An opening day 4-3 win over Arsenal showed glimpses of a ‘brand new Liverpool’ on Sunday afternoon. The team’s surge in the second half following a remarkable Philippe Coutinho free-kick on the stroke of time saw the Reds score four goals in less than 20 minutes of action, the kind of passage that all Liverpool supporters had been waiting for under Jurgen Klopp.
Yet, the team’s near capitulation, and nervy final 15 minutes against an Arsenal side that was far from full-strength brought back visions of last season’s team.
The biggest questions surrounding Liverpool this season remain focused on whether or not the team has improved under Klopp, now that the German has had a full pre-season with the club.
This season’s Liverpool has been built in Klopp’s eye, compared to last year’s team that was led by former coach Brendan Rodgers until his sacking. A glance over Liverpool’s current squad is enough to see that they have a squad that is certainly capable of pushing for European spots in the English Premier League. Klopp has used his knowledge of the German Bundesliga to bring in players he is familiar with. Four of Liverpool’s six summer transfer signings have come from Germany. Joel Matip, Loris Karius, Ragnar Klavan and Alex Manninger have all made the move to Anfield.
Central defence is still of large concern for the side, and Dejan Lovren hardly put supporters’ fears to rest against Arsenal last week. Klopp has signed two centre-backs in Matip and Klavan (the latter partnered Lovren against Arsenal at the weekend) who are capable of providing competition for the starting central defensive positions, yet despite these purchases Klopp and the team could still use another central defender following Martin Skrtel’s sale to Fenerbahce.
Just as worrying is Liverpool’s handling of the left-back position. Alberto Moreno proved he isn’t a capable Premier League defender throughout 2015-16, and one cannot speak about the left-back without mentioning his awful performance in last season’s Europa League final. The only reason that the Reds haven’t addressed this position has to be because the club is awaiting Joe Gomez’s return from injury. The 19-year-old that started at left-back for the club last season has been out injured since October. In fact, Gomez can play across the back line when fit, perhaps enough reason to resist buying another defender.
At times against the Gunners, Liverpool’s high-pressure defence in the second half was second to none, winning 21 tackles and seven interceptions, according to WhoScored.com. The only problem with those stats, however, is Arsenal bettered the Reds in both areas over the entire 90 minutes and still created far too many chances for Klopp’s liking. Too often, Liverpool’s high-pressure defence is too inconsistent. Something that must change and the manager is capable of seeing as Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund were capable of having a back-line perform with high-intensity over the course of 90 minutes every week.
The good news for Liverpool right now is that the team is scoring goals. Should the defence stay in this way, then problems will come if these goals dry up. Last season is a prime example, as the Reds finished sixth in the Premier League with 63 goals scored. The problem was the 50 goals the team conceded, the second most of any team that finished in the top eight.
Saturday’s win at the Emirates showed Liverpool could go away from home and win against a top side. However, defensive shorting comings will catch up with the team if Klopp doesn’t see to them.