Connect in the back of the net

Dejan Lovren is on the receiving end of some heavy criticism from the Liverpool fans.

The Croatian’s silly mistake in the opening minutes of Liverpool’s Champions League match against Sevilla saw the Spaniards take the lead.

The game ended in a 2-2 draw and the Reds fans, who were not happy with the result, started slating the former Southampton man. Lovren is not the only person who is being criticized by the fans.

Jordan Henderson, Alberto Moreno, etc have got their share too. However, nothing can match the amount of slating the Croatian is getting.

 

Stoking the ire of football fans

Lovren was never been able to consistently perform like he used to do at Southampton. There are some periods and matches when he has matched his standards, but never been able to do it week in week out.

“Lovren has been at the club for four years and he has not improve a bit”

“Lovren is getting paid £100k for making mistakes every week”

“It is sad that Joel Matip has to play alongside a blind defender”

These were some of the comments about Lovren on social media.

I won’t be ignorant to the fact that the mistake made by the defender against Sevilla is something that no professional centre-back should make, nor will I disagree that Lovren has not been doing good recently. However, these comments about the player on social media and other platforms seem too harsh to me.

Lovren is not as bad as people make him out to be.

I know not much of you are going to be on the same page as me, but I will try my best to convey my opinion with the help of some stats and facts.

 

Strong defensive record towards the end of last season

Defense was one of the key areas that Liverpool needed to address in the summer transfer window. People have disapproved Jurgen Klopp’s decision of not going for another centre back after failing to land Virgil van Dijk.

However, the defense’s record towards the end of the last season is remarkable. In the last six matches of the previous season, the Reds’ defense kept five clean sheets.

It was the same back four of James Milner, Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip and Nathaniel Clyne in all those five games. In the game that Liverpool did not keep a clean sheet, it was a different formation and Liverpool had three at the back. It has to be noted that all those six matches were tricky ones for Liverpool.

The defense was stable and solid in the games towards the end of the last season, and the point I am making is that Lovren was a part of that defense which was solid and kept consecutive clean sheets.

 

Lovren’s record this season

I compared Lovren’s Premier League stats to that of defenders of other top clubs and I have to say that I was surprised.

(The stats given below are in per 90 minutes metrics, at the time of writing)

Dejan Lovren has won 0.97 tackles, while Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany won 0.67. Manchester United’s Eric Bailly has 0.75. Arsenal’s Nacho Monreal (who has been playing as a centre back despite being a left-back) and Chelsea’s David Luiz have 2 each.

The Croatian has lost 1.46 tackles, while Kompany lost 2.33. Bailly has 1.75, Monreal has 3 and Luiz has 1.50.

Aerial ability is one of Lovren’s strength. He has won 72.73% of his aerial duels. Kompany has scored 75%. United’s Bailly only has 44.44%. Monreal scores 50%, while Luiz has the lowest with only 30%.

Lovren makes lot of mistakes, so he must have conceded lot of fouls right? Get ready to be surprised.

The former Southampton player had committed only 0.49 fouls. Both Kompany and Bailly has 1 towards their names. Monreal has the second best score of 0.50. Chelsea’s Luiz has the worst record among the five players, committing 1.75 fouls.

Coming to interceptions. Lovren has the second best score with 1.46 interceptions. Monreal tops the list with 2.75. Kompany comes third with 1.33. Both Bailly and Luiz have 1.25.

Lovren is also the second best in blocks. The Croatian has blocked 0.49 balls. Kompany is the topper here with a score of 1. Bailly has 0.25, while both Monreal and Luiz have not opened their accounts here.

Clearances is the only area where Lovren comes last. He has made only 3.41 clearances, while Kompany has made 4. Luiz slightly edges Kompany with a score of 4.25. Bailly and Monreal’s 5.25 is the best score.

None of the defenders except Monreal (0.25) has not committed any defensive errors in the Premier League so far.

Yes, stats do not always tell us the truth. We are only four games into the Premier League season and it might be too early to look at these stats.

Also, these stats depend on the situation and involvement of the players. However, stats do give us a general idea.

Lovren is first in two of those seven stats. The player comes second in three areas and third in one. He is only last in one stat. That is not a bad record.

I am not stating that he is better than the other defenders that I compared Lovren with, but his stats do say something. It says that he has not been as bad as people make him out to be.

 

Lovren vs Matip

Lovren has only started two out of four games (one appearance as substitute) in the Premier League this season. So, I checked his numbers in those two games and compared it with his defensive partner Joel Matip.

In Liverpool’s season beginner against Watford, Lovren won 8 aerial duels while Matip won 3. Both made 1 tackle and 2 interceptions each. Matip edged Lovren’s 4 clearances by making 5. However, only Lovren blocked a shot out of the two.

The Croatian did not win any aerial duels against Arsenal. Matip won 2. Both made 2 tackles each. The Cameroon international made 4 interceptions and 5 clearances. Lovren only made 1 interception and 3 clearances.

The stats show that the performances of both players are not that different. So, it means either that Matip is as bad as Lovren or Lovren is decent. I would like to believe that the second option is true.

Two of Lovren’s costly errors this season have come in the Champions League. One against Sevilla this week and the other against Hoffenheim in the play-offs. Other than that he has not made any ‘schoolboy’ errors that the fans say he make week in week out.

Like I said earlier, I am not trying to prove that Lovren’s performances have been good or upto the mark. What I am saying is that the statements and comments made on the player is too harsh and maybe he does not deserve it.

 

Solution

In my opinion, Jurgen Klopp should do what he did with Mignolet last season with Lovren. The German manager should take the centre-back out of Liverpool’s starting line-up and let him get things right.

Let him take a step back, take a breath of air and then get back into the job.

Meanwhile, Klopp can give a shot to youngster Joe Gomez alongside Matip. The English defender is talented, solid and tall unlike what Michael Owen said. Trent Alexander-Arnold can play as the right-back and James Milner can be used as a back-up.

Midfield stability has also to do with Liverpool’s defensive problems. The defense has always looked good when the midfield has been sharp. Klopp should find a right midfield partnership that can protect the team’s defense and also support the attack.

With the return of Philippe Coutinho, Klopp could take out Wijnaldum and replace him with the Brazilian. Jordan Henderson can continue in his deep-lying role, but he should be given the support of Emre Can.

The German should also drop into a deeper role. This will provide enough protection to the defense and Coutinho can give some defense-splitting passes that other midfielders have not been able to do consistently.

 

Stats Sources: Squawka and Whoscored

 

Written by Dakir Thanveer

Follow Dakir on Twitter @ZakWriter

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