Michael Baddeley addresses concerns that Liverpool are shorthanded as far central defenders are concerned.
Lets be real here, Sunday afternoon was a disaster. It was a truly woeful day down on the South-Coast.
We held two a goal lead on two separate occasions and then with 15 minutes to go we had a typical Liverpool meltdown. We were winning 1-3 and had a strong grip on the game, no doubt about that, yet somehow we managed to lose 4-3.
I’m not doubting Bournemouth or trying to be disrespectful here as they are a good team, but how on earth did we blow the lead against a team we are superior too?
We learned several things from the defeat. For example, Mané is returning to the form he hit at the start of the season. He has been good all season obviously, but that was by far one of his better performances. We also saw Origi wasn’t going to let his opportunity to stake a claim for a starting place slip through his fingers either.
But the most important thing we learned was how crucial Joel Matip actually is and how we really do need another centre back when the transfer window opens in January.
No Matip, No Party
There was a lot of concern before the game as news of his omission from the side due to an ankle injury was announced. There seemed to be a sense of nervousness and doubt throughout the fanbase which eventually spread to guys on the pitch. All because of one injury to a guy who signed on a free in the summer – who’d have thought that come December?
Ultimately, it proved that we were right to be concerned about his absence. The whole defence looked shaky throughout the embarrassing second half performance, no-one else more than Dejan Lovren.
The Cherries started to pump the ball into the box in search for an equaliser and then eventually a winner. With every ball that went in, especially for the equaliser and winner, it became more and more evident how much we missed his aerial prowess. I said it when they scored the last two goals and I’ll say it again – if Matip was on the pitch, neither would have been goals as he would have won the aerial challenge, cleared it and all pressure would have been lessened – it’s simple as that.
His leadership and ability to marshall the defence was something else that was sorely missed and Dejan Lovren’s performance proved this. With Matip alongside him, Lovren has been unrecognisable from the player we saw when he first joined the club. And without him, well he’s looked like the player he was when we first signed him.
To be honest we should have realised his importance before the game as all the stats prove just how crucial he has been to the side.
With the big man, we have played 11 games, conceded nine goals, kept three clean sheets and are yet to lose. Now, let’s compare that to the three games he hasn’t played, shall we? Nine goals conceded, no clean sheets and shambolic performances. Oh, he’s also completed 93% of his attempted tackles.
As of Sunday dinner-time, the Reds had conceded just 7.5 shots on goal per league game, according to Whoscored.com. A number which was lower than any other team in the top five leagues across Europe. After the game, it went up to 7.9 which is second to Bayern Munich who have faced 7.8. Something that is down to Matip? I think so!
Do we really need another centre back in January?
Despite specialist centre-back Ragnar Klavan on the bench and out-of-favour Frenchman Mama Sakho sitting in the reserves, Klopp still turned to midfielder Lucas Leiva as Lovren’s partner. Both looked incredibly nervous and bottled it when the pressure was turned on.
As I stated further up, the stats suggest that Liverpool’s defence is improving massively, but overall we haven’t got the depth to compete against average attacks let alone top ones and if are to be title contenders then this needs to change.
In the words of Jamie Carragher, “Lucas as your third centre back, it is probably not enough if you want to go and win the title.”
Again, Lovren struggles when he hasn’t got the colossal Cameroonian alongside him and it’s simply not good enough if he wants to be a starter for a team as big as Liverpool Football Club.
We don’t need another centre-back who will come in, sit on the bench and just add depth. We need another centre-back who will come in, slot into the starting XI alongside Matip and add quality as well as depth. Someone who will be able to play with Lovren when Matip is injured and will have the same effect the 6 foot 5 centre-back has over the Croatian.
Who that will be is yet to become clear for fans around the world. Many supporters have been calling for Liverpool to go back to Southampton, this time for one of the best centre backs in the league, Virgil Van Dijk, who in my opinion, is the missing link in our title push.
Unfortunately, our hopes and reports of signing Van Dijk have been quashed by English media in recent days but not to worry, reoccurring reports have suggested that Klopp could raid the Bundesliga yet again. This time for one of Germany’s two most exciting talents, Jonathan Tah and Niklas Sule.
Klopp has said that he will dip into the market to bolster his attacking threat, but it remains yet to be seen whether he will also try to improve a position that many suggest is crucial in our title hopes.