Aaron Curry analyses who will replace Dejan Lovren in defence if the Croatian misses the clash against Manchester United on Monday.
Before this season started, one of the main questions asked of the squad was which centre-back partnership Jürgen Klopp would opt for. Now, with around two months of the season completed, it seems as though the German coach has decided upon new signing Joel Matip and already-present Dejan Lovren. They have performed well together, which would make perfect sense that Lovren has now sustained an injury.
In the last fixture before the abhorred international break, away to Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium, Lovren suffered a groin injury which has kept him ruled out for the clash against sworn enemies Manchester United. The next question Klopp now has to answer is; who is Lovren’s replacement?
Of course, with the beauty of Liverpool’s all new and improved squad depth, it means there are several options we should consider. Ragnar Klavan and Lucas Leiva are the names in the forefront of my mind. The most obvious choice being new Estonian signing, Klavan, however, we never tend to decipher the thinking of the manager.
I would personally like to see him earn a place in the starting eleven (as much as I like Lucas Leiva) due to him putting in his most impressive performance away to Derby County. He bagged himself a goal as well as a clean sheet, and despite people stating that we played lower league opposition, the job still had to be carried out.
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There is a feeling that Klavan certainly isn’t a bad centre back option when one of the first choice players is unavailable – so now, for instance. He probably also feels as though he has something to prove to the manager and maybe push for a starting place. Although this should be typical of every footballer, he has been in and out of the starting eleven like a yo-yo this season, and he must surely want to cement a place in the first team.
Starting in the first two Premier League games against Arsenal then Burnley wasn’t ideal to throw him into the deep end. Two away games in your first two starts is hard enough for any player, not to mention the fact the Premier League is the most competitive league in the world. It certainly wasn’t ideal, but Klavan has muscled his way through and could potentially feature on Monday night.
As mentioned previously, the next best option for Klopp would undoubtedly be Lucas Leiva, who has several aspects to his game which Klavan, unfortunately, doesn’t. The Brazilian joined us in 2007, which means he has been an ever-present figure in the dressing room for just over 9 years.
This sort of experience proves crucial in a derby match against the fiercest of rivals. A calm head and wise decisions can be a turning point and can decide if the game is won or lost. Time and time again this fixture has seen reckless challenges which leads to a sending off – something Liverpool cannot afford. Lucas would surely provide the team with this kind of priceless experience.
Along with this, he has shown to be very versatile in terms of where he can play on the pitch. Klopp transformed the 29-year-old, who initially played as a central defensive midfielder, into a centre back. He probably suited this well due to his lack of an ‘eye for goal’, so to speak. Scoring only six times in his entire Liverpool career, it is easy to see why his physique is better suited to a defensive role.
This versatility means Klopp can be a little freer with his substitutions, as Leiva can move into different positions as the game progresses. Being able to adapt to a situation in the moment could prove crucial and may be part of the reason why he chooses to go with Lucas over Klavan.
There is also the outcast figure of fan-favourite Mamadou Sakho who has been playing with the under-23s. He was a key figure last season but seems to have fallen out with the manager. Sakho would probably be lucky to find himself on the bench, let alone the team sheet but we never know as fans.
My underlying suspicion is that we will see Matip partner Lucas in central defence, although we will only be able to find out at 7pm Monday night – an hour before we take on our loathed rivals Manchester United, and claim 3 valuable points.
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