How two signings turned Liverpool’s weakest area into their biggest strength

In many years gone by, Liverpool have been punished through a lack of defensive stability, but since the arrival of Jürgen Klopp, the old saying attack wins games and defence wins titles has never been more relevant for the Reds.

One thing that can never be argued about the Reds in the Premier League era is that they have never failed to entertain fans. However, on several occasions a lack of defensive stability has cost the club major honours, something that certainly appears a thing of the past.

The 2013/14 season remains and always will remain memorable for various reasons. The electrifying brilliance of the ‘SAS’ partnership of Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge lit up Anfield for the world to see.

In a season which Liverpool agonisingly missed on Premier League the pair — alongside the brilliance of others including Phillipe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Steven Gerrard — racked up a mesmeric 52 goals, taking the league by storm.

However, despite the Reds smashing in over a century of goals in the league alone, defensive frailties proved fatal as Manchester City pipped them to the title in arguably one of the most scintillating campaigns ever.

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It later proved to be defensive vulnerabilities that mounted pressure on Klopp to react following his appointment in October 2015, as once more honours went begging. Having let slip a lead in the Europa League final against Sevilla, the cracks in the Reds defence were just as apparent as ever.

Initially, the German tried to implement his known philosophy of developing players for the long term, incorporating compatriot Loris Karius into the side. But, yet another high profile defensive leak, this time in a Champions League final, left no other option but to tighten up.

Having already acquired the services of one of the world’s hottest defenders in Virgil van Dijk, the emphasis was on Klopp to install quality between the sticks. Needless to the addition of Alisson proved just that.

Now, after seeing years pass with a weak, fragile defensive structure lacking real authority and organisation, suddenly in came a spine strong enough to move the team forward. Two simple yet brilliant signings opened a wide range of possibilities for a Reds side now equipped to battle against opponents.

The sturdy, empowered van Dijk appeared to breed confidence in a youthful Joe Gomez and the communication allowed the legs of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson to gallop forward. It was almost as if, within the blink of an eye, Klopp had made two signings that the club had been crying out for, for nearly ten years.

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Realistically, the club have been begging for a solid unit in goal for over a decade. The likes of Jerzy Dudek, Pepe Reina and Simon Mignolet were most definitely good players for the club and will be recognised for their efforts, especially Dudek in 2005. None were truly outstanding, though, while some would say Alisson is just that.

Similar can be said with regards to centre-backs. After the departure of Sami Hyypiä, the club lacked a real commanding figure to accompany the ageing Jamie Carragher and frankly they paid the price.

A player that springs to mind since Hyypiä departed would be Daniel Agger — a great servant to the club — in terms of someone that impressed. The likes of Martin Škrtel and Mamadou Sakho, though, proved wide of the mark considering expectations and never excelled at the club.

The difference really is staggering — the engineering of a solid backline may not gain the recognition in a side littered with quality attacking players, but it should be seen as no coincidence that a side which have conceded just 21 goals have been so dominant this season.

Add to the fact Alisson claimed goalkeeper of the year in the season the Reds won the Champions League and van Dijk was announced second in the Ballon d’Or, then their importance becomes astoundingly clear.

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James Miller

Contributor. Bobby Firmino enthusiast. Miller, not Milner.

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