. Concerned? I am.
We’ll know a bit more after the upcoming friendlies against AC Milan and Barcelona (exciting but gulp) but, right now, the foundations on which winning teams are built – the defence – look far from secure.