Aren’t there some players that evoke a lot of sympathy from you? You can have your Torres or your Quaresma or even your Balotelli, I have my Lovren.
The Croatian got his dream move to Liverpool last summer for a fee of £20m, the highest the club has paid for a defender. With great price tags come great responsibility and Lovren failed to deliver. Forget looking like a £20m player, he didn’t even look like the player Southampton had employed in the heart of their defence the season before.
Lovren could be called the epitome of Liverpool’s 2014/15 season – disappointing, depressing and devoid of confidence.
Two reasons can be cited for his performances last season, sheer lack of confidence and lack of cover from the midfield.
The two points are intricately interlinked. Dwelling on the first, lack of confidence comes from a string of poor performances, and when you don’t have teammates to fall back on. Martin Skrtel, who is Dejan Lovren’s partner in defence is not a reliable falling back option for any player. Though in a counter view, it can be said that partnering Lovren and being the bad cop can be nerve-wracking for any player.
Moving to the more important second point, the lack of cover from midfield has been a pertinent point which has been constantly spoken about for a few seasons now. Under Benitez, Liverpool were remarkably non-porous and a very important reason for that was the likes of Didi Hamann and Javier Mascherano shielding the back-line for the side.
Its fine when you can outscore your opposition, that was visible in the 2013/14 season. But what if you can’t? Something we saw more than once last season. The Reds were unable to come back into games where they went behind.
It almost looks like Brendan Rodgers doesn’t give the defence or the defensive midfielder role much importance as he has failed to give it attention in any of the transfer windows, bar his first one as Liverpool boss where he brought in Joe Allen for £15m from Swansea City.
Lucas is not a bad player by any right and his role in Liverpool’s 13 match unbeaten run last season cannot be understated. He was instrumental for the Reds as he broke up opposition attacks, showed good positional sense and used the ball shrewdly on occasions. In fact, as soon as he got out of the team due to an injury against Everton, Liverpool’s remarkable degeneration in form began. Co-incidence? Seemingly not.
Lucas and Lovren both played full 90 minutes against Blackburn in the FA Cup replay and against Newcastle United in the Premier League and in both games, Liverpool kept a clean-sheet. In the next game (against Aston Villa in the FA Cup), Lucas was not in the starting line-up and Lovren was and Liverpool lost 2-1. Co-incidence? Could be.
Lovren was not consistently part of the team when Lucas was shielding that back-line. Results may have varied if the Croatian was in fact, involved, but something that cannot be refuted is that Lovren has not received adequate cover from the midfield in his one season at Liverpool.
Liverpool need to bring in a defensive midfielder and the fact that other than Asier Illarramendi, there haven’t even been strong links for any defensive midfielder shows that Brendan Rodgers doesn’t think of the spot or the problem to be too worrisome.
Liverpool currently do have a few talented individuals who could be used in the role. James Milner, Jordan Henderson, Emre Can namely, but not one of them is a “proper defensive midfielder” who could do the job Javier Mascherano did a few years back for Liverpool and is doing at Barcelona right now.
Granted, it is easier to make a “predicted Liverpool line-up” without an incoming holding midfielder but is it something that can be sacrificed?
Unless Brendan Rodgers thinks of the defensive midfielder position as a problem in the coming weeks, it remains unlikely that a CDM will be brought in this summer, which subsequently means we are likely to see Lucas or Joe Allen being used sparingly in the squad role. Emre Can has the ability to be the club’s new Hamann, but at present, he looks more Steven Gerrard of the old than Steven Gerrard of two seasons back.
Which makes you wonder, is it fair to judge Lovren for last season, and will it still be fair to judge him now without adequate cover from the midfield? The player performed admirably for Southampton the season before with Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama in the midfield. He more often than not, does well for Croatia with Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic in the midfield.
Then the price tag comes in. Will Lovren ever be a £20m defender? Possibly not. Southampton did terrific business for the Croatian who looked desperate to leave the club once he found out Liverpool’s interest, and Liverpool were not so shrewd and bought a defender who was not worth that sort of money especially since they had a better player for that position already in their ranks. However, what’s good for Lovren is that his price tag means that he will be given chances by Brendan Rodgers in this season as the Northern Irishman will obviously want to prove that he wasn’t wrong in buying the player. Therefore he has a chance to prove himself.
While it doesn’t look like he can help the second problem for his performances, he should certainly try to build some confidence and hope for redemption in the coming season.
Written by Aakriti Mehrotra