Thursday 26 April 2018

John Aldridge - There are only so many times we can defend Jurgen Klopp...this has to be sorted now

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool are conceding an average of three goals a game away from home in the Premier League this season
Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool are conceding an average of three goals a game away from home in the Premier League this season

John Aldridge

It has become alarmingly apparent for some time that Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp needs to educate his players on how to defend like professional footballers, so maybe he should get then to sit through Ireland’s heroic win in Wales earlier this month to give them a hint.

Okay, our 1-0 victory in Cardiff will not be remembered as one of the greatest displays of silky football in recent history, but it was an example of a team digging in, refusing to be beaten and fighting for a cause.

What we saw from Liverpool’s defenders in their 4-1 defeat against Tottenham at Wembley on Sunday was the opposite of all of that.

Where do you even begin to sum up the latest calamitous defeat that leaves Jurgen Klopp facing up to the most challenging period of his time at Liverpool?

Dejan Lovren’s disastrous display was highlighted as the primary reason for the defeat, but Joel Matip was not much better next to him and neither were left-back Javier Moreno and keeper Simon Mignolet.

Between them, that quartet gifted Tottenham four goals and while Harry Kane is a great player and he is part of a good team, you simply cannot function as a unit when you are giving away an average of three goals in every away game.

That is relegation material and I would have been disappointed if my grandson made some of the mistakes Lovren and Co did at Wembley in his kids game.

It was amateur stuff from first to last and not for the first time, they looked like rabbits in headlights some pressure was applied.

The first two goals were down to Lovren, with his decision to try and head the ball for the second one as big an error as you will see from a footballer operating at that level of the game.

Klopp was right to take him off after half an hour, as he simply had no choice.

Harry Kane (left) scored twice against Liverpool on Sunday.
Harry Kane (left) scored twice against Liverpool on Sunday.

Yes it was humiliating for the player, but there are times when you have to make a decision that protects the team and Lovren was a liability out there.

Let’s not forget that the third and fourth Tottenham goals were also as a direct result of Liverpool mistakes.

First Matip heading the ball into the path of Dele Alli in what can only be described as a very neat assist to allow him to score before half-time.

It reminded me of John Toshack heading the ball down to Kevin Keegan when I was a kid watching Liverpool, but this was not a good memory 40 years on.

Then we saw keeper Simon Mignolet flapping at a cross to allow Kane to score Tottenham’s fourth.

As Klopp admitted after the game, he has to take responsibility for this ongoing defensive shambles.

Klopp has been absolved of blame for Liverpool’s problems by many of the club’s supporters who believe in his qualities, but he has failed to solve these defensive problems and doesn’t seem to have any clue how to cure them.

It is a major concern for a manager who had a good defensive record prior to his time at Liverpool and it is pretty clear now that the club need to sign two centre-backs as quickly as possible.

I reckon Joe Gomez should now be tried at the heart of the Liverpool defence because it can’t get any worse than what we have seen so far, yet it may already be too late to save a season that is unraveling after just nine Premier League games.

Who is to blame? You have to spread the criticism around the players, the coaching staff and the club’s hierarchy, in my view.

Whoever was making the final call on transfers made a huge error last summer when they failed to sign a defender after the botched attempt to get Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk.

When I saw the performance of Tottenham’s Davinson Sanchez on Sunday, it banished the notion that there were no other defenders to sign ahead of this season because he was available and Liverpool didn’t go for him.

The end result is a team that is boasting so many good qualities buy is being fatally handicapped by defenders who are simply not good enough. Instead of saying there was no one to sign when Van Dijk was out of reach, maybe they should have searched harder to find defenders who did the basics.

Someone like Shane Duffy at Brighton may not be the best on the ball and he probably can’t spray 70-yard passes that land on a one euro coin, but he knows how to defend.

He gets himself in the way when he needs to, he puts the ball in the back of the stands and he averts danger. Also, crucially, he doesn’t switch off at vital moments and reads the game better than the Liverpool defenders, who continue to make bad decisions week after week.

When I look down the leagues in England and even in Ireland, I reckon there are more Shane Duffys out there who can do that.

Unfortunately, Liverpool are not looking for that kind of player and the end result is calamity we saw at Wembley.

Sort it out Jurgen. The Liverpool fans have had enough.

Read John Aldridge every Tuesday in The Herald.

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