Why Liverpool need an experienced defensive midfielder
Liverpool midfielders have been haphazard and inconsistent throughout the season
Liverpool's lack of a quality defensive midfielder has cost them more often than not under the management of Jurgen Klopp. The German manager is not a big fan of centre defensive midfielders who sit back with the defence. But a lack of composure and defensive contributions from the current crop of Liverpool midfielders will force the manager to reassess his options in the summer.
The arrival of Naby Keita will surely bolster the Reds midfield, but the Guinean should not be overloaded with defensive duties as he is known for bursting runs and feeding the forwards. It's unequivocal to see what Liverpool's boss is trying to bring to this side with the brilliance of counter-attacking football with the constant pressing that is deployed in order to retrieve the ball.
Nemanja Matic, Fernandinho, N'Golo Kante, Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama are all effective defensive midfielders for their respective teams that make up the Top 6 of the Premier League.
There is no doubting their quality. On the other hand, Arsenal have Granit Xhaka, who has been lacklustre since his arrival at the club while Emre Can and Jordan Henderson's inconsistency has been a major letdown for the Reds. This is one of the many reasons why Liverpool and Arsenal have conceded the most numbers of goals in the top 6.
Henderson and Can have struggled to control the game against bigger sides and the lack of a defensive mindset is not helping them. The Reds have conceded 20 goals in 9 games against the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal. This comes down to how the midfielders control the game.
Failure to replace Mascherano
Liverpool have failed to replace the Argentine Javier Mascherano who left for Barcelona in 2010. Since then, the Reds have continuously leaked goals because of the lack of quality midfielders available to shield the defence.
The former Liverpool midfielder was known for his rough and tough character in the centre of the park. He was known for being snide at times but he could play just as well and he is one of the most tactically switched on players to have played for the Reds in recent years.
Rafa Benitez described him as "Monster of a player" after the Champions League semi-finals second leg against Chelsea in 2007. He went on to put in many monster performances during his helm at Anfield.
Lucas Leiva was one of the standout performers for Rafa Benitez's side alongside Mascherano. After the departure of Javier, the Brazilian suffered from cruciate ligament structure which kept him out for more than 7 months. That injury dented Lucas' pace severely and he was never able to regain the speed he had.
Brendan Rodgers' plan to play Steven Gerrard in that position paid off for short-term offensively. But, in reality, Liverpool kept on leaking goals at the back. Since then, Emre Can and Jordan Henderson have been given that responsibility. It's a pity that they failed to fill Mascherano's boots as well.
Let's look at some mistakes committed by the Liverpool midfielders this season and look at why they need another midfielder with his brain switched on for the whole game.
Liverpool were 2-0 down and cruising going into the second half at Emirates but to only trail the game within 6 minutes in the second half. Alexis Sanchez, Granit Xhaka and Mesut Ozil all scored to lead the game 3-2. 12 minutes later, Firmino levelled the score and made it 3-3.
In this situation, it is clear to see Lovren marking Lacazette. On the other hand, Gomez does not know if Ozil will go wide for Sanchez or play a one-two with Lacazette. The defender decides to mark Alexis Sanchez.
Emre Can walks around to let Lacazette play a reverse pass to Ozil and score past Mignolet. If Emre Can had marked the German playmaker, there would not have been enough room for Ozil to take a shot.
Liverpool and Salah took an early lead against Tottenham Hotspur, but yet another collective mistake from Liverpool midfielders allowed Spurs to equalise.
Goalkeeper Karius punches the ball away from a cross and the ball fell to Emre Can who failed to get any touch on the ball.
Beyond Robertson, there you can see two players going for the ball- Oxlade Chamberlain and Victor Wanyama. The English midfielder was caught ball watching and the Kenyan took full advantage of it by taking an excellent shot to send the net bulging. Had Can controlled the ball or if Chamberlain was not caught sleeping, this wouldn't have led to a shot.
Emre Can gets outmuscled by Krychowiak which allows the Polish player to pass the ball to Chris Brunt. The left-back puts in a low cross and Oxlade Chamberlain is unaware of Jay Rodriguez's presence, allowing the striker to slot the ball into the net. Yet another mistake from the midfielders.
Fans are frustrated with too many basic errors from the Liverpool midfielders. Naby Keita along with a proper defensive midfielder and an attacking player should make up Liverpool's midfield next season.
There is no denying the point that Liverpool need an experienced midfield player with enormous strength to match up against some top players. Danilo Pereira is one among the many players who sit back with the defence no matter what.
His passing is decent coupled with very good tackling abilities. He is a player Jurgen Klopp should try to pursue this summer.
Steven N'Zonzi, Geoffrey Kondogbia and Lucas Tousart are the other midfielders capable of solving Liverpool's issues. The Reds are linked with Jorginho. The Napoli midfielder can dictate the game from the midfield, but he is not assured defensively. If Jurgen Klopp addresses the problem and signs two to three quality players, Liverpool will be a strong contender for the title next season.