Jürgen Klopp is targeting improved defensive stability in the 2017/18 campaign as he looks to build on his first full Premier League season in charge.
It’s no secret that Liverpool’s Achilles heel for much of the last decade has been their defence.
The club have, for the most part, been fine in the goalscoring department and in Klopp’s first full Premier League season they were once again in fine form in front of goal, scoring 78 league goals.
Once again, however, it was the back four that caused the most problems.
While the Reds kept a remarkable four straight clean sheets in their final four games and only conceded two goals in total during their last six, they conceded 42 times over the course of the entire campaign, handing them the second worst defensive record out of the top six.
Jürgen Klopp, however, insists he is aware of this and will be working hard to fix the issue.
Speaking in Hong Kong during the Reds’ pre-season tour, the boss explained: “I know people think about this, but in our ‘non-existing Plan B’ they always talk about offensive things but that makes not too much sense because we scored absolutely enough goals.
“If we concede less and score the same number, that would make the biggest difference. We have to be concentrated on this, we have to defend different situations better and not to think about how we could make the other teams crazy with all the qualities we have.
“With the quality and skills of the boys, you immediately have different options offensively but to be organised is the main thing. If you have four or five very offensively orientated players then all good, that’s what everybody wants… if they are ready to defend.”
Klopp highlighted the Reds’ lack of concentration at times last season as their biggesthindrancee, allowing teams far too often to hit them where it hurts with one quick, counter attacking move.
“You will have seen how we felt a few times, you can have 80 per cent possession but in the end if they have one situation then 1-0.
“We need to make sure that this one situation is not enough or these two situations are not enough against us. Being ready for these moments, that’s the next step we have to do in our progress – that we get more and more used to that we are a possession team and that we are really ready to defend these one, two or three situations the other teams have, which has hurt us so far a lot.”
However, despite them remaining a constant cause of frustration for the Reds last season, the manager refused to blame set-pieces as the main reason the club’s goals against column was so high.
“I don’t want to open the case of set-pieces again because it was not set-pieces. It was second balls after set-pieces, after throw-ins and things like this. We are all sick of talking about it. We defend well but in these moments we have to come absolutely in the right mood. That’s the main target.
“Then, working with these players to create moments, that was never our problem no matter how often people want to say it, that we didn’t create some chances.
“We will score goals, 100 per cent. In the end, if we score one then that needs to be enough in a lot of games and gives you the freedom to improve more and more in different other offensive situations – but only if you are really organised.”
“It’s about different things, but not about how I bring all my offensively skilled boys on the pitch. Who wants to be in this team needs to be ready for organisation, that’s 100 per cent – then we can play football, and very well by the way.”
Klopp is certainly correct that Liverpool’s attacking play is of no concern, especially with the addition of Egyptian speedster Mohamed Salah, who scored 19 times for AS Roma last season in all competitions, to an already potent attacking trio.
However, if the Reds don’t manage to heed the warning of their manager and improve defensively then they are in danger of not managing to take that vital next step. A certain Virgil van Dijk really does look even more appealing right now.