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Liverpool's defensive woes will not concern Jurgen Klopp

If Saturday’s win against Leeds United was a taste of things to come, Liverpool supporters had better strap themselves in for another enthralling white-knuckle ride this season.

Jurgen Klopp and his team certainly brought the fireworks following the seven-goal thriller at Anfield although the performance wasn’t as convincing as supporters may have hoped.

After-all, Liverpool’s record-breaking 2019/20 campaign was built on rock-solid foundations. It was the team’s ability to keep clean sheets and grind out narrow victories when not at their best which set them apart from Manchester City.

With that said, however, Liverpool’s defensive display against Marcelo Bielsa’s inspiring Leeds side was not a cause for concern.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – AUGUST 09: Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool battles with Teemu Pukki of Norwich during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Norwich City at Anfield on August 9, 2019 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Past struggles

Even last season, Liverpool’s defensive quartet needed time to find their feet before embarking on a run of form which proved to be the bedrock of the club’s 19th title success.

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It’s often forgotten that during the Reds’ opening 23 matches in all competitions last season that the team managed to record just three clean sheets and shipped 29 goals during that period.

In their next 18 fixtures, Liverpool remarkably registered 14 clean sheets and conceded just one goal in 11 league outings which by the end of February saw Klopp and his team command an unassailable 25 point lead at the league summit.

It was only until December 7, 2019, that Liverpool were able to successfully record just their third league clean sheet on match week 15.

Liverpool needed time to build momentum and find their best defensive set-up before they could consistently control proceedings during matches and see out vital victories last campaign.

Even last season, Liverpool’s defensive display on the opening day was far from convincing. When faced against Norwich City in August 2019, the Reds in-fact conceded more shots at goal (5) than they did against Leeds on Saturday (3).

Liverpool’s Achilles’ heel at the weekend was that they conceded from every shot-on-target that Leeds were able to register at Alisson’s goal. It was glaring lapses in concentration coupled with some structural issues that saw the English champions punished as opposed to problems with the defensive system.

Liverpool’s German manager Jurgen Klopp gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Leeds United at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on September 12, 2020. (Photo by PHIL NOBLE / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by PHIL NOBLE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Klopp wasn’t happy with the positioning of his full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson in the build-up to Leeds’ first goal. Both players were ahead of their central defenders and it meant that Liverpool’s defensive line was worryingly out of place.

Ironically, Klopp’s team conceded a similar goal against Norwich last season when again there was a sense of confusion from Liverpool’s defensive line as Teemu Pukki was allowed to drift through on goal unmarked before cooly finishing past Adrian (below).

Leeds’ third goal was another catalogue of errors as Alexander-Arnold’s misplaced throw-in handed initially handed the opposition possession while the gap between Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk was far too great to allow the run of Mateusz Klich to run into space completely untracked by either Georginio Wijnaldum or Curtis Jones before thundering home Helder Costa’s delivery.

However, slopiness can only be expected given that all four of the Reds’ defensive back-line were away on international duty last week.

“We can do better, we should have done better and we will do better,” vowed Klopp after the match.

A full week of training uninterrupted will certainly help ahead of Liverpool’s next match against Chelsea. There is much to sort out from a tactical sense but Klopp has been here before.

Liverpool’s performance against Norwich last season justified that even during a campaign as dominant as the last the team were not perfect from the start.

The Reds will need time before they are to rediscover the levels of consistency that have seen Klopp and his players clock up a staggering 196 points over the previous two campaigns.

When Klopp declared that Liverpool would attack the league rather than defend the title, some may have taken his words too literally.

Luckily for supporters, this isn’t something new and if we are to go off the omens of last season then it would suggest that Liverpool will only get better and there is no reason for concern.

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