In recent weeks, it was confirmed that Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was determined for centre-back and fan favourite Mamadou Sakho to be sent out on a loan spell in order to regain his match fitness. The French defender was banned from football toward the tail end of last season for alleged usage of illegal drugs. Following his reinstatement from his ban, he carried an injury over to the US for Liverpool’s pre-season tour and is yet to be involved in a football match since the Reds thrashed neighbours Everton 4-0 at Anfield back in April.
However, with transfer deadline day past, the former PSG man still remains at Liverpool for the time being; Sakho, prior to the 11 O’clock deadline, made his decision to remain on Merseyside by turning down any possibility for a loan switch. Despite options available to boss Jurgen Klopp, the Reds have been unsurprisingly vulnerable at the back — an ongoing problem that’s spanned multiple seasons. With the Frenchman likely to miss out on a regular position in the first team, the door is left wide open for summer signings Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan to put a marker down for spot in the starting eleven alongside in-form Croat, Dejan Lovren.
It was the Estonian and former Augsburg defender Klavan who started the new season alongside the former Southampton man against Arsenal and despite conceding three goals, it was the £4.2 million pound man who impressed many supporters on the opening day, showing a no nonsense style of defensive play — which is something the Reds have missed since the Jamie Carragher days. The 30-year-old featured yet again in the Premier League, however, failed to build on his showing against the Gunners as he was unable to prevent Burnley from scoring two relatively easy goals which led to the Estonian being dropped for Liverpool’s clash with Championship side Burton Albion.
Another Bundesliga import, Matip was called upon by Klopp as he made his Liverpool debut in the EFL cup tie against the Brewers in what was a rather comfortable game for the Reds back four. After keeping a clean sheet, he said, “Defenders never like conceding goals and the clean sheet was pleasing. But we still need to improve our defensive qualities.”
An injury picked up over the summer kept him from making his competitive bow much sooner, but after enjoying his first taste of real action alongside the experienced Premier League defender, Matip added, “I enjoyed playing alongside Dejan, he’s a very good player. I hope we can have a good partnership together. I think there’s a good understanding there already. At times he covered me, at other times I covered him”.
The Cameroonian made his second appearance for Liverpool in what was his Premier League debut for the Reds against Tottenham Hotspur last Saturday. The 25 year old put in a solid display against the North London side in a 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane. In comparison to Klavan and his no nonsense style of play, Matip offered a more composed ball-playing style, whilst offering a real threat in the opposition box as the 6ft ‘4 defender showed by towering above everybody in the Spurs box and headed onto the crossbar, coming so close to scoring on his first league outing.
Lovren, who was brought to Anfield by previous manager Brendan Rodgers back in the summer of 2014 spoke highly of both new signings and told the clubs official site, “They are players with quality and they understand the plan and the meaning of Jürgen, what he wants during training and the games. They have adapted quite quickly.”
Lovren was certainly no stranger to criticism for the Reds poor defensive form under Rodgers. However, since the arrival of Klopp last October, the 27-year-old has had a resurgence and is now a regular starter under the German manager. Prior to the European Championships, Lovren demanded a guaranteed starting place in Croatia’s squad on the back of his form for the Reds and as a result was left out of the Euro’s entirely.
With the African Cup of Nations approaching, there’s a slim chance that Matip will be set to miss out on domestic football with his potential involvement with his national team Cameroon. Unlike Lovren, it has been rumoured that the Cameroonian is favouring the domestic football over international as he is exiling himself from any involvement with his national team at the tournament. This could prove to be beneficial to Liverpool as the Reds defensive options would be down to the bare minimum leaving Lovren, Klavan and the out of favour Sakho available should Matip take part.
As a Liverpool supporter, the performances of both summer signings have been promising in being the solution to our defensive woes. Though Sakho would be my preferred choice, the Frenchman certainly lacks the attitude to be a part of Liverpool football club. Already Matip and Klavan have shown a great amount of respect to the manager and the club and have shown that they are capable to play in the Premier League. With Lovren, the two new boys can certainly help solve the problems Liverpool have defensively.
Do you think Klavan and Matip can sure up the back and help the Reds regain Champions League status? And what are your thoughts on the start Klavan & Matip have had so far?