Opinion

LFC Season Review – Our Defence: FOAR or Against?

What a thrilling season this has been. Heavy metal football, as Klopp promised, truly arrived at our doorstep this season. Never before have heart medication pills (for us) and depression pills (for everyone else) been sold in such large quantities.

All kidding aside, a fantastic run both domestically and in Europe shows, with a comfortable 4th place finish to secure a Champions league spot in back-to-back seasons for the first time since a long long time. If that in itself isn’t reason to be impressed, a deep run to the final of the Champions League in such swashbuckling fashion, result irrespective, is another reason to celebrate this bountiful season.

Now that we know the results for the seasons, our writes have put their heads together to rate our players for the season past. To start off part 1, we take a look at the unit which has given us most grief over the years – the defence. It’s been an up and down season for the defence, with two distinct eras – Pre and Post Van Dijk. We’ve however tried to be holistic and take a look at how each of our players did, irrespective of when Van Dijk arrived.

 

 

Opinion by Vaishak @ Vaishak_13

Simon Mignolet:

First up, we have Simon Mignolet, who was our number one choice since the second half of last season and was very much in control of the numero uno gloves at Liverpool. His game changing saves against Stoke City and West Brom at the back end of last season helped the Reds secure passage to the UCL play off’s this term. His crucial save away to Leicester City was one of the highlights of his season which, if we are all going to be honest, was his only highlight. Jürgen Klopp gave him a second chance which in all fairness is hard to come by in the modern game least for a goalkeeper. His calamitous keeping against Spurs, which some of the more apologetic fans would point out was caused by the defensive collapse in front of him, did not do him any favors. One could certainly look at that moment and safely say that his doomsday clock had begun to tick and it was only a matter of time before it hit midnight and boy did it hit midnight in some fashion.

In a crucial away game against Arsenal in December, who at that time were still in their perennial race for top four, Liverpool eased into a 2-0 lead after halftime and were in control of the game, poised for another win against the Londoners. A defensive mistake at the far post by Joe Gomez allowed Arsenal a way back into the game but a certain Belgium sealed the game. Xhaka let fly a speculative shot from 30 yards out, which while admittedly on target, was shot straight at the keeper. While most keepers would use two hands to smother the shot from distance, Mignolet decided to use one to try and palm it away. The result? It ended up in the back of his net.  Although the game ended in a draw, this proved to be the final nail in the coffin for Simon Mignolet’s Anfield career. Klopp being Klopp, stood by his keeper publicly, but even Simon must have known there was no coming back from this. The game against Burnley proved to be the final league game of his season after which Jürgen Klopp announced that Loris Karius would be the number one for the remainder of the season in the Premier League and Champions League. This was his fifth season on Merseyside and with neither stats nor public opinion behind him, perhaps the right decision from Klopp.

Rating: 5/10

 

 

Loris Karius:

The young German took over the reins from Simon Mignolet with authority and a renewed sense of proving his doubters wrong this term. At the start of the season he was the designated Champions League custodian and he put in some commendable performances in the group stages. His crucial save away at Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán kept Liverpool in the game, although that was a game to forget and learn from the mistakes on the whole for the Reds. It soon became evident that Loris was improving with each game he was getting and was knocking at the gaffer’s door by his on-field exploits. Finally it all changed after the New Year when Jürgen Klopp announced that Karius would be the Liverpool number one till the end of the season and that the shirt was his to lose.

His first game in charge after being reinstated as the Anfield top dog was the crunch game against Manchester City. Liverpool won it 4-3 though some fingers were pointed at Loris for the goals that were conceded. The media was up to their usual dirty tricks but Klopp brushed it off and never looked back. Karius went from strength to strength after that. Racking up crucial saves against the likes of Newcastle and Everton and imposing himself during moments of intense pressure when Liverpool were on the back foot during games when the gegen-machine had run out of gas. His decision making has vastly improved this season and all the jittery moments he had the prior season were nowhere to be seen. The guy hardly put a foot or a glove wrong the remainder of the season. He was finally showing the world what he was capable of and what he could do if he is given enough chances and by no means should it come as a shock after being voted as the second best keeper in the Bundesliga league after Neuer. All that the German required was some time to settle in a new league and country because after the dust had finally settled we could see that we do indeed have a gem on our hands to keep the goal at Anfield safe for a long time.

Unfortunately for the young keeper, the season ended on sour note, with 2 mistakes in the CL final leading to 2 goals and directly contributing to the defeat. Does this mean the end of the road after a poor performance, irrespective of the brilliance through the rest of the season? It is to be waited and seen, though one could argue the pressure of the moment got to him, and once he settles fully, a beast from the shell of Karius shall emerge.

Rating: 6/10

 

 

Virgil Van Dijk:

The man of the hour, the person you were most likely waiting most eagerly to read about – Virgil Van Dijk. The one guy every Liverpool supporter wanted in the summer, the one who divided opinions when the club had to publicly apologize by ending their “interest” in him. Fans could not wrap their head around as to why the team did not go for another centre back, especially when the details of his price tag emerged in the twilight and aftermath of the summer window. Why he’s so coveted that Klopp didn’t want to get any one else was the question that ran in many minds. Fingers were pointed at Klopp, Edwards and whoever that was remotely seen to be involved in the transfers more during the mini defensive crisis in the first six months of the campaign.

Like every kid that is overjoyed at receiving a present during the holidays, there was a beaming smile upon every Liverpool fan when Van Dijk was pictured holding a Liverpool jersey beside a Christmas tree. Liverpool broke their transfer record and had signed him for £75 million making him the most expensive defender in the world and immediately the focus turned on his price tag. Most pundits and certainly every rival fan expected him to buckle under the pressure of the transfer fee but they were about to be proved woefully wrong. His debut could not have come in a better game, in the FA cup, a Merseyside derby no less, where he announced himself by scoring the winner at the Kop end!

With that single game, he endeared himself to the entire fan base, but that was to be just the start. It soon became visible as to why he was so sought after and why we fought tooth and nail with Man City to acquire him, the defense which was considered an accident waiting to happen was transformed by his leadership skills. He made the back line his private yard, shouting and demanding from his teammates. A renewed sense of calmness slowly began to spread among him teammates. He has an astute sense of passing and vision to pull a line splitting pass one moment or just ping the ball upfield to catch the opposition out of guard the other. Moreover, he instructs his teammates as to what type of ball to play, when to release it, when to hold it, displaying the aura of a future captain (I’m drooling at that prospect). Liverpool, who were seen as a vulnerable team defensively, improved so much after signing the former Southampton player that all the talks about leaking goals quietly went down the drain, along with the mention of his transfer fee. For all the attacking flair our team possesses, it would mean little if the defense wasn’t sorted out. Defense wins you titles and Jürgen Klopp broke the bank to as he recognizes this simple truth. Bill Shankly’s greatest signing, arguably of course, was centre back Ron Yates – big, powerful, a good reader of the game and a colossus when running towards you in the famous red shirt. We can finally say that a new colossus has arrived on the battlefield to lead us to innumerable victories, his name, Virgil Van Dijk.

Rating: 10/10

 

 

Opinion by Manny @mannyyylfc

Dejan Lovren:

Lovren, once again, has had a mixed season of highs and lows. Unfortunately, I believe he will always be that hot and cold of a player as he is about to reach the age of 29.

Before the arrival of a certain Dutchman, Lovren was having a mediocre season along with the rest of the defence. It seemed irrespective of the combination at the back, Liverpool continued to concede goals and Lovren had no real positive impact on our defence. The arrival of Van Dijk has been a certain career saver for Lovren. Initially relegated to the bench as Matip was preferred to be the defensive partner to VVD, a combination of injuries for Matip and the lack of a coherent partnership between  Matip and VVD gave Lovren another chance to impress in defence, and boy did he take that chance with both hands, cementing his spot along with Van Dijk with a pretty good partnership. Van Dijk helped Lovren remain calm and not make many of the judgmental errors he generally does.

His highs were the huge performances in the Champions League nights where he handled the Manchester City frontline amazingly well. He also did extremely well against Roma in the 1st leg at Anfield.  As always though, somehow things will go chaotic for him occasionally. The penalty he conceded against Everton, the mis-kick/tackle that played Harry Kane onside, ‘that’ abysmal performance against Tottenham at Wembley and lastly, the game where he was dominated by an underperforming Lukaku at Old Trafford showed the low’s of his game too. Total EPL points of those games cost? 10 Premier League points against important rivals.

Despite his provision of mixed emotions, it is undeniable that he has become a real character in our dressing room for the few past seasons. Our number 6 has shown what it means to him to play for this football club and seems above all, having faced a series of threat’s towards his and his families’ lives from some of the inhuman fan base, and he has become stronger and it has reflected in this year’s performance on the pitch.

Score: 7/10

*Our champions League run is why he’s getting the 7*

 

 

Joe Gomez:

After being with LFC for 3 seasons, we have to admit Joe Gomez’s progress has been nothing short of a big stall for a youngster. He joined us from Charlton as a promising young defender and has shown glimpses of what he is capable of. Unfortunately, that has rarely been the case. We could say that Gomez has been disturbed regularly with injuries and fitness.

This season he has featured in 22 Premier League games, more than enough for a 20-year-old to prove his abilities. Joe Gomez, however, could not cement his place in the first team. It could be argued that the brilliance of TAA has overshadowed Gomez’s effort but his role at Right back was never secured, he mainly was playing in Clyne’s absence. I believe Joe Gomez has a huge potential, but probably not at right back. He does have the defensive nous you need from a defensive player, often showing it in how well he managed to shackle players during defensive phases of the game. However, he does not offer attacking threats and therefore it is hard to see him fit into a RB slot in the long term, especially in Klopp’s system. He also does not look entirely comfortable when isolated in the wide position without support either, as could be seen when he made a few mistakes directly leading to goal.

He needs to play regularly at his favorite center back role. He also needs to be more aggressive in Klopp’s formation, playing in a more front footed style. Gomez is still very young to be playing frequently at this stage and he will only be better. Klopp often praises him as a promising, physical defender and it can be seen he has the makings of a future defender. Showed his commitment by played through his injury when needed, putting the club’s benefits before his own. Overall, a good introduction back to regular football for the youngster after 2 nightmarish injury interrupted season.  He will be disappointed to be injured and not available for the upcoming world cup, and will be a much stronger player once next season arrives. The 18/19 season probably is a do or die season for young Joe however.

Rating: 6/10

 

 

Opinion by Koushik @ Koushik2497

Ragnar Klavan:

The Liverpool defence undoubtedly had a nightmare during the first half of the season. With both Matip and Lovren performing poorly, it was good to see a senior stalwart stepping in and providing some much needed quality performances at least.  In addition, with Lovren and Matip proving injury prone, Ragnar Klavan was the perfect player to deputise for these two players with his abundance of experience.  Ragnar’s availability also enabled Klopp to rest his Centre Backs during the Champions League run in.

His performances have been good for the Reds this season and the stand-out moment for Klavan has to be scoring the winner against Burnley in the dying minutes of the game.  Although he is definitely not a player who the fans would want to see start next season as first choice, Klavan is an excellent back-up to all the CB’s we have in the squad. With his ball playing ability and his experience, the squad benefits in more ways than one. With Klopp and co looking to extend the Estonian’s contract by a year it should tell us fans the kind of belief that Klopp holds on a player like Klavan and he’s also performed above average this season to earn this extension.

Rating: 7/10

 

 

Opinion by Aakarsh @ aakarsh_ab

Joel Matip:

Matip was brought in last year as the player who was expected to become a part of the permanent solution to Liverpool’s problems at the back. A disciplined CB, who is comfortable on the ball and is usually not error prone, Matip, came off a relatively good season last year, albeit with some defensive lapses. It was expected that Matip would come have a stronger year this time around after having adapted to the league fully.

However this was not to be the case and overall this season can be called out as a disappointing one. Upon the arrival of Van Dijk, Matip was started as the first choice partner along with Virgil, however, Matip was prone to loss of concentration on a number of occasions and had a number of below average performances for The Reds this season.

His goal against West Ham in the 4-1 victory did give him some confidence, but Matip just did not look convincing enough playing alongside Liverpool’s colossal in Van Dijk. Dejan Lovren, who had been derided & hated for his mistakes by the Liverpool faithful, is now preferred over Matip, which is a statement of how far he has fallen.

Another major concern for Matip and Liverpool was the number of games he had to miss through Injuries. He missed a total of 23 games with injury. While Van Dijk and Matip did not really hit it off as a partnership, they did not play too many games as a unit either due to Matip’s perennial injuries this term. The running injury list also meant a lack of coherence to gain his best form.

Liverpool have done well in his absence to reach where they are at moment. He will want to come back strongly next season as this season has only been a learning curve for him.

Rating – 5/10

 

 

Alberto Moreno:

The Spanish full-back cost Liverpool a number of games in the past and though looked it like he turned a corner at the start of the season, he lost his place in the first team to the very exciting Andrew Robertson. The Scot was probably one of the best LB’s in the league last season, pushing Moreno to the bench, where he has had to be ever since.

Moreno, who still managed 14 league starts, is now only a backup but he did not seem to have learnt from his mistakes, as was evident in his performances against West Brom and Stoke late in the season when he started, with Klopp deciding to rest Robertson.

He started all the group stage games in the UCL campaign for the Reds, and though was not too bad, is now replaced by an upgrade. While his best performances in the season came at the start, like in the games against Arsenal, Maribor and Seville, one could never shake the feeling that he was too far away from a mistake. He is still his reckless self, something Liverpool may look to avoid next season.

While reports claim that he might be offered a new contract, cementing his place as a backup, the fact that Klopp still believes that he has a future at the club continues the discussion about his potential. While he is not irreplaceable for Liverpool, he certainly is an important part of providing squad depth at the moment.

Rating – 5/10

 

 

Nathaniel Clyne:

The 2017-18 season seemed to have ended even before it started for the English full-back, who picked up a back injury in a pre-season game against Tramere Rovers. He was lucky to get any sort of game time this season as he made a comeback into the first team in the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park not too long ago.

Though he showed lack of fitness and on field game time, Clyne demonstrated that Liverpool still have one of the most consistent full-backs in the league at their disposal. He hardly put a foot wrong and though was not too willing to take on the opponents, added decent stability to the backline for Liverpool. He then got nine minutes of UCL football at Etihad and a minute in Rome before he was handed just his second league start at Stamford Bridge. He lasted an hour and though made no impact, did pretty well to keep the likes of Eden Hazard quiet and proved that he is still an option for the first team for Jurgen Klopp next season.

With just 174 minutes of league action all season, Clyne will be disappointed but will be up for the challenge next season. But Liverpool have their own silver lining in this story, as Clyne’s injury is what allowed young Trent Alexander-Arnold to make an impact on the first team.

Rating: N/A – Too few minutes to rate holistically

 

 

Opinon by Aditya @ TheKloppmeister

Trent Alexander Arnold:

Ah young Trent, probably my player of the season (yes I’m aware of Mo Salah). The young 19 year old RB, born and bred a red, what a revelation he has been. After many years of lamenting the lack of a next Gerrard coming out of the academy and ruing what happened to Flanno, here is a breath of fresh air who seems to be ready to claim him spot as the next big thing.

What a fantastic season this has been, with a total of 35 appearances for the reds, with 2 goals and 2 assists (1 each in the PL and CL). In the previous season, made 12 appearances and showed glimpses of what talent he had to offer, however, this season he has clearly taken his game to a new level. Can one ever forget the showcase of skill for his magnificent free-kick goal vs. Hoffenheim from outside the box, curling the ball over the wall and bending it into the bottom corner? How about the passion for the club, with his debut Premier League goal vs. Swansea, with an energetic tackle on the edge of Swansea’s box and scoring off the ball he won? Who can forget that celebration – that burst of joy and happiness of scoring for his boyhood club.

I have gone into a bit of a reminisce mode, however, his story is one which inspires so. His attacking nous, supported by his deadly right foot and beautiful curling balls, along with his ball control and vision means he fits right into the Klopp’s full back mould. While defensively still prone to losing his marker or making runs without cover, he is young and still learning this side of the game. He makes up for his poor defensive reading at times with his energy to rectify mistakes. Perhaps one day he will move into the midfield, where he originally played for the U-23, before being converted to a right back.

Rewarded for his exceptional season with a call-up to the England squad for the World Cup, here’s hoping Trent goes from strength to strength, has an excellent world cup and comes back even more ready and committed for the season ahead. Will be interesting to see if he is now Klopp’s first choice ahead of a fully fit Clyne.

Rating: 9/10

 

 

Opinon by Pranav @ komaFOAR

Andrew Robertson:

July 21st, 2017, Liverpool signed a left back from a relegated Hull City.  Andy who? I asked myself. After watching a few YouTube videos and understanding from fellow reds about his qualities, I was satisfied that Liverpool signed him as a back up to provide competition for either a new big signing Left back or James Milner, who was successfully converted to a left back the season before (Sigh). But where was the announcement of Jonas Hector or Ricardo Rodriguez? Unfortunately, there were none.

Andy on signing for Liverpool said “I just want to prove to people that I can do it at this level”. Okay, good boy Andy, but we could no longer wait for someone to prove themselves, could we? After all, left back was a position that had bitten us so many times in previous few years. We needed proven players.

The much-maligned Moreno started season beautifully (surprisingly!) until the match against Sevilla where he got injured. Step in – Andy Robertson.  “You have to grab every opportunity that comes up” – Dominic West. This quote was very well taken by Robertson. A very impressive debut against Crystal palace made me wonder if I was having a dream. A proper left back, not only could he pump brilliant crosses time after time, but also could switch to defence in a flash. The upward spiral for Robertson had begun.

Robertson was solid throughout his 22 appearances in the league but was also effective going forward. He combined pace and intelligence to be a threat in attack and in defence. Robertson also looked good during his overlaps before curling some beauties. His 5 assists and 1 goal are a good start for his first season but could have had more with better precisions at these crosses. But his consistent rating of 7 (whoscored.com) proves the stability he has brought to the Liverpool back line. His consistent and dependable performances in big games, especially against City at home, where he not only became a snake charmer (Cough *sterling *cough) but also a proper “gegenpresser” with a 70 yard press that started from his position to City’s Goalkeeper and their left back, brought happy tears in every fan’s eyes who always dreamt of a solid left back since Riise.

So while I sit here, eating my humble pie when I questioned Andy Robertson, He is gradually improving, making the right choices in the field and in life and slowly becoming a cult hero. Andy Robertson is the left back we need and the Liverpool is the club Andy Roberston deserves.

Rating: 9/10

 

PS: Do feel free to connect with our writers. Click on their twitter handles to see their twitter page.

Comments

FOAR > Fields of Anfield Road Copyright © 2018

To Top