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Liverpool Defence Looks Lean and Mean

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Under Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool have become one of if not the most exciting teams to watch in the Premier League. The Reds’ attacking play has been thrilling to watch in the 12 months since the German boss took over at Anfield, and as such they head into Monday’s clash with old rivals Manchester United as a genuine title contender.

But this is not the first time the Merseyside outfit have been the best team to watch going forward in recent memory. Under Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool should really have won a first Premier League title in 2013-14 as Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho tore opposition apart on a weekly basis. What let them down was their lack of defensive nous as they shipped an unprecedented total for a second-placed side of 50 goals.

Fast forward two-and-a-half years and there is a familiar feel about the squad Klopp has put together since his arrival in October 2015. Coutinho now combines with Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino to devastating effect, and the Reds are already the joint-top goalscorers in the English top-flight alongside Manchester City with 18 from seven games. But at the other end of the pitch questions remain.

No side currently in the top half of the table have conceded more than the 10 goals Liverpool have, and though half of those goals came in their opening two matches of the campaign, they are still to keep a clean sheet in the league ahead of the Red Devils’ visit.

 

There are, however, some encouraging signs. Back in 2013-14, Martin Skrtel was the leader of the Liverpool defence, and though he rarely failed to put everything into his performances, the Slovakia international was certainly an accident waiting to happen. Without a regular partner he struggled to maintain any kind of stability in front of new signing Simon Mignolet, who himself seemed to lack any kind of authority.

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Nowadays, Dejan Lovren leads the backline having turned his form around from diabolical to divine since Klopp arrived and is partnered by summer signing Joel Matip. Behind them Loris Karius is still learning the ropes of being a goalkeeper in the Premier League, but the statistics from his recent seasons in Bundesliga suggest he can become a long-term No.1 in front of the Kop.

Matip, in particular, has been impressive since being brought in as a free agent from Schalke. While Mamadou Sakho became a cult favourite last season with his no-nonsense style of defending, Matip has brought a touch of class to the heart of the club’s defence without losing any of the steel that the France international provided.

The Cameroon centre-back has won in excess of 80 per cent of the tackles he has attempted in his five league outings thus far while his passing accuracy is closing on 90%. He may not have been able to translate those impressive figures with a clean sheet as of yet, but it is becoming increasingly clear that Liverpool will be far tougher to beat this term than in previous seasons.

Klopp has installed a new-found belief in Liverpool this season, and that finally seems to have translated all the way through to the defence. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic the latest to try his luck against the Reds backline, a first shutout of the campaign would certainly send a further warning message to the rest of the Premier League. There is finally some resilience on show at Anfield.


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