Two consecutive clean sheets for Liverpool now. One in the difficult 0-0 draw against Manchester United’s bus and another in the 7-0 thrashing of NK Maribor in the Champions League. Is it a sign that Liverpool’s defensive frailties are strengthening? Was it a fluke? Or was it the result of playing opponents who never looked much like scoring in the first place?
Liverpool’s defense has taken a fair amount of criticism this season for being too soft and too easy to expose. The failure of the club to sign Virgil van Dijk or any other accomplished center half in the transfer window surely compounded supporter’s anxiety over another season of Dejan Lovren as first choice. But Joël Matip also had a rocky start to the campaign.
A couple more solid displays and the tide may be turning in favor of this Liverpool defense. But when asked about the possibility that he and the team might realistically move on from these defensive criticisms from the fanbase, Jürgen Klopp had some strong words of reply.
“It will never happen in Liverpool,” said Klopp. “I’m pretty sure now after two years I can say it will never happen.
“Because we concede one goal and it’s always one player who is then not good enough. That make no sense to me.
“And you then blame him in a game with one man down against City, it makes no sense at all.”
Klopp was clearly frustrated at what he perceives as unfair recriminations against his players. The swirly nature of Liverpool’s attack and press has a tendency to leave spaces and it’s every player’s responsibility to recognize and defend those spaces throughout the game. To Klopp, the defense functions team-wide and thus a goal conceded is not the fault of one player, but many, if not all, the players on the pitch.
Unfortunately, for supporters who have struggled through many works-in-progress over the better part of ten years, this is still a work-in-progress.
“Yes, we know we have to improve,” Klopp said. “We improved in the last two games, I said it after Maribor and already after United, that we were much better and much smarter in protection. To protect our own offensive situations.
“It will be a different game against Tottenham, but in these two games when it was similar, what we had to do, the most important thing was to avoid counter attacks and we did that pretty well as a team.
“I said it at Maribor, yes, we scored seven goals but the best thing in the whole game was our counter pressing. It was outstanding. And when we do this it’s always easier for the last line. So that’s what we have to do in the next few games, too.”