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Why Tiago Ilori could be the defensive solution for Liverpool

With Liverpool struggling defensively, Brendan Rodgers might have an internal solution in the form of Tiago Ilori.

Tiago Ilori in action for the Portugal U-21 team

The last game of last season – also club-legend Steven Gerrard’s farewell before he flies off to a new adventure in US – showed a final scoreline with Stoke thumping Liverpool 6-1. No pundit in the world could have predicted that.

Liverpool were heavily criticised last season for not replacing the coveted Luis Suarez as a result of which they had a poor record in front of goal. Not to forget the absence of constantly-injured Daniel Sturridge adding to the pain.

But it’s the Reds' defense under the tutelage of Brendan Rodgers that has come under extreme criticism over the past 3 seasons. The Northern Irishman’s stubbornness of not working with a defensive coach has raised eyebrows at Merseyside more than once. With the signings of Nathanial Clyne and Joe Gomez, along with the decision to keep the experienced Kolo Toure – who I feel is kept as a mentor more than a player - for one more season, there is a strong indication of trying to fix the defense. The fans, however, are still not convinced, especially raising doubts as to who will partner Martin Skrtel at the heart of their defense. 


Goals conceded by Liverpool and their rivals in previous seasons:

Team

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

Chelsea

39

27

32

Manchester City

34

37

38

Arsenal

37

41

36

Manchester United

43

43

37

Liverpool

43

50

48


One player, who has almost been forgotten at Anfield, is the young and agile, Tiago Ilori. He was signed in the summer of 2013 on transfer deadline day from Sporting Lisbon for a fee of around £7 million with Brendan Rodgers saying, “He is 6' 3", super quick, power, can jump, and he just needs to adapt to the pace and physicality of the Premier League. He is one for the future, but he can be a really big talent.”

Style Of Play

Blessed with incredible pace, one thing you’ll always hear in relation to Tiago is that he broke the 30-meter sprint record, set by Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Quaresma at Sporting. It’s not only his pace but his elegance and composure on the ball, his ability to find a pass and strong tackling that make him an ideal candidate to partner Skrtel this season.  

Liverpool defenders statistics (Avg/game) in the previous season (Courtesy: Squawka)

Defenders Matches Minutes Played Interceptions Tackles Won Defensive Error Aerials Dual Won
Mahamadou Sakho 16 1419 1.69 1.31 0.13 2.81
Dejan Lovren 26 2049 1.85 1.35 0.23 3.62
Tiago Ilori 12 1016 2.75 1.58 0 0.92

He also boasts an impressive Whoscored rating of 7.21 in the recently concluded European U-21 Championship. The above stats also imply his superior reading of the game – which is one of his biggest strengths.


Tiago Ilori at Melwood Training Ground

With Martin Skrtel almost guaranteed a starting birth, Dejan Lovren making at least an error per game – which was so prominent in the pre-season as well – and Sakho’s injury problems along with his clumsiness when put under pressure, the 22 year old Portuguese should definitely be given a run. He suits the way the manager wants the team to play and having the experience of 2 loan spells in Spain and France, he could be the solution Liverpool are looking for; keeping in mind he remains free of injuries.

He was seen back in Melwood today, after an extended vacation. He’s highly regarded by the Liverpool supporters and it will be interesting to see if whether he becomes a John Stones or another Sebastian Coates. 

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