The top-choice, center back partnership of Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip has only managed to appear a total of twelve times for Liverpool this season. That’s only twelve out of twenty-six games where Jürgen Klopp’s preferred defenders have defended together. We’ve seen Ragnar Klavan in there. Lucas Leiva pops up surprisingly regularly to fill in. Joe Gomez has appeared as he builds his fitness and understanding of Klopp’s way of playing.
All combinations have experienced varying results. Klopp has been justified on occasion with his selections but by not having solid squad players to compete with Lovren and Matip for minutes it highlights the very real problem of Liverpool being incredibly short staffed in defense and by extension underlines the team’s goals conceded as a product of inconsistency.
“Against Leicester, I would say that was the worst game we’ve played this season,” said Klopp, talking to BBC Sport.
“Have we conceded too many?” Klopp asked himself. “Yes, absolutely.”
“We’ve had to change a lot and that’s the truth, especially in centre-half positions. It seems like an excuse but it’s only an explanation for what’s happened.”
Leicester City won the league last year with consistency. It matters. And despite where you may fall on how good either Lovren or Matip are at their jobs or as a pair, they are Liverpool’s best defenders right now ahead of a thirty-plus Klavan and Lucas who, no matter how wonderful a human being, just doesn’t happen to be a defender.
If Klopp had found it acceptable to keep Mamadou Sakho in the squad, where might the team be now? It’s also understandable that a proper defender may not have been available to sign in January but, how might a reinforcement player have changed things for the better? But that’s all gone now. The team is set until the summer and Klopp will have to deal with the inconsistencies as a manager and will have to deal with the successes and failures of his decisions.