Dave Davis discusses why defensive solidity will trump attacking flair in the next few weeks.
They say if you’re going to win titles then it comes down to your defence, not your attack. Up until recently, Liverpool fans have been confident that we can outscore any opposition side, regardless of who we’re playing. That appears true at the start of the season as the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea would testify, yet right now it appears that Jurgen Klopp may be starting to get what he’s always been looking for.
Top scorers in the Premier League with the likes of Leicester, Watford and Hull being put to the sword at Anfield. A fearsome front three of Mane, Firmino and Coutinho have been racking up the goals and assists left, right and centre. Lallana and others were chipping in too, whilst even our left back looks on course to hit double figures in penalties alone. It’s been great so far, but history tells you that output never lasts for one reason or another.
Philippe Coutinho, the little magician, has picked up a knock and looks likely to be sidelined until the new year. Lallana has been out for the last few weeks whilst it’s been noticeable that Mane hasn’t been the same player in the last few weeks for one reason or another. Add in a knock against Sunderland and a rest for Firmino and Klopp is having to look at things from a different angle.
In the month of November, Liverpool have only conceded one goal against Watford, whilst keeping clean sheets against Sunderland, Leeds and Southampton. When he first arrived at Anfield, for all the buzz around Dortmund’s attacking stars he’d cultivated, many expected Klopp to shore up a porous defence by developing those who could become the new Hummels and Subotic.
He’s got one already in Joel Matip. The Cameroonian has been an instant hit at Anfield and as it stands right now, has a real case to be named the best centre-half on current form in the league. Matip’s poise and relaxed style appears to have rubbed off on Dejan Lovren and the two appear to have formed a decent partnership. Take away any distribution issues and it looks like Loris Karius appears to be settling in with every game that passes.
Teams are starting to sit off us and buses will be parked on more than one occasion still. With Coutinho out and Mane missing during AFCON, oppositions sides will fancy that they can hold out as we could lack the tools to break them down. Recent wins have been great with clean sheets, but they’ve both had to be earned with goals in the last 15 minutes of the game despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession.
If you keep clean sheets, though, results should inevitably follow. Klopp may just be looking at things slightly differently now though and despite the resurgence of Divock Origi, it may be the case that opposition drubbings aren’t the standard format for a while. As results become more and more important, solidity is what’s needed.