For most folk, £75million is a big enough sum to dissolve any problems life may throw at us. Sadly, for Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, this isn’t the case.
After dispensing a world-record sum for Virgil van Dijk, many assumed the sides’ porous defence would be a thing of the past, the team finally calcified. Such assumptions have proved false.
Despite the hulking presence of the Dutchman, the club have still leaked goals with the same maddening regularity, and as the race for Champions League qualification becomes ever more strenuous, it will be a source of real consternation.
Time and quality remain in the Reds’ favour, a fact reflected in the betting odds. (Click here to download Bet365 app, the best betting app in the UK). where the majority of bookmakers have them at 2/9 to secure a top four berth.
In the reactionary world in which we live it is easy to lambast Van Dijk for not immediately solving all of his club’s issues, yet the difficulty Liverpool have in keeping their sheets clean extends beyond any one player.
Their failings are systemic.
As much as we all love Jurgen Klopp for his maniacal grin, authentic rages and pure love of the sport, he must be ready to accept some of the blame. His side concede goals because of the manner in which he sets them up.
Liverpool are a side completely alien to the word moderation.
They, reflecting their gaffer, are completely bombastic, looking to continually pound their opposition into the ground with wave after wave of relentless, vibrant attacks. When this comes off, as it did in January’s 4-3 win against Manchester City, the results are spectacular. However, to the dismay of so many Liverpool fans, wins like this are too intermittent.
This commitment to all-out, aggressive warfare is commendable from a neutral’s perspective, yet some tweaking must surely be done.
Firstly, there must be a semblance of balance between the two full backs. Having both attack in unison, and then being surprised at the opposition launching a successful counterattack, is like a farmer leaving the door to his chicken coop open and becoming enraged at finding a fox feasting until its heart’s content.
Robertson and one of Clyne, Gomez and Alexander-Arnold, can gel to become as good a fullback pairing as any in the league, but only if Klopp can temper his rambunctious side and introduce a little moderation. Failure to do so will continue to make talented centre-halves look amateurish.
What also must be introduced at Anfield is a dedicated midfielder adept at sitting in front of the defence and destroying opposition play. Almost every rival for the top four has a variation of this; Chelsea have Kante, City have Fernandinho, United have Matic and Spurs have Dier and Wanyama.
The only rival who has not embraced this midfield pivot is Arsenal, a fault identified and ignored for almost a decade now – hardly an example to follow.
Emre Can, and to a certain degree Henderson, have been tasked with this duty, yet both are far too prone to lapses in concentration to ever blossom in this position, neglecting their duties in favour of upfield surges. The summer arrival of RB Leipzig’s Naby Keita may help, yet he too is more creative and adventurous to fully fill this void.
The raw materials, both on the field and in the dugout, are there for Liverpool to be a ferociously good side, yet for this potential to be realised an alliance between strength and style, between grit and guile, must be found.