Before Liverpool can even think about challenging for anything they need to get things right at the back. Conceding 85 goals since Jürgen Klopp took over in October 2015, the most out of all the team that finished in the top six last season is nowhere near good enough for a team trying to enter Europe’s elite once again.
To go to Watford and score three goals and not come away with the three points should never happen. Liverpool have another three weeks to bring in a new centre-back to partner Joël Matip and try to and tighten things up at the back, but I do not believe all of Liverpool’s defensive problems come down to personal.
Someone like Virgil van Dijk will definitely help aid Liverpool defensively, but one man can’t fix everything.
One of Liverpool’s biggest weakness is defending set pieces. Liverpool have conceded 44 set piece goals since the start of the 2014/2015 season, which is 31% of their total goals conceded, which is the worst in the entire league and the addition of one player isn’t going to suddenly fix that. Set piece defending is done as a team.
The problem while defending set pieces is the way the team set up and at times individually errors are to blame occasionally, most of the time though the blame should go to the staff.
Klopp set up the players to defend zonal on corners against Watford and conceded two goals. The same was done for the majority of last season and Liverpool continue to leak goals from corners, but still, nothing is being done. Klopp, or whoever is responsible for defensive coaching has to change the way the team is set up.
Another problem Liverpool have is also down to the team set up when with 10 minutes to go and a lead to defend Liverpool put all men behind the ball. Liverpool are bad enough at defending as it is, we don’t need them to invite the opposition to attack and ask us to defend even more.
Most Liverpool fans saw Watford’s equaliser from a mile away because it happens so often. Again, van Dijk will help but he does not instruct the team to set back and try to hold a lead. For Liverpool, the best form of defence is to attack.
Klopp sets up his teams to get the best out of the attacking players, which has obviously worked, but doing so sacrifices defensive stability, something one player alone can not fix on his own.
Van Dijk will obviously stop Liverpool’s sometimes comedic attempt at defending. He is a broader line world class defender and will be the leader at the back Liverpool have missed for years. Liverpool’s defence will instantly get 100 times better with him being in it, but all whose corners and late goals will still be a common occurrence unless something is done about how the team is set up to defend.
There are worse managers with worse defenders in the league who defend and set up their teams better than Klopp and Liverpool. It isn’t an impossible task and it needs to be addressed if Liverpool are to compete for trophies this season.