Friday 19 October 2018

John Aldridge: Jurgen Klopp must get ruthless to fix Liverpool's leaky defence

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp

John Aldridge

IF the defenders in Liverpool’s starting line-up continue to be exposed in the manner we saw at Leicester on Saturday, then manager Jurgen Klopp has to get ruthless and replace them.

I know that sounds harsh, but Klopp has to look at the problems in his defence and decide whether the message being given to the players he is putting his trust in is the problem.

If the message isn’t getting through or Klopp feels the players he has are not good enough, then he has to look at getting defenders in during the January transfer window and again next summer.

Top defenders are hard to come by in the modern game because the reality is kids don’t grow up wanting to be defenders any more.

Young lads with a bit of talent all want to be the next Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo and that means the rugged, tough defenders who loved keeping the ball out of the net are disappearing from the game.

You look back on big characters like Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia from Liverpool’s recent history and those kinds of warriors are lacking now, so Klopp has to try and find them.

Whether Virgil van Dijk can be taken out of Southampton in January remains to be seen, but there must be defenders out there who are better than what Klopp is working with now and Liverpool have to be bold by going to get them.

The Premier League is an unforgiving world and opponents are fully aware that a back four featuring Alberto Moreno, Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip will crack if they are put under pressure.

Teams have copped that Liverpool cannot defend crosses into the box and what was clear for everyone to see in the 3-2 win at Leicester was that the confidence of Klopp’s players is completely shattered.

The back four were under the spotlight once again on Saturday and unfortunately, they failed to answer the questions that have been thrown at them for months on end now.

So even though Liverpool ended up beating Leicester in Saturday night’s crazy Premier League game, it felt hard to celebrate at the final whistle.

We have got used to seeing Klopp and his beaming smile popping up on TV after a vital win, yet you could sense that the Liverpool boss was as deflated as we all were after the latest crazy ride his team had put us all through.

In a game Liverpool should have had under control after storming into a 2-0 lead, their defensive line did everything they could to make it interesting once again and by the end, they could easily have ended up dropping points.

They have played together for a good while now, but Klopp’s defenders give the impression that they have been introduced to each other five minutes before they take to the field every week.

There is no leadership, no coordination, no sense that they are working to address the problems we have all been highlighting for the last couple of seasons.

They switch off mentally at key moments, don’t track their markers, get into horrible positions on set-pieces and generally look like they have been put together for a one-off game.

I would assume Klopp and his coaching staff work on defensive organisation every day at the training ground, but maybe they need to do more.

A defensive line needs to be drilled on the basics until it gets boring; holding a firm line, getting in the right positions, picking up the men who have been assigned to you before the game.

I can’t believe Klopp and his staff don’t do this every day, but it doesn’t look like they have when the whistle blows and the match gets underway.

What Klopp and Liverpool fans should not do, after a turbulent start to the season, is hit the panic button because two thirds of this team are as good as any other in the Premier League.

Even without the suspended Sadio Mane, Liverpool’s attacking line was potent at Leicester on Saturday, with Philippe Coutinho on fire after all the rumours of a move to Barcelona and Mo Salah looking dangerous again.

The midfield also looks strong, but all of their efforts could be undermined by the end of the season if goals continue to leak at an alarming rate at the other end.

Liverpool are in Russia tonight for a Champions League game against Spartak Moscow and while there is a temptation to believe they need to get a win after only drawing their opening match against Sevilla, I’d beg to differ on that assessment.

Avoiding defeat is important, but a draw in Moscow would not be a bad result as I fancy Klopp’s side to get maximum points against Maribor and that would give them a platform to target a place in the knock-out stages.

Of course, all of this talk could be thrown up in the air if Liverpool’s defenders continue to fluff their lines and we don’t have long to wait now until we strap the seatbelts on for another ride on the Klopp roller coaster tonight.

I’d urge all Liverpool fans to take some travel sickness pills an hour before kick-off!

Herald Sport

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