‘He became a liability and even expensive liabilities hold the faith of management for a small period of time’
Dejan Lovren has struggled to live up to the billing of his price tag since his £20 million move from Southampton to Liverpool. The exploration of his talents proved fruitless as Brendan Rodgers balanced the need to prove that Lovren was not the dud he was so commonly perceived as with the need to obtain results.
Amidst the array of scrutiny, Lovren became a popular means of symbolism for those looking to focalise the pit of disarray on Brendan Rodgers’ market performances. Struggling to replicate the momentum he had been swept away in at Southampton, it became apparent rather quickly just why Liverpool had turned their nose up half a year earlier when the Croatian international was available for half the price. It also rationalised the sentiments behind Lyon’s decision to sell the player and not hold out for a premium fee.
Unsurprisingly, though, Lyon recognised that while Dejan had a lot of style and appeal to his play, the elements that define the efficiency of his game were substandard. He struggled to grasp an adequate positional understanding which contributed to the three red cards he received in his final domestic campaign at the Stade De Gerland.
While many may argue that those traits are coachable, the reality contradicts that Lovren has never really recovered from even his opening years as a 20-year-old at Lyon, having being caught in the headlights off the back of a £7.4 million move from Dinamo Zagreb. Claude Puel, then Lyon manager, had immediate concerns about Lovren and despite the hefty transfer fee, made clear his preferences were Cris, Jean-Alain Boumsong, Mathieu Bodmer and Jeremy Toulalan – who was by nature a central defensive midfield player.
“The first six months were really difficult for me, I didn’t speak the language so I didn’t understand anything they said.”
“Journalists were killing me, asking why the club played millions for a player who didn’t have enough experience.”
Experience was not the determinative element behind Lovren’s inept performances. He couldn’t accustomise his game to the elite players he would now pit his wits against. He became a liability and even expensive liabilities hold the faith of management for a small period of time. It all played into Lyon’s decision accept a small profit on the player and send him to The Saints.
Southampton was a team on the rise, with a lot of impetus on offensive enforcement and a padding secured to nullify any potential vulnerability defensively. Victor Waynama, previously linked with Arsenal and Morgan Schneiderlin, who has since joined Manchester United in a £25 million move, were the selected candidates to chaperone Dejan Lovren and Jose Fonte. While Dejan was the younger model and more cultured centre-back, his limitations were compensated for with Fonte’s astute reading of the game and leadership mentality.
The appeal was there for Liverpool. He was, as previously stated, the younger model and Southampton’s style of football, which drew many a plaudit, was likened to that of then Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers. It made a lot of sense, theoretically speaking; however, had Liverpool done their homework, they’d have quickly realised that here lies a player with whom a quick pierce beyond the surface and catastrophe could lie. That was a backlog that never got the prevailing outcome it warranted.
The predicament now lies at the door of German manager, Jurgen Klopp. He must distinguish the approach to adopt; yield as much value from a player who’s standard of play lies at the lesser team or make a legitimate incorporation of a player that can be utilised as a understated squad player. Much depends on the German’s perception, and he doesn’t strike as a man that does things by halves.
If, as speculated, Lovren will be given the opportunity to convince in-light of Mamadou Sakho’s recent injury – which Klopp went on record as saying he’d have swapped for a 4-1 loss to Crystal Palace – it’s important that Liverpool stem his weaknesses as much as possible and harness what he can offer. That might mean an adjustment to how the two in front operate positionally and realistically should bring to light the compatibility of Lovren alongside Martin Skrtel. Both players lack real leadership and have been on far too many occasions culpable for positional mishaps.
Klopp’s credentials warrant a great deal of admiration, given how he harnessed the qualities of his squad at Borussia Dortmund. He played the market like an experienced poker statesmen and coached the class out of them and onto the pitch. He can’t coach the class out of Lovren and onto the pitch if it isn’t already there at 26. He’ll need to utilise him in a similar fashion to Łukasz Piszczek during his reign at the Westfalenstadion. He must create a sense of purpose to his involvement and motivation to his performances, if he is to spark a turnaround in Dejan Lovren’s abject Liverpool career.