As Liverpool sailed into a four-goal first-half lead against Norwich City on Friday night, you couldn’t help but feel the lethal form of the forward line was papering over some cracks that were showing at the other end.
Jurgen Klopp’s Reds were exceptional going forward with Mohamed Salah, Divock Origi and Roberto Firmino all hitting the ground running in the first game of the season. Yet, at the other end, Norwich seemed to be able to create chances at will.
Alisson – before leaving with an injury after 39 minutes – had already been busy with one impressive save from a Marco Stiepermann shot standing out, in particular.
Liverpool’s defence looked shaky. For periods of both the first and second halves, The Canaries were able to carve The Reds’ defence open with some neat intricate passing moves.
While Daniel Farke’s side deserves plenty of credit for taking the game to Liverpool, it wasn’t the usual solid defensive performance we grew used to seeing last season. When Teemu Pukki scored in the 64th minute, it was no more than the visitors’ performance had warranted.
Now, with Alisson out injured and Adrian taking his place in goals, Klopp has some tough choices to make regarding the backline.
Joe Gomez started last season as the first-choice central defensive partner for Virgil van Dijk. In the first 12 games, while Gomez was fit, Liverpool only conceded four league goals.
Gomez broke his leg at Burnley in early December. Joel Matip eventually filled in for Gomez from January onwards after recovering from a broken collarbone.
Matip went on to play the best football of his Liverpool career to-date in the second half of last season. He was an integral part of the team which lifted the club’s sixth European Cup.
Last Sunday, against Manchester City in the Community Shield, Gomez started. But it was Matip who came off the bench to equalise for Liverpool and looked comfortable beside Van Dijk again.
Gomez seemed to struggle against Norwich, as did Trent Alexander-Arnold. Liverpool’s main problems came from that right-hand side.
One important factor in having a strong defence is continuity – players getting to know one another and learning each others’ game.
Gomez hadn’t started a competitive game in defence since that night he was injured at Burnley – 9 months ago. Klopp will be watching closely to see how soon he can get back in sync with the rest of the defence.
Matip is waiting for his chance and is a more than capable replacement when needed. His more experienced presence may also be helpful for Adrian as he looks to cover Alisson’s absence (potentially 4 – 6 weeks).
It’s decision-time for Klopp.