Jürgen Klopp and his mighty reds currently find themselves in the midst of a very challenging run of games. The first gauntlet of the new season, if you will. Having successfully conquered both PSG and Tottenham Hotspur and having started the season with seven wins from seven, there seemed to be a general consensus among fans; that this Liverpool team will push Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City to the max and provide a stern challenge for the title that was so lacking in the previous campaign.
There was almost an air of unprecedented confidence amongst the fans leading into the Chelsea doubleheader. The Reds had made their best start to a Premier League season and there was seemingly nothing that Sarri’s Chelsea could do to defy them.
That was until Klopp decided to rotate his side for the Carabao Cup clash that took place at Anfield. The German, who obviously was well within his rights to mix things up in order to keep his squad fresh, completely swapped his back five, as Liverpool suffered a 2-1 defeat to Eden Hazard and co.
Simon Mignolet, Nathaniel Clyne, Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren and Alberto Moreno all found themselves playing together again, in a defence that was all too familiar for Liverpool fans not so long ago.
What a difference a year makes
As Liverpool crashed out of the Carabao Cup in an emphatic way, it brought back harrowing memories that I had somewhat pushed to the back of my brain. There was no leadership at the back. The two centre-halves had a panicked approach to their performances all game, whilst Alberto Moreno did not settle once.
The disappointing display served as a stark reminder as to what we as Liverpool fans had to witness, week in week out, as our starting back five.
This time last season, after seven games in the league, Liverpool had already conceded thirteen goals. To put this into perspective, Jürgen’s men have conceded just three goals thus far.
Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk have formed a partnership of immense quality this season. Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold have made the positions at left-back and right-back respectively their own.
Gone are the days when our defence jeopardises an entire performance with a couple of silly defensive errors. Jürgen Klopp’s recent acquisitions of Virgil van Dijk, Alisson Becker and Andy Robertson have ensured that Liverpool’s defence is performing at the highest of standards. Especially at home. Since Jürgen Klopp secured the transfer of Van Dijk, Liverpool have not conceded a goal in the league at Anfield since February of last season.
Liverpool have conceded roughly 5 expected goals this season. Liverpool are, therefore, outperforming their expected goals by approximately 2 goals. This is further evidence that the club is operating at a level well beyond their expected performances. The likes of Alisson have made a huge impact in saving Liverpool from conceding more goals. For example, against Chelsea in the league in Liverpool’s 1-1 draw last weekend, the Brazilian shot-stopper ensured The Reds had at least a chance of staying in the game after he denied Chelsea from scoring from two clear-cut chances.
Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren lack the necessary coordination and cooperation to thwart fast-breaking opposition players as well as Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez. Klopp’s favoured partnership denied Willian from scoring in one of the most impressive defensive scrambles I have seen for a long time.
The progress that has been seen in the last year is truly remarkable and Liverpool now have the defensive players to mount a serious title bid when they play their strongest back five. Let’s hope none of them get injured.