Liverpool are a growing team under Jürgen Klopp, and the German may have finally fixed all the glaring problems he faced upon his arrival at Anfield. One of the biggest issues for Liverpool in recent years has been the leaky defence, which has seriously hindered the Reds’ progress. It seems as though times are changing on Merseyside, though, because after five top-flight games Klopp’s charges have the tightest defence in the division. Could this rigidity at the back be key to Liverpool claiming their first Premier League title?
Liverpool fans will have tried to repress memories of last season’s meeting with Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley, when Harry Kane made a mockery of the Reds’ defensive frailties. In that fixture, the England striker capitalised on a dreadful error by Dejan Lovren to score in the fourth minute, then put the ball on a plate for Heung-Min Son to slam home eight minutes later. The Croatian defender’s mistakes led to both early goals, and he was hooked before half-time as Spurs continued to rip the Reds to shreds. The match ended 4-1, and was a stark reminder of where Liverpool were lacking.
Fast forward nearly a year and the same fixture yielded a much different result, with a hugely impressive display from Liverpool. Klopp’s men returned to Wembley and claimed a 2-1 victory, with Erik Lamela managing to pull one back for the hosts in the final minutes of the game. Liverpool were dominant throughout, though, and managed to completely neutralise two-time Golden Boot winner Kane. The England striker was only able to attempt thirteen passes in the fixture and muster two shots on goal – one of which was on target.
Managing to keep out arguably the finest finisher in the top flight shows how far Liverpool’s defence has come since Virgil Van Dijk and Allison were added to the side in January and summer respectively. Last season the Reds conceded 38 goals, eleven more than title-winners Manchester City and only one fewer than seventh-place Burnley. After five league games this time, though, the Reds have conceded twice. Encouragingly, one of those occasions was down to a goalkeeping error and not a lapse in the back line. For this reason, it’s understandable to see that Liverpool have been placed at odds of 2/1 to lift the title in the 2018/19 Premier League betting.
Klopp has said that he will have to rotate his side as the fixtures begin to pile up, but he will be hesitant to break up the partnership of Van Dijk and Joe Gomez in the heart of his back line. He does, however, have Joel Matip to call upon when the time is right.
Liverpool have gone from having one of the worst defences of the major teams in the English top flight, to having the tightest. If they can keep this fantastic form up for the entirety of the campaign, they have a strong chance of finally lifting a Premier League trophy.