Dejan Lovren has been lauded with his fair share of warranted praise in recent weeks, benefiting from the leadership and guidance of Virgil van Dijk after his £75million summer switch. Heck, I wrote an article just last week on how he represented the best partner for the Dutchman.
The 2-2 draw against Tottenham back in February offered plenty of hope for the former-Saints men, albeit leaking two goals. Van Dijk was very much the authoritative figure, playing the ‘Jose Fonte’ role alongside Lovren, who was able to strip his game back to basics and restrict his individual errors. Harry Kane struggled to shine in his usual light as an unlikely partnership took shape.
Klopp retained his faith in the duo for Liverpool’s crunch tie with Porto, enjoying the benefits via a dominant 5-0 display. Van Dijk’s aerial dominance was at the forefront of a much more assured defensive performance, with the Dutchman showcasing his long-range passing with diagonal through balls to create space for those ahead of him. Likewise, Lovren went another ninety minutes avoiding any dramatic headlines, completely five tackles and five interceptions alongside ten clearances.
A corner turned?
You’d hope Lovren would learn not to big himself up on the eve of a crucial game against The Mancs. Relishing coming up against Romelu Lukaku, Lovren spoke of his enjoyment at working alongside Van Dijk in a formidable defensive partnership. Fitting then, that he delivered nothing of the sort.
“At the moment, when you see the run we’re on – we’ve had fantastic results over the last six or seven games with four or five clean sheets – I think everyone within the squad feels comfortable and full of confidence,” – Lovren’s pre-match interview
Bullied by Lukaku from the get-go, Lovren’s desire to step out the back and win his aerial duel left Trent Alexander-Arnold exposed against Marcus Rashford. The right-back’s inexperience saw him mosey inside, cut back onto his right foot and hammer it beyond Karius.
The second goal was practically a carbon copy of the first, marking another calamitous moment for the 28-year-old. Battered by Lukaku again, Lovren ended up flat on his back as the United forward bullied his way past two or three Liverpool players before the ball fell to Rashford.
Two self-destructive moments of schoolboy defending and it was 2-0 to the hosts.
The true summation of Lovren’s afternoon came in the second-half though, with two rash lunges on Marouane Fellaini, who was going nowhere with his back to goal, an illustration of another brainless performance against a top-six side. Jurgen’s frantic reaction on the touchline said all you need to know.
Lovren represents a clear weakness in Liverpool’s side that United were able to exploit throughout before capitalising on the youthful Alexander-Arnold. Jamie Carragher’s post-match comments accurately pinpointed the 28-year-old’s ineptitude at learning from his mistakes.
“Lovren gets outmuscled by Lukaku. The ball drops kindly and a deflection takes it past Karius. You think Lovren is going to learn from the first one but he doesn’t.”
Van Dijk’s arrival has quite clearly added an extra dynamic to Klopp’s side but having a Rolls Royce at the back isn’t worth much when partnered with an unreliable and rusty Ford Fiesta. For Liverpool to take the next step in their progression, they’ll need to bring in another high-quality centre-back to partner Van Dijk and offer a blanket to Karius’ goal. Until then, Dejan may continue to do Dejan things, inhibiting The Reds from ever obtaining their true goal.
Lovren will have had nightmares about Lukaku following Saturday’s defeat and I’m sure Liverpool fans would have had their own nightmares about the Croatian, with his display indicating that, despite recent improvements, Lovren is just one game away from a series of costly infractions.
Maybe it’s time he finally stopped with those damn pre-match interviews and just got his head down. I know I’d prefer it that way.