Signing Virgil van Dijk won't be enough to solve Liverpool's defensive issues and other things learned

Miguel Britos snatched a late point for Watford in a 3-3 thriller at Vicarage Road as Liverpool's defensive frailties came to the fore again

Alex Rea
by Alex Rea
12th August 2017

article:12th August 2017

Miguel Britos scrambled home a controversial injury-time equaliser as Watford held Liverpool in a six-goal thriller at Vicarage Road.

The Reds looked as though they had put all speculation and uncertainty over Philippe Coutinho’s future to one side to win their opening Premier League clash – only for Britos to head home from point-black range in the dying moments to seal a 3-3 draw.

Here are three things learned from Vicarage Road.


Brainless at the back, bold in attach and panic in the final 10 minutes. New season, same narrative and similar Liverpool deficiencies.

Their chaotic nature is incredibly predictable and the solution to solving their frailties stretch further than simply changing personnel.

Yes, signing Virgil van Dijk would represent a significant upgrade on the edgy Dejan Lovren but their problems are systemic. The defensive trepidation is as much apart of their identity as their ability to inflict the same feeling in the opposite direction.

Not since the tenure of Rafa Benitez has a Liverpool side looked organised on the back foot.

In the seven seasons after his departure they have conceded 44, 40, 43, 50, 48, 50 and 42 league goals respectively. They begin the new campaign with three already against their name, two from a corner and one emanating from a throw in.

It’s basic fundamentals which all of Benitez’s successors have failed to grasp.

Under the Spaniard the Reds did not concede more than 28 goals in a single league season. Granted the approach was to sit back and counter-punch rather than attack on the front foot, a total tactical contrast to Klopp, but the German has to take a slice of the past in order to take the club forward.

In attack they are frenetic but the Reds require balance, knowing when to sit in deep and protect a lead and having the confidence to execute that plan.

They don’t need to go ultra negative but a space somewhere in between might suit.

Dejan Lovren and Stefano Okaka


Salah in the second half showed a fraction of the ability he will be bringing to the table this season.

The first 45 he was virtually anonymous as he was left deserted by a Liverpool midfield which failed to get a hold of the ball.

But as Watford’s stoic defence dissipated and the space opened up after the break, Salah showed the type of danger he will present this season.

It’s not just his speed but the application of his pace which impresses most. His intelligent movement on the right saw him repeatedly get in threatening positions but unfortunately for the Egpytian his finishing was untidy.

Still, a debut goal and an assist will immediately alleviate the pressure of a Premier League return.

The dynamism and trickery of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Salah will terrorise defences this season as teams will struggle to shackle them for an entire 90 minutes, eventually they’ll figure it out, as they did against Watford with Mane dropping deeper and Firmino coming out wide to shake them out of their rigidity.

Salah will reap the rewards of playing alongside them.

Mohamed Salah celebrates

Mohamed Salah celebrates


Abdoulaye Doucoure’s performances last season went largely unnoticed because of how poor Watford were but this campaign could be his breakout year.

It’s perhaps a lazy comparison to make but against Liverpool he had a touch of Yaya Toure about him. Marauding forward from deep, Emre Can and Jordan Henderson simply couldn’t get a hold of him.

No one took responsibility to track  him and ultimately the visitors were made to pay for it. Even when they did get a man on him he slalomed his way out of trouble with silky footwork.

The statistics tell the whole story; 100 percent take-ons completed, 100 percent aerial duels won, two chances created, two clearances and one goal – utter dominance.

Abdoulaye Doucoure

Abdoulaye Doucoure