Liverpool have been heavily linked to Southampton’s Dejan Lovren with the player telling his manager Ronald Koeman that he wants to join Liverpool.
The Reds finished second in Premier League last season, having been top of the league with just three games of the season left. They ultimately lost out to Manchester City and on the balance of the season, deservedly so.
Although they scored a remarkable 101 goals, just one less than City, they conceded an atrocious 50 goals. In comparison, Brendan Rodgers’ side conceded 43 in his first season and 40 in the season before, when Kenny Dalglish was the manager. Only Spurs conceded more (51) in the top eight teams last season.
They managed to keep just 10 cleansheets in 38 games (less than 10 other teams including the relegated Norwich) and 66% of their matches involved both teams scoring (highest amongst all 20 teams).
The need of the hour is to shore up a shaky defence which proved to be the Achilles heel of a side that came so close to winning the league. Only Tottenham (21) committed more mistakes that directly led to opposition goals this season than Liverpool (13).
Rodgers’ team plays a high line which involves energetic closing down of the opposition as they hunt in packs. The fullbacks push forward and the defenders have to be quick as they are susceptible to counters and there are a lot of open spaces to be covered. Lovren had an astonishing top speed of 31.8 km/h at the World Cup which was the joint 18th and equal to that of Neymar!
Blueprint of Brendan Rodgers’ 4-3-3
Rodgers likes to have multiple tiers in his formation with players assigned to each zone in order to play fluid passing football. The two centrebacks take up their position in the 2nd zone. Their role is expected to be that of ball playing defenders who are quick in 1 on 1 situations.
Lovren will slot right into the 2nd zone. He will have the ball for a longer duration than he did at Southampton and will be responsible for tidying up at the back as well as being available to receive passes from the midfield and play an active part in building up from the defence.
With Mamadou Sakho looking set to become an integral part of the Liverpool back-line this season, the strong central defender will complement him well with his intelligent reading of the game as proven by these statistics from Squawka.
Lovren made 84 interceptions last season, with his average of 2.71 per game being the 3rd highest for a centreback in the entire league. His quick thinking and brilliant reading of the game will be imperative for Liverpool.
Also he won more tackles than any other Liverpool defender with 48, 12 more than Martin Skrtel despite playing five games less. An average of 1.55 per game that was almost 50% that of Skrtel.
According to whoscored.com, Lovren won 1.4 offsides per game which was a joint league highest. It would suit Liverpool nicely as they are known to play a highline which presses opponents high up the pitch and that relies on catching forwards offside, a tricky business in which the entire back-four has to be well coordinated.
Southampton kept the ball with a league highest 58.6% average possession. Liverpool were 5th with 55.8% behind only City, Swansea and Arsenal. So Lovren is accustomed to playing a possession based game as he completed close to 1300 passes with an average length of almost 22 metres per passes. All the Liverpool centrebacks had a lesser average distance of passes which is expected as they play a much shorter passing game than Southampton. His pass percentage of 82% will surely increase if he comes to Anfield this summer.
Also, he made a three successful last man tackles last season, which was more than Liverpool’s four centrebacks combined total of two; Sakho and Skrtel getting one apiece.
Brendan Rogers wants a reliable centreback and Lovren made just one error leading to a goal. Skrtel and Kolo Toure made two each while Daniel Agger and Sakho were impeccable in this regard.
Agger looks like that he could be leaving and Skrtel always comes across as a defender who blows hot and cold. Despite being the most consistent defender for Liverpool last season, there’s always that feeling that Rodgers can’t ever truly rely on him and despite his 6 goals, he also scored a league record 4 own goals last season.
Lovren on the other hand apart from being good on the ball also has a calm, dominating presence at the back, something that Liverpool have been missing since the days of Sami Hyypia.
Add to that the fact that he has a decent European experience as well. He played two seasons for Lyon in the 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 season in the Champions League, and the next in the Europa League which should be useful for Liverpool’s Champions League campaign next season.
Even if Agger were to leave, Lovren along with Sakho and Skrtel will be a strong trio of centrebacks at the club. Lovren said a few months into his stint with Southampton:
“I was playing football in Lyon and Dinamo Zagreb but never like this, We play with risk but it’s such a pleasure.”
The risks and pleasures are going to increase manifold if the Croatian does end up joining Liverpool, albeit a bit overpriced.