Liverpool are in the middle of a run of poor form and find themselves in 9th position after nine rounds of Premier League fixtures. For a team with ambitions of challenging at the top of the division, this is a concerning period and public enemy number one is centre-back Dejan Lovren. The Croatian was substituted after 31 minutes at Wembley for tactical reasons as he made big errors for the first two Tottenham goals. It is out of character for Jurgen Klopp to make a change that early, but it emphasises the problems that the centre-back was causing for his own team.
For the first goal, he was caught ball watching as Kieran Trippier played a chipped pass to Harry Kane and was unable to recover. A better defender would have reacted quicker, but it was the second goal that really showed Lovren’s flaws. The former Southampton defender came rushing out to clear Hugo Lloris’ throw and misjudged the flight of the ball, which allowed Kane to run through on goal again. They were two poor pieces of defending and the Croatian was shown to be a real weakness in the Liverpool defence. It wasn’t a huge surprise to see him substituted in the first half, but Reds’ fans will be wondering why his inability hasn’t been acted on sooner.
Lovren will feel that he has been unfairly scapegoated, but everybody was drawn to him for the first two goals as they were two pieces of inexplicable defending. For an international footballer that cost £20 million, the Croatian should be doing a lot better and he has no excuses for his continual mistakes. If Sunday’s performance was a one-off, out of character display, the 28-year-old could be forgiven, but it wasn’t. It was par for the course for the centre-back and the decision not to sign a better player during the summer could be one that ultimately costs Klopp his job. The Mirror report the following quotes from the manager after the Tottenham defeat:
“The whole game the whole result was all our fault – Tottenham was good, they needed to be good, but we made it much too easy for them,”
“The first goal was a little throw in and we are not really there. It was just really bad, bad, bad defending. The second, a counter attack, when the ball passes Dejan Lovren it is already too late.”
Klopp is very critical of the defence and mentions Lovren by name. He is right in his comments, but the manager deserves to be criticised for the defeat too. Since taking over at the club, he has regularly selected the centre-back and has failed to sign a better defender in four transfer windows. Meanwhile, the decision to ostracise Mamadou Sakho looks worse by the day. Although the German may not have complete control over recruitment, a good manager would have identified the Croation’s lack of ability and corrected the problem. Klopp hasn’t done that and that is a major black mark on his time at Anfield.
The next few months will be interesting as Liverpool have few defenders in the current squad and Lovren may still have a role to play at the club. However, Klopp has now thrown him under the bus in the media and embarrassed him by substituting him in the first-half against Tottenham. The working relationship will be severely damaged and it would be a surprise to see the centre-back feature prominently for the club again. Supporters will be delighted if that was the case, but the lack of options means that the defending is unlikely to improve soon, with or without Lovren.