Last season the main problem for Liverpool was, of course, their defence. After Suarez’s departure we had to spend the money well. Not only were we losing one of Liverpool’s best ever players to have graced Anfield, but we seemed to have no defence at all. We saw Liverpool sign Balotelli, a fantastic signing, but most importantly we saw three defenders come to the side.
Two young Spanish (*THE SPANISH INQUISITION* KLAXON) fullbacks, YES I COULDN’T BELIEVE WE ACTUALLY SIGNED TWO FULLBACKS… Moreno and Manquillo. I haven’t seen Liverpool have a set of quality young fullbacks in so many seasons. Moreno has been superb and is a million times better than our selfie loving friend, Jose Enrique. Moreno has the right physical qualities to play in the Premier League and can put in a lovely cross consistently. I haven’t seen that from a Liverpool fullback in a long time. His pace is also electric, which always helps when Liverpool score the winner against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Manquillo replacing Johnson (I’ve been waiting a long time to say that) in the starting line up. Johnson hasn’t played well for Liverpool the past two seasons. And I can say confidently this: nearly every single fan has had enough of Johnson, his passes which go straight to the opponent, his runs which always lead him into trouble… It’s like Moses was his inspiration. At last we found a replacement for him – Javier Manquillo. Manquillo has looked really good so far, defensively he looks solid – still needs to work on his attacking threat but it’s already better than Johnson’s so that’s another positive to look at. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen an attacking presence down the left hand side, Moreno’s impressed me the most out of all our signings so far. Our fullbacks for the next few years, hopefully.
Rodgers: “Manquillo is the type of full-back I like – he can get tight to people, stop crosses and defend well, but also then has the energy to attack and get forward.”
This quote from Rodgers also shows that one of the reasons we got Moreno and Manquillo was because they stop crosses well. And with Liverpool’s defending against crosses problems, this is crucial. Manquillo has blocked five crosses so far in the Premier League campaign, Flanagan blocked 6 in the whole of last season.
A centre-back also came in, Dejan Lovren, who had been brilliant the season before with Southampton. I thought the signing of Lovren was interesting, despite being right footed, the Croatian was a LCB. It meant it was likely that our CB pairing would be Skrtel-Sakho/Lovren. This was a surprise to me, as I would have thought we would try and find a RCB to partner Sakho instead of replacing him. Potential wise, in my opinion, out of those three centre-backs, Sakho is the best one.
In the summer I was hoping a good young right centre back to come in and partner Sakho. Instead we signed Lovren. The first game I saw him play was the one against Dortmund, where he looked solid. Promising but it was only a friendly. We saw Coutinho have an outstanding pre-season but unfortunately he didn’t repeat his performances in the Premier League. One of the reasons Lovren did so well is because he had a fantastic, working defensive midfielder in front of him (Schneiderlin). As much as I love Gerrard, I have to say he’s one of the reasons why our defence is so shaky. Not only this, but Gerrard breaks the play up too often, sending the ball back to the centre-backs/keeper or putting a 50 yard pass which is either amazing and pinpoint or a stupid giveaway. The way we play, it’s best to keep the ball on the ground, passing it around, making the opponents work tirelessly for the ball and then, as we saw so many times last season, change the pace of the game in a matter of seconds which usually leads to a great chance. In recent games Lovren hasn’t looked like he was in the first couple of games he played for Liverpool. One of the reasons, which obviously is a big reason, is that he’s been playing out of position – with Sakho playing as LCB and Lovren as RCB.
Quote: Alan Hansen was asked ‘how hard is it for a LCB to switch to play RCB?’, he answered “Extremely difficult, I did it in 1989 and it is totally unknown territory.”
As Alan Hansen says here, it’s a completely different story when switching to play as a RCB, you could tell in games when Lovren played as a RCB he looked a bit lost and even at some points he was instinctively going to his LCB position at points.
We’ve played five Premier League games this season and have seen four different back lines. The first one was against Southampton where we saw Manquillo and Lovren make their Liverpool (competitive) debut. The back line was Manquillo-Skrtel-Lovren-Johnson. The defence seemed to cope despite a shaky start. The other three back lines we’ve seen has been Manquillo-Skrtel-Lovren-Moreno, Manquillo-Lovren-Sakho-Manquillo and Sterling (RWB)-Skrtel-Lovren-Sakho-Moreno (LWB). Right now the best option for us is Manquillo-Skrtel-Lovren-Moreno. Skrtel has been heavily criticised by Liverpool fans, and at times, deservedly so. However I do feel Skrtel is often made a scapegoat by the fans. I personally don’t feel he’s as bad as others make him out to be. When he has a confident leader with him, he does very well. We saw this in the 2011/2012 season when the Skrtel-Agger partnership was in full flow. Currently, I feel Skrtel should start.
Simon Mignolet, a superb shot stopper, but he definitely doesn’t give confidence to the defenders. When it comes to set pieces, it feels like he doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing. When it’s a ball he should go for, he doesn’t and a ball where he should stay on his line, he runs and tries to collect it. However all the set pieces bullshit shouldn’t just go to Simon Mignolet, our players seem to always forget about how to mark a player when there’s a cross going to the box, making the oppositions get easy free headers.
Valdes has been heavily linked with Liverpool recently, if we manage to get him on a free – it could be one of the best bits of business Liverpool have done in a while. A confident loud keeper who’s a good shot stopper, seems to know what he’s doing when there’s a set piece and also can distribute well, one thing Mignolet needs to work on. Hopefully in January Rodgers will notice that we will need a defensive midfielder and, crossing my fingers, we could get a top class one (Bender or Mascha would be a dream, but unfortunately it’s likely to stay as a dream). The CB pairing will be an interesting issue, it seems like Rodgers wants the Skrtel-Lovren partnership, but where does that leave Sakho? If he doesn’t get enough playing time, I can see Sakho leaving Liverpool soon which is a big loss if that does happen.
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