Pundit Steve Nicol reckons the Liverpool defensive trio of Ibrahima Konate, Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson have regressed this season.
Jurgen Klopp's side have made an unbeaten start to the season, winning four of their five league games, ahead of their UEFA Europa League opener at Austrian side LASK on Thursday (September 21).
Among the aforementioned trio, Robertson is the only one to have played (and started) all five games, scoring once. Konate has played three times, starting twice. Meanwhile, Van Dijk started the first three games before his red card against Newcastle United ruled him out of the next two league outings.
The Reds' only clean sheet of the season has come in the 3-0 home win over Aston Villa just before the September international break. Bemoaning their defensive performances, Nicol said on the Aldo Meets Podcast (via TBR):
“The defence has gone from being totally rock solid to being vulnerable. The time it has been vulnerable has lasted two long, and you have to start looking at the person in the jersey."
"As good as Liverpool are going forwards, you can’t win the Premier League or anything else if you have to score three or four goals because you’ll lose two or three."
"Konate, Van Dijk and Robertson on paper, what is the problem? But they’re not performing the way they used to. I’m not saying one has to go or they all need to go, but Jurgen Klopp now has to decide if someone has to go or if he will fix it.”
"I know we're favourites" - Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was in a buoyant mood ahead of his team's first UEFA Europa League game in eight years. The Reds last played the continental competition in 2015-16, having been UEFA Champions League regulars in the last few campaigns.
Ahead of his team's clash with LASK in Linz, Klopp admitted his familiarity with Austrian football. He also added that his team are expected to win but won't underestimate their opponents.
Klopp said in his pre-match press conference (as per Liverpool Echo):
"I know Austrian football, I knew it since a long time ago, but I never was in Linz. It's not so important to talk about the city, I know we're favourites, but we're here to play football. We take this game seriously, and we want to take the most of it. We are not arrogant. We want to win here."
In their last appearance in the competition, Klopp's men made it to the final where they lost 3-1 to Sevilla. It was the German manager's first season with the Reds, who will look to go all the way this time.