Liverpool’s defensive heart building a platform for quadruple ambitions



Trent Alexander-Arnold had posted a tweet with a simple yet assertive message. “No Entry,” it read, accompanied by an image of his goalline clearance from him to deny a dink from Pablo Fornals.

“Our aim, first and foremost, is to keep a clean sheet,” the right-back said in the aftermath of Liverpool’s taxing 1-0 victory over West Ham. “We’ve been able to do that well over the last few weeks especially, but we want to make sure we keep it going.”

Naturally, a team that possesses the explosive artillery of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino will be viewed through the prism of their offensive might.

Scoring three or more regularly does little to shake that framing, but it is at the other end of the pitch where the platform for a possible quadruple has been constructed.

Since the turn of the year, Liverpool have only let in seven goals across all competitions. Two of those came against Chelsea, when they were still considered Manchester City’s closest competitors.

There have been nine shutouts, and denying David Moyes’ men on Saturday really sharpened the focus on how vital the habit of collecting clean sheets has been.

Liverpool’s rearguard were far from flawless at Anfield on Saturday evening, but they showed resolve. Their inability to properly contest second balls after the interval was a particular problem, countered by some incredible recovery work and lack of finishing touch from West Ham.

Virgil van Dijk marshalled Liverpool’s defense against West Ham

(REUTERS)

Manuel Lanzini ballooned the best opening, while Jarrod Bowen and the ever-excellent Michail Antonio were thwarted by what Jurgen Klopp described as “big passion.”

It was certainly required as West Ham had 10 shots from inside the box, only one less than their hosts in what was a brave and aggressive display.

“In the first half, we defended Antonio extremely well with these high balls and long balls,” Klopp detailed.

“We took some risks in the last line for their build-up, we played with three against five and that we should have enough time to get into the right position to clear the situation or to win the challenge.

“Second half then, it was slightly different. We were now always a little bit late; even if Antonio did not win the ball, he made sure that we could not win it as well and then they were in much better positions for the second balls.”

Where Liverpool lacked perfection, they painted it with doggedness. Alexander-Arnold’s goalline clearance was joined by him denying Bowen, with a fine Andy Robertson tackle producing the same result.

Andy Robertson was part of a stubborn Liverpool backline that kept a clean sheet against West Ham

(REUTERS)

The left-back and Naby Keita then combined to halt certain danger from Antonio at the death.

“All these situations were for me like scoring a goal, to be honest,” Klopp said. “After a goal the game is interrupted and that’s why you can celebrate it, but the game is obviously not interrupted after we clear these things because the ball is still in play so we do not celebrate it.

“But inside it is exactly the same importance for me. If we speak about the game again then I will consider that exactly like that, like we scored a goal.

“How I said, if the organization is wrong for a moment that doesn’t mean you cannot defend the situation, you just have to do it in a different way. We did that here quite well.”

Trent Alexander-Arnold impressed during the win over West Ham

(Getty Images)

Liverpool have made solidity, even if under siege, their trademark again since the turn of the year. Arsenal, Inter Milan, Leicester and Chelsea at Wembley all failed to find a way through.

Moyes had admitted that despite their offensive slant at Anfield, the objective was to make it as difficult as possible for the opponents’ front line. “I thought we could get a clean sheet and if we did that, we would win the game,” he said.

That though, is Liverpool’s forte as they proved again.


www.independent.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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