So here we are, talking about yet another Dejan Lovren incident that has cost us points.
Jurgen Klopp arrived at Anfield just over two years ago and many would have thought that one of the first things the German would do was removing the calamitous defender from the first XI. Surely he could see that the output from the Croatian international wasn’t good enough and that signing a new centre-back was one of the key tasks he needed to complete?
We are now approaching 2018 and not only is Lovren still a first-choice in Klopp’s side, but he has since been handed a bumper new contract making him one of the highest paid defenders in the Premier League. It shouldn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense. Lovren regularly lets down Klopp, his team-mates and us supporters. He was doing it before Klopp took over the job and he’s been doing it since. It can’t continue.
Yes, Klopp attempted to bring Southampton defender Virgil Van Dijk to Anfield in the Summer, but was thwarted by their desire to keep hold of the Holland international. He will no doubt return with in January to try and prise the Dutchman away from St Mary’s and up to Anfield. He could be added to the Champions League squad in time for the knockout phase and would add plenty to the domestic squad too. But would he be signed to replace Lovren or partner him? There’s mileage in believing either point of view. One opinion that is gaining momentum is the notion of signing Van Dijk and pairing him up with the constantly improving Joe Gomez. But he has only been afforded a chance at centre-back in the closing stages of the 7-0 victory over Spartak Moscow. So it doesn’t look like he will moving over from right-back just yet.
It is difficult to think that Klopp is going to drop Lovren back to third-choice if he does sign Van Dijk after handing him that contract worth £100,000 a week. Joel Matip, who Klopp did bring to the club, is on a similar wage though and Van Dijk will no doubt be on even more, so there is room to think that Lovren will be relegated down the pecking order. But Klopp only handed the former Lyon man a new deal back in April – and he spoke very positively about him when the news was announced.
If Dejan played for another club you’d think about signing him and then you think what you’d have to pay for him and it would be a big amount of money.” he told Liverpoolfc.com
“Giving him a new contract, working with him, he is twenty-seven years old, the best time for a centre-half is still to come.” he added.
Klopp did at least acknowledge that Lovren had been making mistakes earlier in his Liverpool career, but he appears very much under the impression that he can improve the defender’s game.
“I don’t know a lot about it but I heard he had a difficult start at Liverpool but he has really settled so that’s really good.” he said.
“He is physically strong, quick and a good footballer. Sometimes decision making could be better but no-one out there – and we watch a lot – is perfect.
“We really think he can help us a lot and we can help him in these few decisive parts of his game and that is what we want to do. I am so happy about the news.” he finished.
There is at least caution in those words, but Klopp’s belief that he can iron out the issues in Lovren’s game appear to be overly ambitious. Lovren has continued to be a liability under Klopp and no amount of “But he scored against Dortmund!” will make up for the times he has cost the team. He also seems to drop a clanger in the game immediately after he gives an interview in which he backs himself publicly.
While Lovren’s error against Everton wasn’t as bad as his meltdown against Spurs at Wembley in October, it was still a mistake that cost us two points and bragging rights over our local rivals. Dominic Calvert-Lewin clearly went looking for the penalty and Lovren played right into his hands. The young Englishman was going away from goal and had no support anywhere near him from a team-mate. But Lovren showed no composure whatsoever as he bumped into the striker and gave the referee the decision to make. Whether or not you think it was the right decision, and most neutrals do, he should not have been so overzealous to win the ball and should have showed more intelligence in shepherding a player going nowhere away from goal. It was naive at best and downright stupid at worst.
But he has been doing this since he arrived at the club back in the Summer of 2014 when Brendan Rodgers completed a deal to bring him to Anfield from Southampton. In fairness to him, Lovren had been impressive for the Saints during the 2013/14 season and was receiving praise from ex-Liverpool vice-captain Jamie Carragher, who heralded him as a potential future captain upon his arrival.
“Centre-backs normally make great captains.” he said.
“I think if Lovren establishes himself in the team became a top player by showing the same form he has at Southampton for Liverpool, then in the next few years when Stevie does decide to call it day he will be in contention.
“You look at him and he has the potential to make a big powerful impact at the back and that’s what Liverpool need.
“He looks like an organiser and he looks like a leader.” he added.
That marked a huge shift in fortunes for a player who was on the substitute’s bench at Lyon before moving to Southampton for around £8m in the Summer of 2013. He was never highly rated during his spell in France and it appears in hindsight that his fine season at St Mary’s was a one-off and not the norm for him. But despite his continuing status as an inconsistent player for the club since Klopp arrived, the manager still gave him public backing in the Summer as calls to sign a new centre-back grew louder.
“Look out there and tell me five that would make us stronger. Five. Then you win a prize. It’s difficult how it is.” he said.
“We have four. I don’t think we need more. In the moment I’m fine. We are open until August 31. We cannot force the things and we would never get a centre back just because.” he added.
Very few believed that assessment and even fewer will agree now. There were calls for Lovren to never play for the club when he was subbed against Spurs following a nightmare half hour at Wembley. But Klopp kept faith with him yet again and has again been let down by his man. The issue with his latest error is that both he and Klopp remonstrated with referee Craig Pawson at the end of the Merseyside derby and that essentially removes blame from Lovren. It really should not. He has let us all down yet again and the sooner he is replaced in the first XI, the better.
One player who will feel aggrieved by the amount of chances Lovren has had to redeem himself is Mamadou Sakho. The France international was bombed out of Anfield following a series of misdemeanours and is now enjoying a relegation battle at Crystal Palace playing under Roy Hodgson. While I don’t think Sakho warranted a stay of execution after he took the fat burner last year, I think that both he and Lovren should be history here. Lovren clearly has a better attitude and is much more willing to follow Klopp’s rules, but he is obviously not as good a player as Sakho. It seems a little unbalanced that one can be thrown out for failing to behave while the other can let the team down so often on the pitch and continue to be allowed to do so.
The time for Lovren to be dropped as a first-choice player passed a long time ago. Klopp needs to start improving his defence after sorting out the attack. Failure to do so will very much limit the possibilities of success for him.