Sanjay Nair analyses Liverpool’s last three Premier League outings and investigates whether or not the Reds are as bad at aerial defence as some would suggest.
A quarter of the season has passed us by, in terms of the number of games played in the Premier League, and the start has been very positive both in terms of our league position as well as our irresistible style of play. In fact, if one were to draw comparison to the most recent standout season i.e. 2013/14, where we eventually finished 2nd, Liverpool have actually collected 3 points more (23 from 10) at the same stage. More goals scored and a better goal difference point to the possibilities of another good shot at the title.
However, it has not always been a smooth and clinical performance by the Reds. There is no doubting the offensive ability of this team, and their capacity to find goalscorers from all over the park. In addition to the midfielders, Matip, Lovren, Klavan and Milner playing as left-back have all been on the score sheet.
Opposing teams are sure to have realised they cannot stop Liverpool from scoring simply by targeting one or two players but just as good as we are in attack, the defending at certain junctures has been keeping fans and players alike on the edge. Many a blueprint in opposing locker rooms seems to have one note in common, “Aerial bombardment of the Liverpool 18-yard box.”
But is this really the case? Is our defence perpetually jittery or unsure of themselves? An in-depth analysis of the last three matches played, however, points to the contrary.
A clean sheet with barely a moment of danger showed that the defence was brilliant in quelling whatever Manchester United threw at them. Keeping Ibra and Pogba quite for 90 minutes in such a highly-charged atmosphere, and with so much pride at stake, is no mean feat.
A second successive clean sheet was on the cards for 80 minutes against West Bromwich Albion, however, we conceded from a corner through slack defending, and all of a sudden it seemed as if havoc would set in and the Baggies would deny us a win. But again, the defence slugged it out till the end with no further damage.
If the first half against Crystal Palace was any indicator, the game would have seen more goals conceded by Liverpool. The final result proved otherwise, be it the players taking individual responsibility or on the back of a presumably harsh halftime talk from the manager. Benteke, who would have been relishing the opportunity to prove a point to Klopp, was kept in check by the brilliant Matip.
Perhaps, this needs to be looked at as an occupational hazard more than anything. Perhaps our defenders go into every game knowing they are being scrutinised for their every move. Perhaps, this eventually contributes to the odd blunder or two. Perhaps the goalkeeper, be it Mignolet or Karius, does not communicate enough with the ones in front of them. Whatever it may be, one cannot fault them for not trying to improve or finding ways to negate their shortcomings. The two goals from Lovren and Matip, immediately following the Palace goals, is prime evidence of the fantastic attitude that these two bring onto the pitch for Liverpool.
The next two games will further showcase how much they learn from the mistakes committed so far as Watford and Southampton will provide stern tests. A good outing for our backline, with a clean sheet to boot, should hopefully remove them from the radar for a while.