Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool can finally look upon 2017 with a sense of optimism after clinching their first Premier League win of the year last weekend.
The Reds produced a fine performance to comfortably beat Tottenham 2-0 at Anfield on Saturday, with two Sadio Mane goals more than enough to get past a lacklustre Spurs.
The victory, their first in the league since New Year’s Eve, and only their second in all competitions since the turn of the year, keeps them a point behind fourth place Arsenal, and indeed a point ahead of Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United in sixth.
Klopp’s men have won 14 of their 25 Premier League games this term, and now that they are out of both cup competitions, they can focus solely on trying to finish in the top four, and thus returning to the Champions League after a two-year absence.
Liverpool are the joint-highest scorers in the league this term with 54, alongside Arsenal, yet they have conceded more than any other side in the top six, having seen 30 nestle in their own net this season.
Although they haven’t always been great at the back, there have been some good performers for them this term, but who has been their best defender in the Premier League this season?
Well, in a Liverpool defence that has seen a few changes over the course of the campaign, it has been Dejan Lovren who has consistently tried to keep things together at the back.
The former Southampton defender didn’t have a great debut season last time out, but this term has been much improved, outdoing fellow centre-back Joel Matip in terms of average clearances per game (6.5 to 4.2), as well as aerial duels won (3.3 to 2.1).
The latter suggests that the Croatian international is happy to take responsibility for the high balls, while the fact that Lovren has attempted 98 headed duels in comparison to Matip’s 55 also implies that teams are targeting his heading ability, yet aren’t getting the success they hoped for and expected.
Lovren also averages more blocks per game than his central defensive partner (0.8 to 0.4), and indeed James Milner and Nathaniel Clyne, perhaps illustrating a better reading of the game in the Reds’ defensive third, while he also attempts 1.5 tackles per game in comparison to Matip’s 1.3 – Clyne and Milner average more, but that’s hardly surprising given most attacks come down the flanks.
Although the 27-year-old has made an error which led to a goal against Crystal Palace in October, one of which he did atone for by scoring at the other end, he has been the one keeping things together in the absence of Matip over the festive period, and indeed the recent injury to Clyne.
He has certainly improved as a defender this term and, although he still isn’t quite at the level he was for Southampton two seasons ago, he’s slowly but surely getting there, and developing into a solid and dependable centre-back.