Friday 23 August 2019

John Giles: Even with quality defenders this Liverpool team would leak goals - and it's all down to one man

Read John Giles every Friday in the Herald

Liverpool's Dejan Lovren and (inset) Jurgen Klopp
Liverpool's Dejan Lovren and (inset) Jurgen Klopp

John Giles

I've reached the conclusion that if Jurgen Klopp found four new defenders tomorrow, all with gifted with great ability, that Liverpool would still leak goals.

Put simply, Klopp cannot organise his defence and over the time he has been in charge at Anfield, I've seen enough to tell me that bad defenders are not the problem.

Bad defending is the problem and there's a big difference.

I'm not saying Dejan Lovren or Alberto Moreno would be in my team but I'm now certain that the fundamental difficulties Liverpool experience when they have to protect their goal are down to Klopp and nobody else.

Liverpool host Chelsea tomorrow in the weekend's big Premier League fixture off the back of performances and results in the Champions League which perfectly illustrate my point.

Chelsea are a balanced team and manager Antonio Conte believes in good defending, while putting away inferior opposition with some style.

He may be uncertain about what might happen at Stamford Bridge next but Conte knows how to knuckle down and make sure his team will not leak unnecessary goals.

By contrast, Liverpool only got it half right against Seville and even when they were 3-0 ahead at half-time, I'll bet most neutrals believed, like me, that a collapse was not just possible but likely.

Moreno has been the main target for complaint but to my mind, some of the criticism he has shipped has been misdirected.

The lad has been hammered for his poor positional sense but I believe he is following orders and that was very obvious to me in the chastening defeat Liverpool suffered at the hands of Spurs a month ago.

As an attacking wing-back, Moreno is quick and exciting and I see the value Klopp places in this quality.

But Klopp does not place the same importance in what an orthodox full-back should be doing when he doesn't have the ball so quite often, when an attack breaks down, it looks like Moreno is all over the place and not doing his job properly.

It may well be that he cannot defend very well but I don't think he can be blamed for being out of position too often in a game when he is simply doing what he is told.

This exposes Klopp's weakness. Look at the 'goals against' column in the current table and you'll see that away from home, Liverpool have conceded 16 in 6, that's almost three goals a game, and scored four fewer.

No fewer than nine of that total was scored by Manchester City and Spurs, two teams well equipped to punish a poorly-organised defence.

In other words, when Klopp's "Go, Go, Go" approach comes up against a team good enough to stop it, Liverpool have no tradition to fall back on of digging in and defending in a determined way.

That's why I'm not impressed with stories linking defenders with Liverpool. If they sign Virgil Van Dyke and another ten like him, I don't think it will make a difference unless Klopp strives for a better balance in his team.

There is a glimmer of hope for Liverpool fans in their team's home form of late which has been good and included an unusual number of clean sheets.

But that was against Huddersfield, Maribor and Southampton and not Chelsea, the club with the second best away record in the Premier League so far this season and who arrive with back-to-back 4-0 wins on the road to bolster their confidence.

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