Kopites have witnessed nearly a decade’s worth of embarrassingly atrocious defensive displays since Rafa Benitez left Liverpool in 2010. Liverpool supporters will still be scarred by events such as blowing a 2-0 lead in the 77th minute to lose 3-2 in a dire capitulation against QPR in 2012. Carragher’s retirement in 2013 and Rodgers’ bizarre choice to neglect Daniel Agger has resulted in a real dearth of quality in the centre of defence in recent times. None of the likes of Martin Škrtel, Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho ever came close to shoring up a very leaky back four.
Jürgen Klopp’s pursuit and eventual purchase of Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton has proved to be nothing short of a revelation since the dutchman’s £75m January move to Liverpool. The Anfield-based club only conceded 10 goals in Van Dijk’s 14 Premier League appearances, registering 7 clean sheets in the process. He successfully transformed Liverpool’s backline into one of the meanest defences in 2018. However, one question remains: Who should be Van Dijk’s partner in crime to complete the Reds’ transformation from disorganised and vulnerable to sturdy and reliable?
Croatian international Dejan Lovren has been Klopp’s preferred choice to partner the dutchman thus far. Don’t get me wrong, Lovren has all the physical attributes to be one of the best centre-halves in the Premier League. However, he seems to somewhat lack a crucial component of being a footballer: having a brain. Whilst his erratic nature has slightly improved since his dreadful first season at Anfield, do not be fooled into thinking he is deserved of his place at the back. His lack of understanding of positioning is truly laughable as he often plays the opposition onside or steps way out of the defensive line to leave his right back exposed. A prime example of this is when Lukaku bullied him off the ball in an aerial duel which led to Rashford having a clear run at goal in Liverpool’s poor 2-1 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford. Trent Alexander-Arnold is still young and needs a cool head next to him to help nurture his understanding of the game. Dejan Lovren is certainly not the man to do this. He should be nothing more than a squad player for Jürgen Klopp. A good backup to the first team.
After a convincing start to life at the Merseyside club, Joel Matip has struggled with injuries and has put in some below-par performances in the last season. His apparent calmness has dissipated somewhat and there can be no denying he also has errors in his game. Although, who can blame him when he’s spent most of his time alongside a certain Mr. Lovren. A Joel Matip and Van Dijk partnership is something that would be interesting to witness, as it hasn’t really been seen as of yet. The Cameroonian does, however, possess a sublime range of passing and can, like Van Dijk, play balls that bypass an opposition’s midfield with ease. By no means is he the best option, but he is definitely a better candidate than his Croatian counterpart.
Whilst Ragnar Klavan is merely a backup option, and Joe Gomez being used as a fullback, Liverpool have got to be in the market for a new centre-half this Summer. Jamaal Lascelles has been linked with the reds after an impressive season at Newcastle. He would certainly be an excellent option for Jürgen and a definite upgrade on Liverpool’s current crop – besides Van Dijk. Another option that Klopp seriously consider is Benjamin Pavard. The young French defender has a €35m release clause in his contract and would be the shrewdest of transfers for Liverpool. Klopp and Michael Edwards, however, would have to be quick, with rumours emerging that German giants Bayern Munich are very much interested in acquiring Pavard.