Michael Baddeley has a look at Liverpool’s injury woes at the back, with it seemingly impossible for Jöel Matip and Dejan Lovren to play more than a few games in succession together.
Liverpool’s defence has taken its fair share of criticism this season and to be fair, there has been numerous times this season where you can’t argue with some of the assessments.
For example, when awful teams like Swansea start to lump the ball into the box and bully our ‘defenders’ at home, then the so-called experts have every reason to slam the defence.
But the one thing people can’t nitpick when talking about our defence is the partnership between Jöel Matip and Dejan Lovren.
The two have got the foundations of what could be a very good centre-back partnership. In fact, in the 13 Premier League games they’ve started together Liverpool have won eight, drawn five, lost none and only conceded 11 goals in the process.
But this is exactly where the problem lies.
Out of the 33 Premier League games played the Reds have only been able to field the two together 13 times. Matip has started 67% of the Reds’ matches whilst Lovren has managed to start 73% which in all fairness doesn’t seem so bad.
It’s when you realise that the backup is a 30-year-old midfielder and 31-year-old centre-back, who looks completely out of his depth, that it really starts to sink in how bad this stat is.
No disrespect to Klavan and Lucas Leiva as they are both good players, but when you have ambitions of challenging for titles then they really aren’t the level of backup we need.
I get that Matip and Lovren can’t help how poor their reserves are, but it would be great if the two started taking a leaf out of Jamie Carragher’s book and played through the pain barrier.
This is where everyone starts to cry ‘if Mama Sakho was here we wouldn’t have this problem’ and begin clutching at straws as to why he might come back. Newsflash guys, he isn’t coming back anytime soon and will move on this summer, get over it.
Again our luck with injuries doesn’t seem to be changing, however, it could be much more serious than before as Matip, Klavan and Lucas could all miss this weekend’s clash with Crystal Palace and it’s likely we will see youngster Joe Gomez partner Lovren.
The situation may be a blessing in disguise.
Klopp is facing yet another defensive selection dilemma which seems to have highlighted the fact that it is a really weak area in the squad and the gaffer will need to address it in the summer window.
Thankfully, the German coach seems to have realised this and when asked about ‘spending heavily on the defence in the summer’, he admitted that it would “make sense” to do so.
However, when talking to the press on Thursday the gaffer did try to play the issue down by stating he has to “find a solution for the weekend, not for next season.”
It might be a big call, but if Matip and Lovren didn’t get so many injuries throughout the course of the season, then I firmly believe that we would be fighting for the title right now. For the first three months of 2017, the two managed to start only one Premier League game together.
Funnily enough, their lack of game time together coincided with Liverpool’s awful dip in form. Coincidence? I think not.
A lot of people will say that Mané going off to AFCON and the other injuries played a part in this dip and they are 100% right. But you can’t rule out Matip and Lovren’s influence over this side and like Sir Alex Ferguson said, “a good attack will win games, a good defence will win leagues.”
We might not have won the league if they did stay fit, but with them two in the back four then we would have definitely given it a damn good go.
Unfortunately, we can’t rely on players staying fit all season and as I stated earlier we really do need to invest heavily on defensive reinforcements. Let’s just hope the reports of the club being ready to smash their transfer record by going out and purchasing Virgil Van Dijk are true!