Replacing players after injuries is a tricky thing. Joël Matip stepped up when Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren were out injured, making that second centerback role his own. Joe Gomez has come back into the role with Matip himself out injured. Dejan Lovren on the other hand... hadn’t started since December before Saturday’s match at Vicarage Road against Watford. Lovren himself has had somewhat of an inconsistent Liverpool career (to put it mildly) and would easily be pinned by some fans as the major factor in Saturday’s loss at Vicarage Road, due to that whole not starting since December thing.
Was he the right man for the job? Well he was the only man available or the job, considering Fabinho had to be ready to play the number 6 role with Jordan Henderson out injured, and James Milner unable to fill in should Fabinho have to move to the back. Jurgen Klopp had to do the best with what he had and unfortunately the best wasn’t good enough. Dejan Lovren said it himself to the Echo on Sunday.
“It’s strange, to be honest. It hurts, really hurts,” the Croatian said. “A defeat is a defeat but, you know, this was strange. Right from the beginning until the end, it was missing the usual things that we have. We deserved to lose. Maybe it is a wake-up call for us.
”If you look back at the last couple of games, the result was there and we got the performance that we needed but… I think this was a proper wake-up call to everyone.
”I don’t want to say that it is good but you know what I mean? It can be a benefit to help us get to the end of the season. We need to remember how it should be.
”Yes, we are nearly there [for the title] but the performance means [the assessment] was simple. We didn’t deserve anything.”
Considering the loss in Madrid and the very hard fought victory against West Ham, he’s not wrong in speculating that it was coming. Liverpool’s performances haven’t been anywhere they need to be since the December crunch, and coming back from that “Winter” break earlier this month didn’t help things either. All this to say that there’s still plenty of league to play and time to work out whatever kinks have appeared, injury related or not.
“We are calm. Everyone knows it is something that we should learn from,” Lovren continued.
”The manager looked at us when he came into the dressing room and he knew that we knew it wasn’t our best performance. We felt a little bit ashamed, you know? We should have done better. There is no excuse for that performance.”
Lovren’s faith in the team and in the manager is unshakeable, and even it was clear to him what could be improved upon before their next league meeting against Bournemouth. The end to the unbeaten run, though, was coming at some point. Thankfully it came now and can be dealt with accordingly.
“I think the manager knows we are missing something,” added the defender. ”I think it is about the aggression when we lose the ball and recovering the ball as quickly as possible. Usually we do that without a problem.
“Against Watford, we had a lot of problems with the second balls. Always they were there for the second balls. Usually that doesn’t happen.
”We should look at this and realise we have to do much, much better. We know there is always an end for everything. It is here where our unbeaten run ended. We will not look at this result and think it was a bad season because of losing here.
”One performance won’t ruin everything. But this is always a learning process. From tomorrow, we look forward and until the end, we can still make this a perfect season, but it is a wake-up call.
”The last couple of games hadn’t been the best performances but we won. This one, it didn’t happen. This one was like someone hit us in our faces - and we deserved it.”
Liverpool still have four matches to lock up the league, and ten matches left to play. With records no longer hanging over their heads, they can focus their energies on making sure that the league, and the Champions League and maybe the FA Cup, are the only things on their minds. Not records to break.