In a suitably exciting game to round off an exciting tournament, the 2018 World Cup has drawn to a close. A month of non-stop drama has come to a conclusion and we can all turn our minds back to what matters the most to many of us – our club.
My heart goes out to Dejan Lovren. I won’t deny that I am not always the biggest fan of the central defender but he has had a very good tournament to continue with his strong 2018 in a red shirt. In fact, after a complete nightmare at Wembley when he was substituted after half an hour in the game with Spurs way back in October, Lovren was one of our best players for much of the season.
He’s erratic, I have trust issues with him and he’s capable of disaster at any given second but the Croat has proven his worth in this tournament to his country. He was also particularly influential in the path to the Champions League final in Kiev. His commanding displays at the back laid the groundwork for those in front of him to play on the front foot which is what helps us to be at our devastating best. It is unfortunate for him that he has found himself on the losing side in the two biggest games that football has to offer within the last two months.
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Many Liverpool fans would have Lovren replaced and as I say, I’m not necessarily his biggest fan. But there is already talk of him being shipped out and being replaced by someone like Harry Maguire, which I think is lunacy. Maguire has had a good tournament largely, but I have some doubts about his defensive play to say the least.
He’s good in the air to put it mildly and he’s confident with the ball at his feet. I can completely understand why Gareth Southgate wanted him as part of that back three, which was based on passing the ball out from the back. But I’m not buying his actual defending. He certainly looked the most vulnerable of the three centre halves in the tournament and Leicester didn’t exactly keep it tight, shipping 60 goals in the Premier League season. He certainly seemed to lack positional awareness and looked vulnerable to pace.
There’s a lot going for Harry Maguire but at the moment, I’m not buying what he’s selling. And the fee would be exorbitant. The same goes for Lovren’s international centre half partner, Domagoj Vida. He had a good tournament but is he really an upgrade on what we have? I would argue absolutely not. He has the heart and soul we need and he reads the game well but he is ultimately too slow. Kylian Mbappe will burn many defenders off for pace but Vida did look to have no real pace and that will hurt him in a team like us that spends most of its time on the front foot with a high line. And he looks like an underweight Andrei Voronin and for that reason alone, I’m out.
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It isn’t a simple case of snapping our fingers and signing someone better than Lovren. I don’t rate him as highly as Klopp does by any means but I have come round to thinking that this is actually a low priority position in terms of reinforcements currently. If we were looking to replace a centre half, would it be so controversial to suggest that Lovren isn’t the one we should be looking at?
I do have some concerns about Joel Matip’s upper body strength but he is a good footballer whose distribution compliments are game. However, we have a significant issue in keeping him uninjured. He spends too much time on the treatment table. At this point in time I think that is a real hindrance to us because if anything happens to van Dijk or Lovren, we can’t necessarily depend on Matip’s fitness record to play a sustained number of matches.
I personally do think a new central defender would be a good addition to the squad if it was the right player but I do have to admit that Lovren has shown enough this year to suggest that we don’t currently need to recruit in this position. And if we did, not at the expensive of Lovren. Elsewhere, we absolutely do need to bring players in. But as it stands I am actually quite pleased with what people are unfairly labelling as a problem position.