This weekend marked Jurgen Klopp’s first full season in charge of Liverpool. And the beginning of the second half made that apparent. Liverpool and Arsenal were tied 1-1 at the start of the second half, but that quickly changed. Liverpool’s offense took off and soon the game was 4-1.
While Liverpool’s offense looked fluid and fast, their defense was another story. After new signing Sadio Mane scored a beautiful goal in the 63rd minute, Arsenal only needed until the 75th to bring it back to 4-3. The Reds’ defense struggled, looking disorganized at times. It’s apparent Klopp has some things to figure out in the back.
The first issue with Liverpool’s defense is Alberto Moreno. Moreno has lacked any indication that he can be a starting fullback for a team hoping to contend in the Premier League. He made an ill-advised tackle against Theo Walcott that led to a penalty. And he got caught out of position for Walcott’s goal. While it looks like he may keep the job for now, he definitely needs to be on a short leash. Any repeat performances and he’ll likely be out of a job soon.
With Moreno on the left, Klopp elected to pair Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan, in the middle. Lovren has been at Liverpool since 2014 but has failed to justify his £20 million price tag. While he didn’t play a bad game, it wasn’t great either. He definitely should have defended better in Arsenal’s second goal.
Ragnar Klavan is new to the side and got his first start against the Gunners. He looked strong in the back and turned in a solid performance. I expect Liverpool’s defense to improve as Klavan and Lovren become more familiar with each other. But one thing that will have to happen is for one of the two to take charge in the back. The Reds need a leader in the back and one of them is going to have to take control. Especially on set pieces which are clearly a weakness as Calum Chambers scored with relative ease after a delivery from Santi Cazorla.
Nathaniel Clyne finds himself on the right and turned in a solid performance. He continues to show his ability going forward and can also defend, although like Lovren, he could have done better on Arsenal’s second goal.
The bottomline for Liverpool is that they’ll need to play a much more complete game in the future. While they’ve proven that their offense is potent, they’ll need to prove that they can play defense too. Their defensive organization is definitely going to have to improve. They’ll need someone to take charge and ensure that people are doing their jobs. If they do that, expect this team to compete this season, maybe even sneaking into the Champions League.