Second Coming For Dejan?
Van Dijk’s record-breaking transfer to Liverpool last month was expected to bring some stability to an all-too unreliable defence, providing the perfect partner for Joel Matip in a towering defensive duo.
Yet, things haven’t quite panned out that way, with high-profile mistakes costing Klopp a chance to gain some silverware this season via the FA Cup, proving that while the Dutchman’s arrival monumentally improves this side, one man can’t solve everything.
Matip was previously regarded as the club’s best centre-back, able to confidently stride out the back in possession while offering a suitable threat from attacking set plays. However, the last few weeks have desperately exposed the Cameroonian; an own goal in the fourth-round cup tie against West Brom marked a dismal performance that inevitably raised questions as to whether he is, in fact, the right partner for Van Dijk.
Lovren has been the man to profit from his teammate’s shortcomings, having featured in the 2-2 draw with Tottenham despite a horror show in the reverse fixture back in October. The much-maligned centre-back has divided opinion throughout his Anfield career, failing to prove himself as a dependable cog in Klopp’s unit, but the Croatian delivered an excellent performance against the Premier League’s top goal scorer to suggest he could be the unlikely partner to Virgil’s marching band.
The 28-year-old benefited from working alongside a strong, reassuring figure, able to concentrate on his own game rather than over complicate the task at hand while Van Dijk organised and bellowed instructions to the rest of the team. Such was the case at Southampton where, alongside Jose Fonte, Lovren developed a robust partnership, utilising his power and strength.
Klavan represents an alternative option for Klopp, enjoying a good spell of form earlier in the campaign alongside Matip. Although bereft of pace, his restrictive style of play diminishes the individual errors to his game while his experience sees him take up positive positions. Then there’s the untried and untested Joe Gomez. Deployed predominantly as a right-back, the former-Charlton man has all the tools to be a hit in the centre of defence and Van Dijk’s arrival will only propel his development.
At present, Klopp may well turn to Dejan Lovren for the remainder of the season in a surprising second chance for the Croatian. From the summer and beyond, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a new face come in alongside Van Dijk as Klopp looks to strengthen the team’s spine even further. Let’s just hope there are no relapses of the chaotic mishaps Lovren’s presence usually brings until then.