Good Signings but Where is the Defensive Plan?
Christian Benteke, Roberto Firmino, Danny Ings, James Milner, Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Bogdan, Joe Gomez and the returning Divock Origi have all been added to the squad this summer in quick time. Great credit must go to the club for quickly bringing in their chosen targets. Whilst many will debate on whether these signings represent good business, the club have certainly backed Brendan Rodgers with his objectives.
The names above cry out goals. Goals from headers, goals from sublime skill, goals from pace, goals from hard work – goals, goals and more goals! That’s exactly what the fanbase and importantly Rodgers craved. Rodgers recently said:
“A few years ago we needed to improve our goal tally and we did that. I feel it was the same this summer.”
“It was just clear we needed to score more goals, but I wouldn’t want that to be taken as that the other side isn’t important. I believe that our defensive organisation is critical to allow our talents to flourish. We were down on our goals. Overall it is the balance we need to improve offensively and defensively and the players that will contribute to both.”
So we are all ready to go now? Or are we?…
Rodgers importantly mentioned that the defensive side of things are also very important and that we needed to improve. The table below shows the number of goals we have conceded over the last three seasons and our ranking in the league based on number of goals conceded.
The ranking illustrates how poor defensively Liverpool have been in Rodgers’ tenure with a large number of goals conceded. Unless Liverpool score a significant number of goals like they did in the 2013/14 season they will continue to suffer in the league – as shown in the 2012/13 and 2014/15 seasons.
So it is interesting to see Rodgers’ comments about improving the defence and witnessing the players coming into the club this summer. Whilst Joe Gomez showed great promise during the pre-season tour, it is only Clyne that will be a starter in Rodgers’ back line.
Significantly there have been no reinforcements in central defence. Mamadou Sakho showed his class last season but was injured several times. Martin Skrtel remains a main stay of the defence, however our defensive record shows that he has been an integral part of a poor defence for a number of years and shows no sign of leadership. Worse still, Dejan Lovren had a terrible season worryingly still looks a bag of nerves when he comes near the ball. It is therefore surprising that whilst the defence has been spoken about at length, no central defender has been brought in.
There is also still no sign of a defensive midfielder coming in to protect our rocky centre-backs. Chelsea have Matic, United now have Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger, Arsenal have Coquelin, City have Fernandinho – it’s a key part of why their defensive ranking is far better than ours.
Lucas remains at the club, although he has shown in recent times not to have the pace or quickness of thought to return to his previous best. Henderson, Can, Milner and Allen have been touted as players who could play in a deeper role like Steven Gerrard did in the 2013/14 season, however, like Gerrard, they are not true defensive midfielders and their first thought is to go forward and contribute.
Alberto Moreno had mixed success at left-back and many will hope he improves after his debut season. However, we still have no one to challenge him apart from Jose ‘I love a selfie’ Enrique. It is a dangerous ploy given Moreno’s unconvincing start at the number of games we will have to play given our involvement in the Europa League.
So what is the plan?
Well – we have had a poor defence for years now. We haven’t strengthened at centre-back, left-back nor in the defensive midfield positions. We are now only days away from the first league game of the season so what is Rodgers’ plan to improve our defence?
Given he hasn’t brought in new players, I can only assume it comes back to fast pressing starts and aiming to outscore the opposition – similar to the 2013/14 season. This brought success but not the title and was led by a rampaging Luis Suarez.
The risk however is that we encounter similar problems that we have suffered in the past with an unbalanced squad with a lack of defensive shape and protection. Frankly, no one knows how this season will pan out and crucially we can only speculate how Rodgers will address our defensive frailties – I for one cannot wait to see how this season unfolds.