When the dust finally settled after the 2016/17 Premier League season I think it’s fair to say that Liverpool’s Estonian defender Ragnar Klavan had served the team well. He was never signed to be a nailed-on starter but when called on to stop the likes of Sergio Aguero or Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Klavan impressed. Considering he was also acclimating himself to “the toughest league in the world” it wasn’t a bad showing for the ex-Augsburg man.
“Yes it was hard. The Premier League was harder than I thought,” Klavan said.
“It took a while to get used to it. Learning what’s allowed in that league and what’s not.
“I think my first year was all right. I tried to help the team as much as possible.
“I had some good games and some not so good games. It was like that for the whole team, up and down.”
The defensive aspect to Liverpool’s play last season was a thorn in the side. There was loads of inconsistency at back and the high-intensity attacking nature of Jürgen Klopp’s style means that the team must always be ready to snap back into defensive shape if the ball is turned over. It takes time to learn but this preseason has been heavy on drilling that snap into the players.
“With the football we play, most of the time we are the attacking side. You want to bring more energy and focus on the attacking side.
“When it suddenly changes then maybe we aren’t quick enough in our heads to make that change and protect our goal. That’s one of the points we are working on to make that change a bit quicker.
“Being a defender in this team is different for sure. You are involved in every aspect of the game.”
Klavan’s place in the squad could get a little squirrely as the summer rolls on if and when a new center half is acquired. He was signed to be a fourth-maybe-third choice last summer and ended up at times the only second defensive option for Jürgen Klopp after injuries and whatnot to Joël Matip or Dejan Lovren.
Liverpool succeeding in getting Southampton to allow Virgil van Dijk to leave the south coast, along with the emergence of Joe Gomez as an option across the back line, Ragnar could find himself well down the depth chart soon.
“It’s hard to say how the season will pan out but there will be more games this season with Europe compared to last season.
“I don’t know how the manager will solve that problem. But when he needs me, I’ll be there.”