Sunday, August 14, 2022

New Season, Same Problem: Liverpool Can’t Rely On Outscoring Teams And Need A Defensive Midfielder

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Arka Tarun Mukherjee
Arsenal fan and football expert, Arka Tarun Mukherjee actually used to play cricket at semi pro level. An ardent student of football tactics, ATM is very passionate about the tactical aspects of the game and has a dream of being a football manager in the future.

After a wonderful opening day display against a lackluster Arsenal side, the supporters at the red half of Merseyside are once again beginning to dream of something special this time round. Jürgen Klopp has had half a season to assess things in England and now he is ready to unleash his system fully to take Liverpool right at the top.

At the Emirates, after looking sluggish in the first 45 minutes, the team produced an inspired performance in the early part of the second half. Within a twenty minute spell, the Reds took the game away from their opponents making a statement of their quality in an attacking sense. The irony was despite their attacking qualities and threats, Liverpool were left exposed all too often defensively by the hosts. The visitors took a three-goal cushion and then let it slip as the hosts fought back to be within a single goal of their opponents. It showed the obvious weakness of Klopp’s side once again.

To be fair, the game was perhaps the perfect example of two teams who fall short repeatedly despite having qualities in their attack due to the lack of quality defending under pressure. It must be noted that with the presence of Sakho, Matip, Lovren and Klavan, Liverpool are very well placed in terms of having both quality and options in their central defence but problems lie in the full back area with Moreno still not convincing enough defensively and most importantly in the defensive midfield region.

Lucas Leiva is the designated defensive midfielder who fills the slot for the club usually. Having been at the club since 2007, Lucas is one of the most experienced players in the squad and a dependable performer but he has always suffered from his injury problems. The other options in that position include Emre Can, Pedro Chirivella and Kevin Stewart. While, Stewart hasn’t been able to show that he’s ready to play for the first team, spending his time on loan at three different clubs since coming to Anfield in 2014, Chirivella is too raw to be counted upon as a realistic option at 19. Emre Can has a lot of potential but he severely lacks his positional sense leaving his zone frequently making the team even more vulnerable to counters through the middle.

Klopp’s high-intensity pressing style is a big challenge for all the players to keep up throughout the whole season in the Premier league. Imposing the ‘Heavy Metal’ style has its benefits in an attacking sense but can leave the door open at the back to especially in the midfield when the players tire out. It is exactly when the presence of a world-class defensive midfielder can change things for Klopp. Somebody who would just sit in front of the back four forming a nice shield , dropping in behind the spaces vacated by the overlapping fullback or even the centre-back (if the CB takes the space of the FB moving out wide)when required, would allow the team to retain its defensive compactness at all times. The Reds, have plenty of firepower to outscore teams to win matches, their small spells of extraordinary pressure can see them taking goal leads just the way they did at The Emirates regularly over the course of the season, what they need to do is solve the problem of what happens thereafter.

The inclusion of a proper Defensive Midfielder can thus be the final piece of the puzzle which can make Liverpool a team worthy of lifting the Premier League title, Klopp certainly would want that just as the fans. Let’s see what happens till the transfer window slams shut, I reckon there can still be some movements by the team management and I wouldn’t be surprised if a Defensive Midfielder is the next player in at Anfield.

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