Ragnar Klavan has revealed the striker he found it most difficult to defend against in the Premier League last campaign.
The 2016/17 season saw the Reds come up against a number of quality strikers during their Premier League campaign.
The likes of Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku, Sergio Aguero, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Diego Costa are just a taste of the calibre of attacking threat that Liverpool’s defence had to deal with and Ragnar Klavan has now had his say on who the toughest striker he had to defend against was.
Spoiler, it’s none of the above.
“It’s a good question,” Klavan said according to the ECHO.
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“I’d say Peter Crouch. That was the biggest surprise. Really! He was good. He was fast enough, he was strong enough and he was technical enough. I had never played against him before. When I came up against him (when Liverpool hammered Stoke 4-1 at Anfield) it was a positive surprise.”
Klavan enjoyed a solid first season on Merseyside and perhaps played a lot more football than he’d expected after making a £4.2m switch from the Bundesliga last summer.
His stand out performance was a stellar showing in Liverpool’s 1-0 Merseyside derby win at Goodison last December when the Estonian shackled Romelu Lukaku and made his value look far closer to £7.5m than the £75m he just moved for. Despite this, the Estonian admits the leap in quality was tough to get to grips with at first.
“The Premier League was harder than I thought,” he admitted.
“It took a while to get used to it. Learning what’s allowed in that league and what’s not. I think my first year was all right. I tried to help the team as much as possible. I had some good games and some not so good games. It was like that for the whole team – up and down.”
The Estonian international has placed an emphasis this summer on improving Liverpool’s defensive security, both with his own performances and as a whole defensive unit.
“It comes down to more work. It’s a bit in your head,” Klavan added.
“With the football we play, most of the time we are the attacking side. You want to bring more energy and focus on the attacking side. When it suddenly changes then maybe we aren’t quick enough in our heads to make that change and protect our goal. That’s one of the points we are working on to make that change a bit quicker.”
“Being a defender in this team is different for sure. You are involved in every aspect of the game. You always have to be in the game so it’s a big change.”
“Pre-season has been tough. There’s been a lot of running. It’s how pre-season always is – trying to get fit before the new season. This year pre-season time is a bit tighter in terms of the preparations so there is more stuff packed in.”
At the other end of the field, Klavan is looking forward to seeing what devastation a partnership of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané can cause with both possessing incredible speed, an eye for goal and the X-factor required to be the difference.
“It won’t be easy for anyone to defend against Sadio and Mo. They are really good players with the pace they have,” he said.
“They aren’t the biggest but Sadio can jump really high. They are a threat in so many ways. Their speed when they get in behind and it’s one against one is going to be important.”
“We will give it our best for sure. Last season we started really well and then had a little lull. For one-and-a-half months it was a tough phase. We will try to avoid that and keep it going for the full season.”