Liverpool has finally done it. After an entire summer of speculation when Liverpool FC was forced to apologize for an illegal approach, LFC and Southampton FC have finally come to terms for the transfer of Dutch defender Virgil Van Dijk. For a sum amounting to £75 million.
Yeah, you read that right. £75 million. Didn’t even know we had that kind of money.
Jurgen Klopp is a great manager, one who connects with the LFC faithful in a way few other managers do to their clubs and fans *cough* Mourinho * cough.* Under his tenure, Liverpool has transformed to become arguably one of the best forward lines in Europe. But, seriously? £75 million on a defender? Liverpool has been a club I have loved and followed since I started watching football and as a Kopite, I really can’t answer the question? Why?
Defensive Woes Aplenty
The obvious answer would be to shore up our back four. Our defense, to any newbies out there reading this, is the leakiest of the top 6 sides in the EPL. We concede goals. A lot. All it takes is a bit of pressure from the opposition to get behind our lines and score.
Take the recent games against Arsenal and Sevilla for example. 2-0 up against the Gunners at half-time, and they recover to lead 3-2 within a span of 5 minutes. 3-0 up against Sevilla at half-time and by the time 90 mins are over, it’s 3-3. Against Sevilla.
And this isn’t just symptomatic of this season. Remember that game against Norwich, a team destined for relegation? We were 2-0 up before they led us by a goal after half-time. The game ended 5-4 in our favour but conceding 4 against Norwich? C’mon. This was a team Luis Suarez ate for breakfast. Even at Bournemouth last season, we lost after leading the match 3-1. That is ridiculous.
Can you imagine United crumbling like that? As much as I would like them to, No. United have what Liverpool lack. They have defensive discipline fueled by defenders who know how to do their jobs and a manager who despite unfair accusations of being ‘boring,’ finds victory in pragmatism. We Kopites sure could learn something from our rivals in the East.
Is Van Dijk the solution?
No. Virgil Van Dijk is a good defender but, he’s not the solution. And, he’s certainly not worth all that money.
Most of Liverpool’s defensive mistakes on the field are basic. Just watch the match against Arsenal again. It didn’t take a lot of great skill for the Gunners to open up our team. A failure to stick to defending basics, such as a failure to attack an incoming ball that allowed them to open their account is what cost us that night and is what continues to cost us. That, and a helping hand from Mignolet. Oh, Mignolet.
What’s the Solution then?
One man, let alone one who comes with such a huge price tag isn’t the solution to our problems. What we need is a Mourinho-like discipline. We need a back four that can stick to its defending duties without being prone to individual mistakes. This goes way beyond buying one good CB. One good CB isn’t going to do much good if the rest are still prone to make mistakes. Who are the rest? Lovren, Klavan and Moreno. The other two defenders this season, young Gomez and Trent-Alexander Arnold have impressed but, can they really lead a back line just yet? No.
For starters, start matches with your best back four. Identify them, and use them. Time for Lovren and Moreno is gone. Have Robertson, Arnold, Matip/Gomez and Van Dijk start. They are the best back four we’ll have next month. Use it. With CL coming up, we don’t want to be caught with our pants down against teams such as Real.
Another bit of business Klopp should urgently address in January is a new holding midfielder. Under the 4-3-3 system, Klopp has moved to over the past season, the threadbare, nervous Liverpool defense doesn’t have a lot of protection, especially if the fullbacks run to attack the forward line up the field. Henderson and Can should be doing this duty but, they aren’t doing their duties well. And that is a shame because as Captain, Henderson must take charge with respect to defensive organisation and discipline. And, he ain’t doing it well.
I’m not saying Van Dijk is a bad buy. It’s a very good buy. But, we shouldn’t be under the illusion that this is the solution to all our defensive woes.
Van Dijk, no matter how good he was last season (because he hasn’t done much this season), isn’t worth that money. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong and I’ll be thankful for that day but, won’t happen. One man won’t solve anything. The problem in the Liverpool back four is much more serious and chronic. To be honest, I’d have been happier if we had bought the Burnley back four instead of Van Dijk. They seem to be doing a better job defending than us this season.
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