Dominic Matteo answered a few of our questions and provided insight into Liverpool’s fullback conundrum, Jürgen Klopp’s ideal defender and who should be the first choice centre-halves for the club.
The Scotsman played for Liverpool for a period of 8 years, and Rousing the Kop have discussed things from Liverpool’s left back headache, right down to who he would have with him as backroom staff if he ever became manager of Liverpool.
Matteo played fullback in an era where defence was a priority for a defender and it’s refreshing to hear his take on what needs to be done at left-back for Liverpool. He mentions that he thinks Liverpool’s issues at left-back could be rooted in the modern game’s indifference to defensive solidity, with the onus being placed on attacking verve.
You played many games for Liverpool in the full back role Dominic, and it’s a hot topic with fans right now. How do you view the current left-back situation?
I see the current full back position as an area that we definitely need to improve. I think going forward Moreno is great and a typical modern day full back, but for me, first and foremost you’re a defender and must be able to defend properly. I also think the full backs need to defend crosses much better. Not letting wingers put balls into the box and also defending crosses aerially much better – and positionally we need to be better.
We hear it mentioned a lot in the media in these days, do you believe the standard of defending has declined since you stopped playing?
For me, this starts at grass roots and I don’t see enough kids wanting to be the next Jamie Carragher, wanting to be defenders; they all want to be strikers. Organising, tackling, heading passing, the basics that make a player tick.
Defenders in the modern game need to learn when to play it out and when it needs to go in row Z. As a former defender, organising the players around you is massive. Jamie Carra was a master at it – making sure the team is set up right, especially when the team is attacking. I think every team needs a defender who can do this and can be a leader too. In the modern game, there aren’t many left and we are struggling to replace them.
You’ve played under a number of managers in your time with different tactics and ideas. What do you think Jürgen Klopp actually looks for in his full-backs?
It’s a mixture of what I have talked about earlier. Knowing when to defend and knowing the right time to get forward, and I also think he wants them to be tougher and win more personal battles on the field.
We know the modern day full back is one of the fittest players in the squad but it is about using that energy properly for the team in all areas – making good decisions and having good football intelligence instead of running for the sake of it.
From what you’ve seen, who would you start with as the first-choice centre-half pairing?
I’m hoping that Lovren and Matip can make a good partnership, but they’ll need games together to get an understanding which every pairing needs. Klavan did ok at Arsenal and in pre-season but overall we are conceding too many goals (soft goals that can be avoided) and not keeping enough clean sheets.
We’ve seen you covering the Reds in pre-season, so you’re well placed to answer this one. What differences do you think we’ll see between last season’s 8th placed side and this season’s squad?
I think the manager having a full pre-season will definitely help the team get a better league position this season. I think it will be very tough to get in the top 4 this year but we are more than capable. But defensively, we have to improve for that to happen. I think this year’s squad is better with some good additions but I think the manager is still searching for his best 11 and possibly will still need more quality in centre areas.
Looking at the squad as it stands, and no sitting on the fence, where do you think we’ll finish?
Like I said, I’m hoping for top 4 if we can improve in our conceding of goals and strengthen in certain areas but an honest answer I will say 5/6th.
Who will be our main men this time around?
Coutinho – creates and scores goals and was our best player last year, and I think he will score more goals this season than last. Lovren – needs to start this season as he finished the last. Henderson – huge year for him has to lead and bring more goals to his game. Wijnaldum and Mane are two players I really like and hoping they have big seasons.
Hypothetical time now. What one change would you make at the club which would have the biggest impact?
Making Anfield a fortress again. Teams coming to Anfield knowing how hard it’s gonna be to get anything from the game and I think teams have had it easy at times at Anfield over the past few years in the league games. The players and manager will want that to happen. Obviously, the fans are always amazing and give it their all every time they come, and with the new stand the noise levels will rise again.
FSG ring you up and offer you the main role; would you accept it, who would you bring in with you and what would be their roles?
Any role for me at Liverpool would be an honour – it’s the club where I started and they gave me the best upbringing in football. If I could bring people with me it would be and, I say this because I learnt so much from them, Steve Heighway and Ronnie Moran. True Liverpool people and they know the club inside out.
Big thanks to Dominic for his willingness to chat to Rousing the Kop. If you’re interested in having him speak at an event head over to Soccer Speakers where you can contact him.