Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren continues to divide the club’s fans.
The Croatia international made just his second appearance of the season in the 0-0 draw with Manchester City on Sunday afternoon and exhibited the best and worst elements of his game. He put in some superb tackles and showed the kind of commanding defensive qualities that have kept him at Anfield for the past five years. But he also showed the kind of rash decision that has had people calling for him to be sold over the course of the five seasons he has been a member of the squad.
He won five tackles, two aerial duels and eight duels during the stalemate against the Premier League champions – but he could easily have given away two penalties. Had the referee awarded City a spot kick during the first-half for Lovren’s careless kick out at Sergio Aguero, few supporters could have had too many complaints. Lovren did catch the Argentine striker – but the prolific frontman opted against desperately pleading to Martin Atkinson for his side to be awarded a penalty. Perhaps if he had he would have been given one, but he decided to get back to his feet before Lovren nicked the ball away for a corner. Had that happened to one of our attackers at the other end of the pitch, I would have wanted and demanded a penalty to be given our way. It goes to show the fine margins surrounding Lovren, as many fans would have jumped on his back if Atkinson deemed it enough of a foul to penalise the defender. Instead, he has come away with many plaudits for his return to action.
Lovren did have a generally good game on Sunday afternoon and was a factor in the clean sheet being kept. He made some excellent tackles, most notably one on Riyad Mahrez as City broke in the second half, and also kept a close eye on Aguero until Pep Guardiola withdrew the former Atletico Madrid man. It is also worth noting that Lovren was making his first Premier League outing since May and only had competitive action against Chelsea in the League Cup under his belt prior to this match. Another defence of his kick on Aguero is that he was played in to the situation by a poor pass from Joe Gomez, the man whose place he took in the middle of the defence alongside Virgil Van Dijk, and had little time to react. Gomez had looked so assured playing centrally and it represented a gamble by Jurgen Klopp to switch things around. It ultimately paid off for him, but only by the finest of margins.
Van Dijk, the world’s most expensive defender, also showed that he can have moments of madness when he decided to slide in on Leroy Sane to give away a penalty with just five minutes left on the clock. He escaped the kind of berating Lovren would have received for committing the same mistake because it is so rare for the usually calm and composed Dutchman. Lovren has so much previous in this category that there are many fans who are poised to slate him for his next error – which have become fewer and father between since Van Dijk signed for the club last Christmas.
Those weren’t the only moments of panic for the two central defenders, however, as they could have feasibly been punished on another occasion each. Van Dijk rose in the box to try and head away before handling the ball. Atkinson deemed that he had been fouled by City midfielder Fernandinho, fortunately and most likely fairly, but other referees may not have been as sympathetic. Lovren also had a second flashpoint when he caught substitute Gabriel Jesus in the face after the Brazilian tricked his way past him deeper in the box. Fortunately it was another instance where Atkinson waved play on and told the striker to get back to his feet. It was another where Liverpool supporters would want a penalty awarded were it to have happened at the other end of the pitch. Is that a case of double standards? A moment of personal introspective reflection can only answer that for many.
His determination, loyalty and dedication will always win over plenty of Liverpool supporters – most of which will back anyone wearing the Red shirt. But the moments of madness he falls victim to will always have many of those fans worried each time his name is listed on the teamsheet. He is quite clearly a very able and talented defender, who is capable of looking an absolute rock for both club and country, as highlighted by his presence in both the Champions League and World Cup finals this year, but he needs to cut out the rash moments if he is to progress to being considered one of the best in the game by people other than himself.
There are Reds who do not trust him…
This is me, LITERALLY, every time Lovren touches the ball. pic.twitter.com/Tq1rXs9ltA
— Shalashaska (@MartinPastor_) October 8, 2018
Lovren is so rash at times his nickname should be Eczema.
— David Preece (@davidpreece12) October 7, 2018
And there are those who do…
He may be clumsy, but Dejan Lovren was immense today. Some crucial challenges.
— Leanne Prescott (@_lfcleanne) October 7, 2018
Henderson & Lovren are not ordinary players. They take stick from the opposition, from the media & from our own minority (sometimes majority) of fans; yet they keep their head and turn up every single game with superb performances. Imagine what they could do with your support. pic.twitter.com/7OhwxFnnEE
— 👑 (@AnfieldAn) October 7, 2018
Where do you stand?