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One Liverpool moment explains Virgil van Dijk struggles as Jürgen Klopp must fix root cause

Jürgen Klopp must look beyond Virgil van Dijk to see the cause of Liverpool’s defensive struggles of late. One recent moment should show him the problem.


Liverpool have targeted a specific type of centre-back over the past few years. Jürgen Klopp is known for representing offensive football and as a result, he’s inclined to encourage his players to get forward.


Whenever the Reds have possession secured, they attack with a whole host of bodies in search for a goal. The likes of Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson, Thiago Alcântara and even Joël Matip tend to find themselves in the final third fairly often.


Liverpool have recruited central defenders to allow Klopp’s players to behave in such an adventurous manner, with an emphasis placed on their one-on-one abilities in particular. Virgil van Dijk is perhaps the ultimate example, with the Dutchman known for coming out on top against virtually all of his opponents.


Van Dijk’s teammates can advance forward with confidence, knowing all about his ability to defend without support if the opposition regain the ball and quickly instigate a counter-attack.


The 31-year-old is stronger, quicker, cooler and smarter than most of the players he tends to come up against, which is why he’s proved to be so effective within Klopp’s aggressive system over the years.


In the summer of 2021, Ibrahima Konaté joined Van Dijk at Anfield, having been signed from RB Leipzig. Like the Dutch international, he’s quick, powerful and physically imposing, standing around 1.94 metres tall.


Matip and Joe Gomez aren’t too dissimilar, with Liverpool effectively stockpiling a wealth of elite options in their centre-back department, all of whom should be able to cope better than most when isolated in tricky situations. In theory, that’s good news in light of the latest Van Dijk injury update.


However, it is perhaps indicative of the issues attached to Liverpool’s midfield department at present that Klopp’s central defenders keep making costly mistakes and embarrassing errors.


On Monday night, the typically capable Konaté was made to look perfectly average by Bryan Mbeumo on the 84th minute. A pass was played behind Liverpool’s defensive line and rather than dealing with the situation, the Frenchman ended up on the ground, allowing his opponent to score.


The Reds lost by three goals to one on the night, and the error captured a recurring theme on Merseyside this term. Van Dijk has appeared human over the past few months, and he’s given away a number of penalties in uncharacteristic fashion.


Gomez has also appeared far from his usual self of late, with his confidence looking shot to pieces based on some of his performances, even against lesser opposition.



Perhaps Liverpool’s centre-backs are no longer of sufficient quality, but it seems much more likely that the players involved are suffering from the same tactical issues, with Klopp leaving them far too exposed from match to match.






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