Jack Hallows reviews Dejan Lovren’s 2016/17 season, highlighting his ups, downs and some of his utterly bizarre decision making.
Dejan Lovren… Where do I begin?
Let’s start here.
All in all, I felt that Lovren actually had a fairly sound season. The Croatian stepped up well into his role as Klopp’s go-to man whenever Jöel Matip was absent and while at the time it seemed a strange decision, handing him a new contract was a smart decision on Liverpool’s part.
While the Reds defence resembled a leaky faucet at times this season, there were also games when Lovren, in particular, absolutely stood up to the plate. He had Romelu Lukaku in his pocket at Anfield back in April and it was generally when asked to step up against the league’s better strikers that he seemed to thrive as he helped keep the likes of Diego Costa, Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero quiet.
In his 29 Premier League appearances this season, the centre-back averaged eight defensive actions per 90, making 175 clearances, 43 interceptions and 15 blocks while also showing a real solidity in the air, managing to win 64% of his headed duels. There was also a newfound composure and intelligence in his passing, evidenced in his 86% passing accuracy and the fact that over 3/4 of his total passes were made in a forward direction.
Not to be entirely outdone by his attacking teammates, Lovren also contributed two goals – including a huge goal at Stamford Bridge – and one assist.
Unfortunately, Lovren was still prone to the occasional brain lapse and managed to make 3 defensive errors that led directly to attempts on goals this season. Luckily for him, only one ended in a goal for the opposition – his awful, shanked clearance at Crystal Palace for those who need reminding.
Interestingly, the only player who made more defensive errors in the entire squad was Gini Wijnaldum (4) and it’s a fairly damning statistic that Lovren made more defensive errors himself than the rest of Klopp’s first choice back four combined. That being said, none of Lovren’s errors actually cost the Reds any points as they ended all three games victorious.
It is also worth highlighting that Lovren only won 46% of his attempted tackles this season, which for a first choice centre back, shouldn’t be acceptable. The Croatian’s weakness at times in the tackle is only further emphasised by his first choice partner Jöel Matip, who managed to win 58% of his attempted challenges.
That back pass against Palace was what some would regard as ‘prime Dejan Lovren.’ He rectified his error almost immediately with a headed goal at the other end but the fact he had to says a lot. The other stand out was his woeful defensive header against Bournemouth that not only sold James Milner short but led to the Englishman conceding a penalty after failing to recover.
The Croatian would be a superb reserve centre back behind a pairing of Matip and someone like Van Dijk next season but his tendency to make the most avoidable of mistakes just cannot be tolerated by a side who next season will hopefully be competing in the Champions League.
It’s not been a terrible season for Lovren by any stretch of the imagination and as I said before, there have been times he’s genuinely looked very solid. He’s been solid in the air, he looks more confident when communicating with the rest of the back line and for the most part his decision making has improved as he’s simplified his game.
That being said, however, if the Reds are to mount a serious title challenge next season and compete in Europe, he’ll have to settle for a place behind someone of serious quality.