For the defender who regards himself as one of the best defenders in the world, it’s been a tumultuous season for the 2018 World Cup finalist.
Lovren has been on the receiving end of a cyclone of criticism following his disastrous performance against Manchester City. Liverpool had previously been undefeated in the Premier League in the opening eighteen league fixtures, but defending champions Manchester City placed themselves back into contention by concluding their unbeaten run with an enthralling 2-1 victory at the Etihad Stadium.
Liverpool had the opportunity to extend their lead at the summit of the Premier League rankings to an emphatic ten points, but instead hold a four point lead over The Citizens following their defeat on Thursday. On a night when the blue half of Manchester locked horns with the red half of Merseyside, the only avenue for goals would require either a brilliant individual effort or a mistake.
Unfortunately for Lovren, he found himself demonstrating the latter. A lack of awareness left the Croatian dumfounded as Aguero peeled away to smash the home team into the lead. Throughout the match, Lovren made some poor decisions especially in the final minutes when he lofted a 40 yard pass to Van Djik when a better option would have been to move the ball wider.
The Tumultuous Life of Lovren at Anfield
Dejan Lovren’s name has never been too far away from the headlines since his transfer from Southampton to Liverpool was announced in 2014. Lovren had enjoyed a successful season with Southampton under the tutelage of Mauricio Pochettino and forged a formidable defensive partnership with Jose Fonte.
Liverpool believed they’d found the correct individual to rescue them from their defensive woes, but his fluctuating form has persisted throughout his four year spell at Anfield. It was always going to be difficult to settle in at Liverpool, especially when the club have forked out £20 million for a defender with just one year of experience in the Premier League.
Expectations were rightfully high and his early mistakes were heavily scrutinised by both the media and local supporters. Jurgen Klopp replaced Brendan Rodgers just two months into his second season at Liverpool but his bouts of inconsistency continued under the former Borussia Dortmund manager.
Rumours began to circulate in the press regarding his uncertain future but Klopp has remained faithful to the Croatian defender regardless of his unconvincing performances. His desire to impress Liverpool supporters was made far more difficult because of the lack of a solid defensive partner.
Prior to the arrival of Van Djik last season, Lovren was pretty much Klopp’s first choice centre back. Despite the whole universe acknowledging the fact that Liverpool needed a new centre back due to consistent under par performances from a coterie of defenders consisting of Matip, Lovren, Klavan and Gomez, Klopp stuck to his guns and kept faith.
It proved to be a gamble that backfired on Klopp as Liverpool’s defence continued to deliver shambolic displays in the opening exchanges of the 2017/18 campaign. Lovren endured a disastrous start to the season in a defence that lacked cohesion and organisation. In the opening match of the season, Liverpool conceded three goals against Watford and Lovren was once again under the spotlight when Liverpool blew a three goal lead to draw against Sevilla in the UEFA Champions League.
One would of thought that the final straw for Lovren would’ve been the demoralizing 4-1 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley. The Croatian endured a horrendous performed in which he was embarrassingly substituted by Jurgen Klopp before half-time. It was arguably the lowest point in Lovren’s career and many supporters agreed that he should move elsewhere to raise funds for the signing of Van Dijk in January.
It was thought that Klopp had discovered a solution to their defensive woes when Liverpool paid £75 million to lure Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton in January 2018. It’s clear that Liverpool’s defence has improved significantly since the Dutchman arrived at Anfield and his commanding presence provides much-needed security for Lovren in the back-line.
They forged a good partnership during the second half of the 2018/19 season and reached the UEFA Champions League final by eliminating FC Porto, Manchester City and AS Roma in the knockout stages. However, Liverpool’s defensive frailties were highlighted during their run to the final when they conceded six goals over two legs.
Liverpool subsequently lost the final against defending champions Real Madrid in Kiev by a 3-1 score-line, although Lovren escaped criticism due to the catastrophic performance of German goalkeeper Loris Karius. Lovren had seemingly rescued his career and he further enhanced his growing reputation by helping guide his native Croatia to the World Cup final for the first time in their history. But his team were on the losing side once again when France convincingly claimed the most coveted trophy in international football at the Luzhniki Stadium.
Jurgen Klopp has surprisingly remained faithful towards Lovren and his decision to keep him at the club proved to be correct initially. The introduction of Van Dijk brought some stability and organisation to Liverpool’s defence and his performance have been consistently of a higher standard alongside the Dutchman. He’s demonstrated his strengths as an aggressive front-footed defender who reads the game very well, but his recent form suggest that old habits are creeping back into his game.
The margin for error in professional football is so small and Lovren has been a victim of the exacting demands of the sport. He’s missed far too many games due to minor issues and his controversial court case in the early stages of the season has also shown him in a bad light in the media. Lovren was charged with perjury in a Croatian court alongside fellow international teammate and Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric, after being alleged to have given a false testimony during the embezzlement case of former Dinamo Zagreb executive Zdravko Mamic.
Lovren’s role in the case comes from the illegal profiting of his 8.5 million euro move from Dinamo Zagreb to Olympique Lyonnais in 2010, where 50% of his transfer fee was passed onto the Mamic family. The verdict means that Dejan Lovren now awaits trial and this has surely had a negative physiological impact on him.
The performance against City has reinvigorated the cry for Liverpool fans to get Lovren out of the club, but the big question is; who steps in? Matip has experienced good spells in the team but keeping him fit has continuously proved to be an issue and Joe Gomez isn’t expected to return until the end of the month. Another issue is that Lovren too sustained what is deemed to be a hamstring injury in their 2-1 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup yesterday. The transfer window is open and would it be wise for Klopp to dip into the transfer market for a replacement?
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