Dejan Lovren: The Buck Doesn’t Stop There

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Sometime after 4.15pm yesterday, a collection of mumbles, conversations and downright vitriol ran around the away section at Wembley.

‘He’s got to take him off.’

‘We’re going to get battered here. Fuck’s sake, Jurgen.’

‘Get that useless twat off now!’

Later on some people speculated that Dejan Lovren’s was the worst performance ever given by a Liverpool player. That got me thinking. My mind flew to a John Arne Riise display at Craven Cottage years ago when I seriously wondered if he were deliberately passing to his mates in the crowd. His compatriot Bjorn Tore Kvarme was equally woeful in the Goodison derby of October 1997 and gave them the game before doing the same for United a week later. Then there’s Jon Flanagan’s at Blackburn Rovers in 2012 though that did come with some comic value. Dishonourable mentions go to the corner dropping Adam Bogdan at Watford away and Emre Can’s first-half performance at the 6-1 Stoke game which should have ended Brendan Rodgers’ tenure as Liverpool boss but didn’t.

Dejan Lovren may well have topped that list had he been allowed to remain on the pitch longer than his allotted 32 minutes. His manager said that he could have taken off anyone and it wouldn’t have made any difference as we conceded two more without him on the pitch, but that’s just him protecting a player whose confidence was already on the floor. Even Dejan would admit that he stank the ground out yesterday. You could see it in his face as he made the walk of shame.

It’s since been written that this is the end of the line for the Croatian and now that the manager has all but said that defensive places are up for grabs, particularly as Joe Gomez has settled in quickly despite being fourth choice as of only a few months ago, it looks like we may not see him until the FA Cup begins in January. He’s been injured, of course, so this may be the time to fully recover rather than patching him up and shoving him onto the pitch again.

Some have even suggested that there were too many painkillers in his body and that somehow got into his mind and affected his reason. This is surely unlikely. The first team are subject to a rigorous medical overview before stepping onto the turf and there’s no way they would allow a hopped up, heavily insured asset onto the pitch if he was out of it. If they did, then there are more to blame than the man himself.

Of course, this is not the first time Lovren has gifted goals. In a heavy home defeat to West Ham in August 2015, he tried to be cute in a challenge near the corner flag with Manuel Lanzini when putting the ball out for a corner would have been the better option. Instead, he lost the challenge and, one square ball later, Liverpool were 2-0 down and on their way to their first home defeat to the Hammers since the early 60s. This is just one example in a list of crimes.

That said, the manager has a point when he says that Matip was no better. The header for the third goal was a ridiculous error for a man of his standing to make. Every schoolboy and amateur player knows that you do not head a ball out towards the attack in that position. You either play it wide or sacrifice a corner. Instead, with his head at a ludicrous angle to even attempt such a clearance, he nodded it down to a gleeful Dele Alli. We can also add the goalkeeper to complete this triumvirate of mediocrity. What he’s doing for the first and fourth goal is anyone’s guess, but back to Dejan.

When Liverpool captured his signature there were plenty of pundits applauding the deal while celebrating the fact that the pro-am wrestling days of Martin Skrtel were finally at an end. However, it quickly became obvious that for Lovren to excel in his position –as he did for Southampton- he needed Morgan Schneiderlin in front and a shouter alongside him. Lovren came to a club with neither. Slaven Bilic, who gave him his first international caps, has pointed out that there are two Lovrens – the player and the leader – and he is incapable of performing both roles simultaneously. He is either a centre back or a captain. At the moment he is neither.

Some blame has to be levelled at those higher up in the Anfield hierarchy. His manager claimed that he was happy with the four centre-halves he had at his disposal back in August when the club characteristically failed to tie up the signing of Virgil van Dijk. Well, those birds have come home to roost and the realisation of that error showed in Jurgen’s face yesterday as the calamity continued in front of him. If his second best centre back can collapse like that and Ragnar Klavan is persona non grata, then the intervening months between now and the January transfer window are seriously going to hurt this season and may even destroy it.

But we can go even further. Since Jurgen Klopp took over just over two years ago, ‘he’ has spent just £12m on defenders for a side with woeful options. That can be levelled at the manager if we are to believe that he alone is in charge of the transfer policy though that is open to question. That player, incidentally, has barely played for the first team despite performing well.

Is this just a blind spot or does it point to a more serious flaw within the club? Well, I’ve read an email from a key figure at FSG claiming that there were no defenders available in the market. There were plenty. That email was sent four years ago. Someone somewhere is being given duff advice and, more worryingly, the other partner believes it. That appears not to have changed. The disconnect remains.

And just what is Michael Edwards doing about this? He too would have seen Lovren’s performance and – being in charge of transfers – must have acknowledged that the Liverpool players are simply not good enough to challenge for major honours as yet another League campaign fizzles out to nothing. Where was he when the boos and catcalls were meted out at Wembley?

Dejan Lovren may never play a serious game for this side again but he alone is not to blame for this current cavalcade of shittery. He alone cannot be blamed for the lack of attention span amongst the back four and keeper. He cannot be blamed for a midfield who have no idea how to protect those behind them as evidenced by that third goal yesterday when not one player went out to block Alli’s shot and he cannot be blamed for a transfer structure so inept that it would be dismissed by other clubs in weeks yet is allowed to continue at one of the biggest clubs in the world.

One final thing and it’s something that angered me even more than that display on Sunday. Yes, Dejan Lovren is a poor player and, no, I don’t want to see him anywhere near the first team ever again, but hounding him on social media to such an extent where he changed his Instagram settings is as childish as it unbecoming. We should be better than that. I don’t like him as a player in my time but I admire how he has picked up his life from his days as a refugee when his home village of Kraljeva Sutjeska was bombed mercilessly so he deserves better than that. Criticism is fair but witch hunts are for crass and imbecilic.

Protest at Dejan Lovren all you want, but sometimes fingers have to pointed in more than one direction. Personally, I’m pointing at those who put him on the pitch and those who decided not to replace him or put better options at his side.

Wembley highlighted a club-wide problem, not just the shortcomings of one man.

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  1. Lovrn gota gob if thy willing too patch him up and he no his no use until fully fit u open u gob and u say mybe why no good at the back no bloody comunicasion !!! Thers somthn wrong if clopp the medical staff is willing to play a guy in key posission and he is not fit enuf and thy probs did cos thy did same with hendo last season mde him worse and he was forced out for long period. I dont no wht kind of cowboy medical staff we have there but its fsg employ them and clop is the manager so ther somthn wrong ther

  2. It’s unfair to blame just the players for our terrible defensive record. It’s not like we’ve had any CB pairing under Klopp that have been able to stem the tide. Lovren/Sakho, Lovren/Toure, Matip/Lovren, Matip/Klavan, Lovren/Klavan, Klavan/Lucas or whatever other pairing he’s tried.
    I do believe it’s a lot more systemic. Because most of those (Lovren, Klavan, Matip) have been part of a successful defence at other clubs. I feel Klopp’s system with Henderson as the DM leaves our CBs far too exposed and as such prone to more mistakes and lapses in judgement. I think our CBs go in to ill-advised challenges in the hope that they win the ball back or clear the ball enough to allow the other players to get back into shape rather than be exposed to 1v1s. Another major problem for us is 2nd balls, which happen after our CB/LB/RB win the initial header/duel but our CM is either higher up the pitch as per instructions or Henderson who’s out of position many times. The only time we got a genuine run of games with clean sheets was with Henderson out of the side and Lucas/Can playing in midfield as the No. 6.
    That said, I do also blame the players. The two I blame most are Mignolet (pathetic save percentage of 63% almost 7-10% less than other top keepers) and Henderson (who should be filling the Milner role, i.e., playing only to rest others/in case of injuries). Lovren/Klavan on the other are more salvageable as bench options comparable to the likes of Smalling/Luiz/Otamendi/Stones who are prone to lapses in concentrations and errors but the difference being they have an elite DM/GK in front and behind them to snuff out dangers and reduce the number of times they’re exposed, or to mop up and bail them out, after the error is committed.

  3. Great article and agree with this line of thought completely. It is the club, the transfer committee and the manager that have repeatedly failed to address the issue. Although Lovren is terrible and needs to be replaced in my opinion, the fact that he is on the pitch in the first place isn’t his fault. Whether or not Klopp is covering for Edwards or other members of the board remains unclear, but its clear where the collective responsibility lies. FSG had the right approach in appointing someone, like Comolli, they just had the wrong guy. The ideal appointment for Sporting Director would have been Monchi or Zorc, but I’m long past expecting FSG to figure this out. The only hope remains that Klopp finally realises the mistakes of the summer and somehow forces the club to address them in January (by which time it could already be too late)

  4. Agree in part.
    12 m on defenders sounds very low, but if we didn’t have TAA coming through, or a resurgent Jo Go (and how much would they cost) or a converted Miner (which did work surprisingly well) or a vastly improved Moreno then maybe we would have spent far more. It still doesn’t address the CB issue though; or keeper.
    Do I want an upgrade on Mings. Sure. But where is one? It’s ok to say someone like Butland at Stoke, but is he the new Hart? Is he any better than Mings was before we bought him. Brill keepers are extremely hard to find. And we can all name loads but – and a point with the CB issue – it’s ok playing for different formations in different teams overseas, or more defence-minded teams here: playing at this TOP club under the spotlight and in this formation is a billion fold trickier.
    And so we buy our new foreign brill CB, and guess what. He’s not used to the culture, the team, the style the manager plays, the league: and thus he takes a year to settle. So no better. Of course he may be great, just saying that it’s not so simple as spending the money. (But I do agree we need someone).
    Klopps tactics may leave our defence exposed, but of course we also have to factor in that teams understand us better; our way of play. It probably took them a year or so to get the measure, and now they are better able to counter us tactically too.
    So new players for sure, but top quality that’s gonna fit straight in isn’t easy to come by (BTW how poor was Man Citys defence last years, or Arsenals any year? Man U haven’t exactly replaced theirs… it’s not just us). A tactical tweak for sure, and maybe give the Jo Gos a chance – mebbe Ward, mebbe Karius (still a kid as keepers go), but I doubt it’ll be straight forward or easy (but I hope so!)

  5. For all the years that Rafa was with us, he won us a CL, FA CUP and got us playing CL football every season barring the last and in between challenge for the league. All this having no proper money and having to battle the cowboys.
    As for Klopp going into his 3rd season all those defensive and goalkeeping issues are still with us, actually our team is going backwards and mark my words, we would win absolutely nothing with Klopp around and yet some fan says he deserves to stick around.
    Don’t Rafa deserves another crack at this?
    Don’t Klopp deserves the sack?
    Klopp had won nothing after 2 seasons and some talked about the 4th place as if we won the damm CL.
    People like Klopp, Rodgers and FSG behaves as if its ok to be serial losers and this is what we had become and they had converted some fans as well

  6. Lovern is average at best…… but the the whole defence is not up to standard required. Average defenders with no protection is always going to end badly…. the only way forward until January is to play 3 at the back to give our average cbs a chance of been better than average …. klopp has been waiting for mignolet to screw up.. I expect a change for the next game…… the forwards can’t escape blame… if they could actually start scoring a few of all the chances created a few of the mistakes probably wouldn’t be made …. what happened to giving some of the youth a chance as well….. up the reds


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