Connect with us


Jurgen Klopp has a Liverpool partnership he may need to break up for good



Almost all of Liverpool’s worst defeats in the past three years have a common defensive problem

Liverpool’s hopes of a memorable return to Istanbul for another Champions League final are in tatters after a 5-2 loss to Real Madrid. The result meant the Reds had lost three of their last eight games in all competitions by at least three goals, compared to only that often in their previous 149 games.

Likewise, the humiliation at the hands of the defending champions was only the 12th time Klopp’s Liverpool have conceded at least four goals. Such games are inevitably (and unfortunately) memorable, although there have often been explanatory factors in the past.

Perhaps it was Sadio Mane’s first-half dismissal at Manchester City that had an impact, or the combination of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson facing the same opponents in central defense in 2021. For one of the games, Klopp and his first team were in Qatar, while youngest-ever Liverpool were broken by a strong Aston Villa team in a cup tie.

Defensive performances that probed these depths were thankfully rare for a fully strong Reds team. However, a surprising turn of events involving the bottom four which have featured no midfielders leaves Klopp in a dilemma when he makes his squad selections for the big games in Future.

In addition to the carnage at the hands of Real, Liverpool lost 4-1 in Naples earlier this season. Two years earlier, they had been beaten 7-2 at Villa Park, just 13 games after hitting . took a four-goal shot from City. Anyway, the duo Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk started at centre-back.

Former Reds defender Jamie Carragher has commented on the latter’s performance after Liverpool’s latest collapse. “Defensively, and I’m not that terrible, but Virgil van Dijk said I wasn’t going to come back to that four about two months ago. I think I’ll take his place now,” he said. . Whether it’s a harsh or fair comment (or both) from Carragher, it was often Gomez who was guilty or unlucky (or both), rather than Van Dijk. Against Real Madrid, he failed to shut down Vinicius Junior, allowing the Brazilian to unleash a fantastic shot into the bottom corner of the Kop-end net for his side’s first goal.

Carragher’s x-rated reaction (“Damn guys. How can he put the ball in the box like that?”) said it all. While the second was far from entirely Gomez’s fault, it was his less-than-ideal back pass that led to Alisson Becker’s foul, with the fourth coming through the 25-year-old defender. He was replaced by Joel Matip in the 73rd minute, by which time Madrid had scored a fifth goal. Although not as soon as with the previously mentioned heavy losses, there is a theme that Gomez was retired well before full time each time.

The former Charlton man also made way for Matip against Napoli and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (as part of a reshuffle) at Manchester City in July 2020, both times at the break. Gomez reached the hour of Villa’s infamous defeat, although most of the damage had already been done as the Reds had conceded five more goals by then.

Jürgen Klopp confirms Liverpool's push for Newcastle but the "big talent" will miss the rest of the season

And while it’s not the most scientific approach to assessing player performance, Liverpool’s number two in the post-match ECHO rankings received two threes, one four and one five for those four games, with van Dijk slightly better each time (but still not great) was . What makes this even more disheartening is that the pair did so well together in 2018/19 and the Premier League title-winning campaign. Of course, how a team defends isn’t just about its defenders. But it’s getting harder and harder to argue that Gomez and van Dijk should ever be reunited.