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Liverpool’s leaking defence a cause for Jürgen Klopp’s concern

Adrián’s hectic start to life at Liverpool gave Jürgen Klopp another European trophy, reason to sprint half the length of the pitch and licence to indulge in Rocky Balboa impersonations at Besiktas Park on Wednesday. No cause for concern, in other words, apart from just how busy his goalkeeper needed to be against Chelsea. Liverpool have yet to rediscover the defensive habits of last season while keeping the winning habit intact.

Once he had recovered his breath and ceased with the Sylvester Stallone impressions after the Super Cup the Liverpool manager admitted his team had “to improve a lot of things” about their defensive game. The European champions’ distribution from the back went unusually awry in Istanbul but it was the 21 attempts on Adrián’s goal that will have troubled Klopp most, especially as it continued a trend of the season so far.

Liverpool have faced 40 shots in the first three games of this campaign. In the first three games of last season it was 19. There has been an additional 30 minutes of extra time to factor into this season’s equation but defensive solidity throughout the team, with a more compact midfield providing consistent protection, was the cornerstone of last term’s Champions League success and pursuit of the Premier League title. Its absence in spells against Manchester City in the Community Shield, Norwich in the league opener and Chelsea in the Super Cup represents this season’s teething trouble.

Joe Gomez, who played right and left-back in the penalty shootout victory, said: “I think there were a lot of things we could have done better on a personal note and as a team. There were a few sloppy moments and we obviously conceded two goals which could have been prevented.

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“As a collective, we did not play the best football in the first half and I don’t think we got the ball down properly. There were phases we know we could have done better but we all dug deep and tried to get the result. I think not even on our best day we can get a result which is what has changed and why we got so close to the Premier League last season. We were not at our best in spells but we improved.”

Jürgen Klopp will have a few things on his mind regarding his defence.

Jürgen Klopp will have a few things on his mind regarding his defence. Photograph: Tolga Bozoğlu/EPA

Klopp urged his players to channel what energy they had left after 120 minutes into a positive mindset before the penalty shootout in Istanbul. “I think he just wanted us to dig deep,” Gomez said. “Everyone was tired and he wanted everyone’s body language to be right and just go into it with a positive mindset. He wanted us to say: “Come on, we can win this’.”

Having the Champions League trophy in the cabinet helps Klopp when calling for one final push for victory from a shattered team. Gomez believes victory in Madrid in May has made a significant impact on the team’s mentality, giving them the belief that they are a class apart.

The England defender said: “You can always say ‘we will compete’ but winning trophies and getting over the line is a characteristic of a big team. Getting results sets you apart. We are getting there.

“It is obviously part of the experience and us young players are getting the experience of being involved in finals like this. Hopefully we can use it. It is nice to be involved. That is why you want to be at a big club like this and play in big games and win trophies. That is our aim this year. We have the feeling that we are a top team and can win things. There is that belief in the team and we want to carry that on.”

Liverpool flew home from Turkey with their 13th European trophy on Thursday. They will be back in the air on Friday when flying to Southampton for Saturday’s Premier League game at St Mary’s Stadium, with Klopp understandably concerned about the demands on his players.

“It is relentless but it is part and parcel of being at the top,” Gomez said. “You have to play more games than anyone else if you want to be in the prime positions. We will be home and then gone again but we can not complain. We are lucky to do this.”


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