His glasses keep falling off celebrating. It’s only a matter of time before a lucrative *Specsavers contract falls his way.
*Other optical enhancement outlets are available.
Jürgen Klopp embraced Saido Mane and the boys on the touchline last Sunday at Arsenal like many of us would greet news of a new left back. When he dropped his glasses on the floor, instant memories of that entertaining shambles at Norwich City last season were awoken.
Worryingly he has had seven and a half months in charge since then and our defensive frailties haven’t had the magic wand treatment many had envisaged.
While I’m not suggesting Klopp’s glasses are the reason we struggle to defend, it’s more than just those glasses he broke at Carrow Road that needs ‘fixing’.
No, I am in actual fact talking about our defenders.
Some may argue we have already done this. With the sale of long term weak link Martin Skrtel, and the purchase of two Bundesliga proven centre backs in Ragnar Klavan and Joel Matip, you may be inclined to believe that our defensive worries have the potential to be a thing of the past, putting Sunday down to first game of the season nerves, or a lack of match fitness maybe.
However, there has been an elephant in the room now for some time. Arguably since Rafa Benitez was directing events at Anfield. Defensive stability has become a distant memory. Individually sound players who struggle to form a cohesive unit.
Alberto Moreno, give him his due, only became a left back at age 20, having played his entire career up to that point as a left winger. It’s not hard to see where his urges to attack and bomb down the flank come from, and neither is he the first Liverpool full back in recent times to struggle with his defend-attack, work-life balance.
Anyone who has kicked a ball in vague anger knows that to go from being responsible for advancing up-field, providing assists and even chipping in with goals from deep, to being part of a defensive unit whose job it is to defend your goal is hard graft.
While they tend to be damned if they do, or damned if they don’t, the modern full back can influence a game a lot. Look at what Pep Guardiola did with Manchester City at the weekend, when he had Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna basically playing as extra midfielders at times throughout the game. Increasingly deeper deployed central midfielders are designed to facilitate this.
So alright, we have undeniably established Moreno is perhaps not the most reliable defender going, yet how come we haven’t got rid of him? I mean, other perceived weak links have been moved along.
The only viable reason as to why he is still Liverpool’s left back of choice, other than him bribing Jürgen with pictures of him rat-arsed in the Cavern Club singing Eleanor Rigby, is that the coaches, Klopp included, think he has the potential to actually be decent.
One thing, among countless others that I like about Klopp and his staff is that a new clean slate was given this summer. It is they who see improvements in the squad starting on the training ground. Klopp is not immediately throwing money at some hot prospect being touted by unscrupulous agents and the YouTube ITK’s alike.
It is hopefully a bit of history repeating with Moreno, in the way it went for Klopp with Marcel Schmeltzer at Dortmund, when he eventually drilled him into a pretty boss left back.
Patience among reds is clearly wearing thin however.
I want him to succeed, but in Alberto’s case, I ultimately can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Since we signed him he has undeniably looked dodgy at left back, perhaps his best performance in a red shirt was against Tottenham Hotspur, his second game for us. He left Andros Townsend for dead and ran with the ball for 40 yards before burying a beauty of a goal. In the process he got our hopes up that we had finally replaced John Arne Riise. A player himself who split the fan-base at times.
Moreno has been more hit than miss since that early high at White Hart Lane.
Maybe he still has a future at Liverpool though? Move him up the pitch and play him as a left winger? Yet another Liverpool full back who’s really a career wing back? He is as fast as they come and has proved he can create chances, maybe even score a goal or two.
I would like to see him further up the pitch and get another left back in, but do you really alter your whole team to better accommodate a defective left back?
Left back has been an age-old issue for us. We could use James Milner as a temporary fix until Joe Gomez is back fit. Get shut of Alberto. Earn a few quid in the process. Not to mention Joe and James both already know the script at the club and what Klopp wants from his players.
Either way, whatever we decide to do, our current left back situation is unsustainable. The fume continues to rise.
We appear to have title ambitions, but if our first choice left back can’t defend, then we may as well prepare for disappointment now.