Jurgen Klopp needs to work on fixing Liverpool's defence as soon as possible
In a high profile Champions League clash with Sevilla in November, Liverpool had come racing out of the blocks. Jurgen Klopp's men were 3-0 up inside 30 minutes and a rout appeared to be on the cards. But it was not to be.
Sevilla staged an improbable comeback and the match finished 3-3. Now some credit has to go to the La Liga outfit, but it was Liverpool who handed them the initiative with careless and foolhardy defending.
This has been a recurring theme for the Reds this season. The team's attack has been irresistible for most of the season, but their lacklustre defence has let them down.
Liverpool has kept 9 clean sheets in the league, which is just one less than the highest tally of 10, held by Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United. However, they have conceded 23 goals, which is almost double that of City which has let in 12.
Still, these are not disastrous numbers. The thing which has hurt Liverpool the most is the inopportune moments at which they have conceded the goals.
Liverpool has drawn against Everton, Chelsea, Arsenal and Sevilla (twice) this season; but looking back, they should have eked out wins in all those matches. They were leading in all of these games at some point in time.
Since Klopp's arrival at Anfield, Liverpool has lost 43 points from winning positions in the league, which is the most by any side in Europe's top 5 leagues. Simply put, they just cannot defend a lead!
Now Klopp has been at the helm at Anfield for more than two years now, but no significant improvement in his defence has materialised. His persistence with his defenders and affording them the time to improve themselves is notable, but there's only so much that Alberto Moreno can do for you.
The German's stubbornness has been so much that he used James Milner at left back for the better part of last season. Milner did a commendable job in the unfamiliar position but unsurprisingly could not compete against orthodox left backs like Marcos Alonso and Danny Rose.
Liverpool also lacks a world-class holding-midfielder who can provide solidity in the middle of the park. Jordan Henderson and Emre Can are good players, but again they are just not good enough.
Much has been made of Liverpool's goalkeeper situation recently, and it is not without reason. Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius are decent goalkeepers, but they are nowhere near the likes of fellow Premier League shot-stoppers like David de Gea and Thibaut Courtois.
Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan have not covered themselves in glory either, increasing the need for better defenders. Joel Matip and Nathaniel Clyne have been solid, but there has not been much joy elsewhere.
The obvious answer is Liverpool's pickle is some top class signings. But Klopp's signings in defence and goal have failed to impress. Klavan, Matip, Karius and Alex Manninger; these were the recruits prior to the current season. Hardly eye-catching, however, signings like Andy Robertson and Virgil van Dijk are showing that progress is being made.
If one considers Klopp's defensive record throughout his managerial career, it does not provide much encouragement. Excluding the 2017/18 season, he has coached for 17 seasons at Mainz, Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool.
The goals conceded per game metric has exceeded 1.0 in all but two of those campaigns. These two exceptions are the two consecutive title-winning seasons in Germany with Dortmund.
In 2015-16 Liverpool conceded 1.32 goals per game. They improved the following year, conceding 1.11 goals per game. This season the number is 1.16 as of now. If the team is to end its long wait for a league title, these stats will have to improve.
Liverpool's playing style does not help their defence much either. Their fluid 4-3-3 formation leaves them susceptible to counter attacks as Klopp's famed gegenpress reaps rewards in the final third but leaves huge gaps for the opposition to exploit.
Pragmatic coaches like Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho have consistently been solid at the back, but the same cannot be said of Klopp and his like-minded counterpart Arsene Wenger. Even the high priest of attacking football; Pep Guardiola has adapted his tactics and Manchester City are defensively better now than Liverpool have ever been under Klopp.
The record signing of van Dijk seems to be a statement of intent from Anfield that change is on the horizon. There is a belief that Liverpool can be the team to challenge Manchester City at the top of the Premier League if only they can solve their defensive troubles.
Do something Jurgen. Make the league competitive again.