Keaton Kular explains why Liverpool’s capitulation at Wembley last season in the Premier League has actually made the Reds a much stronger side in the long run.
In this piece, I’ll look at how Liverpool’s 4-1 defeat to Spurs last season at Wembley sparked a complete change in the Merseyside outfit’s defensive fortunes which have transformed them into title contenders this season.
When these two the sides met at Wembley last October, Spurs were comfortable 4-1 winners and that heavy defeat would prove to be a catalyst for Liverpool’s season.
The defeat left them ninth in the table after as many games, with just three wins and a negative goal difference. This game was yet another reminder of Liverpool’s defensive inadequacies, with mistakes from Simon Mignolet and Dejan Lovren, who was hauled off before half-time.
The Croatian defender suffered heavy criticism after this game from fans, who were still crying out for Virgil van Dijk after failing to acquire the Dutchman in the summer transfer window.
For most fans, it was the last straw for Lovren and he was the centre-half expected by many to be replaced when Liverpool finally captured van Dijk in the winter transfer window.
Instead, Lovren would become a symbol of Liverpool’s defensive turnaround, the defender went on re-establish himself in the team with dominant displays and would become a vital part of Liverpool’s new look defence alongside van Dijk.
Liverpool’s defensive record since that horror show at Wembley last October has improved remarkably becoming the best defensive record in the Premier League. The Reds have conceded just 23 goals (three fewer than any other side) in the division since that day and kept 17 clean sheets (including 3 in 4 games so far this season).
After that hammering from Spurs last season, with just nine league games played, Liverpool had conceded a remarkable 16 goals at a rate of 1.7 per game. Now the Reds have the best minutes to goals conceded ratio in the league, only conceding a goal every 129 minutes played.
Liverpool’s new defensive stability has certainly been aided by major personal changes and heavy investment. Last year’s trip to Spurs saw Simon Mignolet, Joe Gomez, Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip and Alberto Moreno line up as the visitors’ back five.
Of that defence, only Gomez has featured this season and is expected to start on Saturday as part of the new look defence alongside van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson with Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson Becker in goal.
This season, Liverpool make the trip to Spurs as League leaders with a formidable defensive record. The Reds are hoping to maintain their 100% start to the season which has seen them concede just one goal so far.
If the Reds can overcome the stern test Spurs will present at Wembley this afternoon, then it will show just how much progress Jürgen Klopp’s team has made since that humbling defeat last season.
The Reds have a chance tomorrow to go full circle and wholly banish their defensive demons and prove their credentials as serious contenders.