Defenders are the players tasked with the duties of shielding the goalkeeper from opposition attacks as well as providing most of the scary, edge-of-your-seat moments during a football match. Last ditch tackles. Penalty claims. Martin Skrtel stuff. It’s a difficult job to defend. There is not exactly a heaping of praise that goes along with it and the spotlight usually shone onto a back four may just be the brightest. But, that should not be the case at Liverpool, says goalkeeper, Loris Karius.
The young, gloved German explains how this Liverpool team does not leave it’s defenders out to dry under a flood of scrutiny but rather defends together, as a unit.
“It’s not just the back four,” says Karius. “It starts from the striker, who has to work hard to win the ball back.
“And if the midfield didn’t work hard to counter-press when we lose the ball then it would be hard for just the back four and me to sort it out.
“That’s the whole team effort that everybody puts in, working hard, and that makes a difference.”
Another difference that this team-wide defensive mindset provides for Karius is downtime. Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino, in particular, having been voracious pressers of the opposition. But, all together, the Reds have become so robust in their reacquisition of the ball in the outfield that the goalkeeper must now stay concentrated during long spells of inactivity.
“You have to stay in the game mentally,” Karius says, “because there could be one shot in the whole game and you just have to make sure you’re ready for it.
“You stay in the game by talking to the defence and following the game. You can’t switch off.”
The 0-0 result at Southampton was only the second clean sheet of the season for Liverpool, so there is more work to do on the keeping-balls-out-of-the-net front. But, it’s clear that a unified resistance to the opposition has been instilled in the players and, in time, I expect we’ll see that unity beget more goose eggs.