Jurgen Klopp would be wise to take a look at Arsenal’s transformation under Mikel Arteta as he looks to address Liverpool’s frailties, which were laid bare by West Ham United
Jurgen Klopp turned the spotlight on two contentious refereeing decisions after watching his Liverpool side beaten for the first time this season.
The German insisted he was calm, but he could not hide his fury about West Ham United’s opening goal and Aaron Cresswell managing to avoid a red card.
Klopp felt Alisson was fouled by Michail Antonio and Angelo Ogbonna before diverting a corner into his own net in the fourth minute.
Moments later, he and his players were livid once again as a VAR check chose not to send off Aaron Cresswell for what looked like a dangerous, off-the-ball tackle on Jordan Henderson.
Klopp was right to be aggrieved by the decisions, the latter more so, but there were many other things which went wrong during Sunday’s 3-2 defeat at the London Stadium.
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The two most-glaring issues concerned Liverpool’s failures defending set pieces and the weaknesses in their spine, at centre-back and in central midfield.
Antonio divulged after the match that West Ham coaches had noticed in their pre-match analysis how they could unsettle Alisson during corners by putting a man on him.
So long as they avoided Van Dijk with the delivery, the Irons were confident they would create scoring opportunities.
They were proved right on two occasions as Alisson flapped in an own-goal and Kurt Zouma headed home from the back post.
To concede two goals from set pieces is hugely concerning, but Liverpool’s defending for the hosts’ other goal was just as alarming.
None of the Reds’ midfielders were able to impede Jarrod Bowen after possession was lost in midfield, and Joel Matip made the questionable decision to press the Englishman, allowing him to slide through Pablo Fornals to restore West Ham’s lead.
Matip has been uncharacteristically rash in recent fixtures, while partner Van Dijk is also in a tricky patch.
Klopp’s chopping and changing in defence appears to be hindering both players at this early stage of the season.
Ibrahima Konate started the two Premier League games prior to the trip to east London and for the most part the young Frenchman impressed alongside Van Dijk.
However, Matip was recalled to top-flight action against West Ham and endured the worst of his 13 appearances this season.
Admittedly, Liverpool’s centre-backs were not helped by an out-of-sorts Andy Robertson at left-back and Fabinho’s shaky display in the No.6 role as he works his way back to full fitness.
But if Klopp wants to see the benefits of persisting with the same centre-back partnership, he need only look at Arsenal.
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Mikel Arteta has led his side on an eight-game unbeaten run in the Premier League with Benjamin White and Gabriel lining up in each of those fixtures.
This solid base has proved to be the bedrock of the Gunners’ success and they have kept five clean sheets in that time, conceding just four goals.
The benefits of using the same duo week in, week out are not alien to Klopp; Liverpool’s remarkable run of 18 wins in their title-winning season was built on Van Dijk and Joe Gomez’s partnership.
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Confusingly, Gomez has only made two substitute appearances in the Premier League this season and he appears to be low down pecking order following the serious knee injury he suffered last year.
Nonetheless, he has reminded Liverpool fans of his quality in the Carabao Cup and he remains one of the many high-quality centre-back options at Anfield.
Matip, Konate and Gomez will all harbour ambitions of being Van Dijk’s partner, but Klopp must be ruthless and persist with one of them in a bid to restore solidity to his side’s defence.