One of the hallmarks of the great Liverpool teams of the last few years has been their ability to close out tight matches and trust in the security in defense. The attack has always been lethal, but the spine of the side started from the back.
However, the last 18 months have seen a few more cracks beginning to open in the defense. The club is beginning to leak goals, some frustratingly so.
Liverpool went through a stretch where they conceded first in 10 straight matches. Constantly putting yourself behind like that can mentally wear on a team.
Throughout the struggles last season, valuable points were thrown away because of defensive lapses at the most inopportune times. It puts an added pressure on the attack knowing that they will likely have to score multiple times to contend for a win.
It is somewhat similar to the 2013-14 Liverpool side that finished runner-up in the League to Manchester City.
The Reds scored 101 goals that season while conceding 50. City beat them to the crown by scoring 102 but only letting in 37.
Luis Suarez won the Golden Boot that season with 31 goals as that was the closest Brendan Rodgers came to bringing the ultimate crown back to Anfield.
This year’s edition of attack definitely has a few candidates that can explode like that. The most obvious being Mohamed Salah who scored in the final friendly match of the season against Darmstadt.
His fellow attackers Luis Diaz, Cody Gakpo, Diogo Jota and Darwin Nunez have all been in fine form during the preseason.
They have rotated nicely and the flow on the pitch has been very impressive to watch. They are putting the ball in the back of the net with regularity which bodes well for the coming campaign.
We have examined before the possibility of Darwin Nunez exploding in his second year with Liverpool. He has looked calm and confident in every match thus far, which is something Jurgen Klopp will be very happy to see.
In the final friendly, Klopp started with Diaz-Jota-Salah as his front trio and Gakpo dropped to the left-side of midfield playing with Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai.
That is an extremely attack-minded squad that I also believe will be the starting XI on opening day against Chelsea.
The heavy focus on the midfield this summer has overshadowed the defense that is now very shallow in terms of depth. One major injury to Virgil van Dijk or Ibrahima Konate and things could turn bad quickly.
The defense has looked shaky at best during preseason outside of one clean sheet against Leicester City. In their other 4 friendlies, Liverpool have conceded a worrying 11 goals.
Coupled with the fact the opposition outside of Bayern Munich was not the highest standard and even more doubt creeps in about their ability to shut down Premier League sides every week.
The goals being given up are from simple over the top balls where awareness is dropped off and they get behind or from counters down the wing.
The departure of Fabinho this summer to Saudi Arabia and the clubs inability to secure a new defensive midfielder is also a big issue here. A quality No. 6 would be able to cover a lot of those holes that have popped up.
It would also allow Mac Allister to partner Szoboszlai going forward to utilize their superb passing abilities to unleash the attack.
If Klopp decides to embrace the current structure of his team, he could really make the most of the talented forwards in the squad.
They all bring different aspects to the game that can be mixed and matched as needed by the boss. If Liverpool can stay healthy, the defense could absolutely lock in and surprise us. However, based on what we’ve seen the past year would not lend much credence to this idea.
As things stand now, it looks like the majority of Liverpool matches are going to be thrilling affairs with a lot of goals scored. It won’t help much with the blood pressure, but if they can lean into what they do best, the positive results could still come.
We hope further investment is made in the transfer market, but for now, the pressure is on Liverpool’s attack to cover the cracks.