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Liverpool have won three of their first four league games, scored eleven goals and are still the odds on favourite to retain their Premier League title. But why is there an unease around Anfield at this stage of the season?
Jurgen Klopp’s side had the best defence in the league last season, conceding just 33 goals during their title-winning campaign. They have already let in 11 in their first four games and have looked defensively unstable and shaky at the back.
Virgil van Dijk has been missing his trademark assurance and there has been a sense of unease in Liverpool’s defending. Jurgen Klopp got into a war of words with Roy Keane over the Reds making sloppy mistakes after the win over Arsenal, but conceding seven against Aston Villa at the weekend proved the former Manchester United captain right.
The Reds have been making sloppy mistakes in defence and that has led to them conceding a glut of goals in their opening four games.
Klopp will hope to get them back to some sort of consistent levels over the course of the next few weeks but the Liverpool manager must be worried about the lack of depth in his options at the back. While Kostas Tsimikas was brought in as cover for Andy Robertson, Liverpool never replaced Dejan Lovren in their squad during the transfer window.
Liverpool have been left with just three senior centre-backs in Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip in their squad.
Liverpool have taken a gamble by not signing another centre-back
Liverpool signed Thiago Alcantara and Diogo Jota to add more depth and options to their midfield and attack this season. But their defensive woes at the start of the season make it apparent that they should have signed one more centre-back.
Dejan Lovren was a bit-part player at Liverpool last season but the Croatian still played 10 Premier League games and started in wins against Manchester City, Tottenham and Everton.
Jurgen Klopp had the option to turn to an experienced head from time to time but that is not the case anymore this season. The only other option centre-back option he has is an 18-year-old Sepp van den Berg. While talented, the teenage defender is still some way away from the levels required to come into the heat of a Premier League season.
Liverpool are more than just dependent on Virgil van Dijk rediscovering his previous level soon and remaining fit for the entirety of the season. An injury to the Dutchman could be a body blow for them and the Reds will be left to play Joe Gomez and Joel Matip as the centre-back pairing.
Fabinho can play at the heart of defence but the Reds are a much more balanced side when the Brazilian is operating in the middle of the park.
All this points to only one question – why didn’t Liverpool bring in one more centre-back?
Finances have been tight this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic and bringing in an attacker like Diogo Jota gives Jurgen Klopp another option beyond the usual front three. But did they really need Thiago?
Yes, the Spaniard adds something to their midfield that Liverpool have been missing – vision and ability to break down tight defences. But the Reds won a Champions League and a Premier League with a workmanlike midfield.