Liverpool were a mess at the back last season, so Brendan Rodgers brought in Dejan Lovren to fix things. He became Liverpool's most expensive ever defensive signing. Only four players at any position have cost the club more money. His arrival meant the departure of fan favourite Daniel Agger and, in the months since, has relegated Mamadou Sakho to afterthought.
All of which would be fine if Lovren looked even remotely like the kind of defensive leader the fans were repeatedly told he was. Instead he's been a liability, a player who has shown little ability to lead the back line—though he certainly can be vocal—and who continues to frequently wander out of position with little regard to situation, opponent threat, or teammate position.
There have been rumours he is upset at the lack of midfield cover he has received, yet even if it's true that having Steven Gerrard ahead of him most weeks can't have helped with Liverpool's defensive solidity, it doesn't excuse the countless unforced errors he has made or the frequent lapses in judgement. He was bought to fix Liverpool's defence. And Liverpool's defence has gotten worse.
On Monday Night Football this week, Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville attempted to get to the bottom of just what's gone wrong for Lovren at Liverpool so far. It made for an essential tactical breakdown, and it wasn't pretty. As Carragher sees it, in the end it boils down to poor positioning—and that his poor positioning has a clear, negative knock-on effect on his fellow defenders.
Rather than leading the back line, Lovren is driving it out of position. He has a tendency to drift central, creating space for the opposition to attack on the left and exposing that side's fullback. He worries more about what's behind him than what's in front of him. It's a tendency that was on display on Manchester United's first goal on Sunday, and it's a fundamental error he's been making all season.
The good news is Carragher thinks it's a correctable problem. It's also a problem that may have as much to do with Liverpool's defensive coaching as it does with Lovren, which should at least absolve him of some of the blame. At the end of the day, though, Liverpool paid £20M for a defender meant to lead the defence. And so far it's gone horribly wrong.