Ever since joining the Reds from Southampton in the summer of 2014, Lovren has failed to live up to his potential.
Back then, the £20 million seemed like money well spent. After all, they were acquiring a defender who had helped the Saints keep 15 clean sheets. Able to put in tackles well, many thought he was the key to fixing a defence that had shipped 50 Premier League goals.
However, fans quickly realised that they’ve placed their faith in the wrong man. The sight of him making mistake after mistake became a common occurrence. And even if he had a good run of form, it almost always end up with a catastrophic mistake.
Though Klopp is well known for his loyalty to his players, many predicted the end for Lovren after his dismal showing against Tottenham last October. At fault for 2 goals, the Croatian was subbed off at the 31 minute mark, with Spurs eventually winning the tie 4-1.
To his credit, Lovren has responded admirably following that nightmarish outing. He proved to be reliable defender in the latter half of the season, culminating in a respectable performance in the Champions League final. There, he was key in keeping Ronaldo quiet for the majority of the game. And even though the Reds eventually lost 3-1, Lovren was one of the few players who could leave with their heads up high.
Lovren’s impressive form continued in the World Cup, where his efforts have helped his nation progress into the knockout stage. More impressive still was the 2 clean sheets kept, which included keeping Messi and Co at bay.
In light of his recent performances, does Lovren deserve to be Liverpool’s first choice centre back?
This a hard question for many. As a Liverpool player, I obviously want him to succeed. But at the same time, the player has let down the fan base on too many occasions with false dawns. For a team to succeed, consistent and reliable defenders are needed, and Lovren has proved time and again that he’s none of those.
However, there’s reason to believe that Lovren can continue being in Liverpool’s starting XI.
Firstly, he still retains the trust of his manager. In an interview with Robbie Fowler in the Mirror, Klopp truly believes that Lovren is a “world-class” defender. Klopp went on to say: “Kolo Toure left, Martin Skrtel left, Mama Sakho left, a lot of centre-halves we had all left. He’s still here, I am not blind and I am not silly.” Clearly, the gaffer rates the defender even if fans do not, and Lovren looks set to feature prominently in his plans.
Secondly, Lovren finally has a reliable partner in the form of Virgil van Djik. Before the Dutchman’s arrival, the partnership of Lovren and Matip looked brittle at times. Neither looked comfortable on the ball, and a lack of communication was glaringly obvious. Van Djik on the other hand had a sense of surety, instructing the backline on a consistent basis while also being able to play out from the back. This gave Lovren the chance to do what he does best: winning tackles and headers. In a sense his duties were kept simple, allowing him to excel.
And finally, there’s a lack of transfer targets being linked to Liverpool. While the likes of Tarkowski are being occasionally mentioned, there aren’t any concrete links to suggest their arrival. Furthermore, those aren’t the quality defenders that could really replace Lovren.
While there’s no harm recruiting a defender to Liverpool’s cause, the above factors all point towards Lovren being granted an extended run in the starting XI. While there is no guarantee that the former Southampton man will remain error free, chances are that he won’t be making them on a consistent basis. And even if he does, his ability to bounce back from mistakes will definitely see him remain in the team for the foreseeable future.
Lovren may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but even his haters have to acknowledge that his run of form merits him a place in the team. For now.