In the immediate aftermath of Croatia’s semi-final victory over England, with emotions running high and attentions fixed, Dejan Lovren made headlines.
Following his appearance in the Champions League Final less than 2 months’ prior, the Croat claimed that he should now be regarded as one of the world’s top defenders.
In the day and age that we live in, it doesn’t take much to make yourself the hot topic in our ever-growing meme culture. Comments like that from a player who’s been as ridiculed as Lovren certainly don’t help.
With that being said though, it’s critical for any successful footballer to have a confident head on their shoulders. And it’s tough to negate Lovren’s achievements since the turn of the year.
So is he one of the world’s best or is he still the weak link in an ever improving Liverpool team?
Bringing it Back Down to Earth
A wise man once told me, “you’re never as good as they say, and you’re never as bad either.”
That’s probably the best way to sum up Dejan Lovren. Even if he’s the one doing most of the praising. So many things in life are sensationalised to the extreme. This tendency only gets worse in football.
A defender can make two clearances and one interception in a 2-0 win and somehow earn the praise of being “a rock at the back”. And inversely, a marvellous season can be blemished with one poor performance, earning a player the label of a “liability”.
Dejan Lovren’s place on this spectrum is difficult to assess, due to how nuanced all this really is.
Let’s begin by saying yes, the Croat’s performances have seen consistent improvement since the turn of the year; which seamlessly coincides with Virgil Van Dijk’s arrival at the club.
The Dutchman’s presence has made it clearly evident that his partner plays better when he has an able communicator alongside him.
Lovren is undoubtedly a player who wears his heart on his sleeve. A wonderful attribute, but one that needs to be kept in check.
His much-maligned performance at Wembley in October is maybe the best example of this.
At fault for Harry Kane’s opener, he made it his responsibility to make up for his error. This enthusiasm led to Spurs doubling their lead and Lovren getting hooked in the first half an hour.
A performance full of raw emotion can produce a moment of magic, but more often than not it leads to getting picked off by quality opposition.
That display seems an eternity away, that being a result of the fact that he’s genuinely a much better player than that.
Klopp himself attested to his number 6 having all the attributes to be Word Class, all that was missing was some focus.
I think it’s fair to say that he’s shown what a solid defender he can be when his head is in the right place.
Additionally, Lovren’s performances for both Southampton and Croatia have made it clear that he benefits from playing in a deep defence with disciplined midfield cover.
While we’ll almost never see the former come to fruition under Jurgen Klopp. There’s reason to believe that the latter will be much improved this upcoming season.
The main reason being a certain Fabinho. The former Monaco man specialises playing in a defensive midfield role, and his arrival also opens up the possibility of a potential double-pivot in midfield with Jordan Henderson. The presence of those two covering gaps in front of Lovren is going to be of massive benefit.
In a world of binary, it’s difficult sometimes to adequately describe the nuance that is football.
In summation, Lovren is a player who’s underrated with the ball at his feet, brilliant in the air, and quicker than he’s given credit for. He’s not a man who specialises in keeping his calm and maintaining a cool head, luckily those are the things that are easier to coach.
Is he one of the best defenders in the world? Probably not. But he’s good, he’s becoming very good, and it looks like he’ll get even better.