When the question arose of whether Loris Karius would keep his starting position in Liverpool’s goal for Wednesday’s clash against Middlesbrough, Jürgen Klopp was emphatic: “Whatever the public says has no influence on me.”
He’s referencing the questions by pundits and on social media alike about whether or not Karius has the skill and fitness to be the team’s permanent number one. Klopp has defended his hand-picked goalkeeper vociferously in the days following Liverpool’s 2-2 draw at home to West Ham.
However, he’s also made it clear that Liverpool’s defensive lapses, allowing six goals to be scored against them in the last two games, is a product not of individual error, but a failure of the whole group.
“When you concede four at Bournemouth....that was bad defending,” he said. “You could see it. But afterwards it was, ‘Ah, we missed Matip, we missed the centre half’.
“Joël Matip would not have stopped that fourth goal. Would he have run from the six-yard box to stop the shot? No. It would have been exactly the same.
“We made mistakes, didn’t feel comfortable, didn’t push up. THAT is defending.”
When a team playing Klopp’s system is working correctly, pressing is their first and foremost line of defense. The moment an opposition player receives the ball, he gets swarmed by two, three, sometimes even four Liverpool players, trying to cut off passing opportunities, force errors, and ultimately regain possession. The problem with this aggressive stye of play is that when it doesn’t work, it leaves Liverpool vulnerable at the back.
“Defending starts in offensive situations,” Klopp continued. “The situation with Dejan against West Ham. At the end you see only Lovren, but the guy who played the ball should have been under more pressure, or we should have had more players behind the ball. The rest makes no sense.”
Overall, Klopp seems adamant in his refusal to point fingers at his individual players, at least in public. The problems he pinpoints, instead, are systemic errors that the team as a whole has to work out together in order for them to see any improvement.
Klopp will have no shortage of matches in which to work out these kinks in the coming few weeks — the first of which is Wednesday night at the Riverside Stadium.