Virgil van Dijk’s injury at the end of the season alone was supposed to pave the way for the title race, but the champions have conceded just three goals in all competitions since the loss to the Netherlands international.
With key defensive figures Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander Arnold also injured during a visit from a Leicester City team led by prolific Jamie Vardy, the Reds have embarked on the most severe test of their defensive reserves.
The unknown partnership of Fabinho and Joel Matip took center stage but, once again, Liverpool rose to the challenge and Jurgen Klopp proved he had the answers to the biggest defensive dilemmas before he had the chance. to derail his title defense.
“It’s an exceptional job from the players who came,” said Jamie Carragher. Monday night football.
But how did Liverpool succeed? the Sky Sports expert breaks down the subtle tactical changes behind Liverpool’s seamless transition to life without Van Dijk…
High line, different execution
“When Liverpool came out [against Leicester], people said they would change completely, “Carragher explains.” They would lose 10 or 15 meters. I watch a lot of Liverpool games and haven’t really seen him.
“I analyzed how they played against Vardy and no one can tell me that Liverpool lost 10 or 15 yards without Van Dijk. They were still playing a high line, but the difference is the body position Fabinho adopted.
“Yes, we can talk about him as a midfielder in there, but he was exceptional. What he did was play a high line, but be ready to come back when the ball went over his head. He ran back and treated him. [balls over the top of Vardy]. «
Running back and corresponding races
“When we talk about Van Dijk, let’s not forget that he’s been one of the last four for a few years who has had the best defensive record in the league, and I’m sure that would have been the case this season with him,” adds Carragher.
“But there was no doubt that Liverpool had had huge problems early in the season. They conceded three at home against Leeds and then obviously there was the game against Aston Villa.
” We talked a lot Monday night football about the Liverpool line and it is sometimes difficult to criticize a team that have a great defensive record and have been so successful.
“There were times when I would look at the line and think ‘go back’. Certainly, in the Aston Villa game, where obviously Liverpool were massively wrong.
“Sometimes it wasn’t so much the height of the line, it was just the fact that I always felt Liverpool defenders need to be able to come back. in a decent line, okay, they beat the press and have some time on the ball, let’s just give us two or three yards. That’s all it was. ”
Emerging leaders across the field
“When you have this huge figure that you are looking at in a certain position, and he’s away, it’s up to others to step in,” Carragher adds.
“Sometimes it’s not just one player, it can be three or four at a time. What we are seeing now is that there may be a lot more leadership from others. “
‘The training field work is bearing fruit’
Former Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe joins Carragher in the Monday night football studio and claimed that Liverpool’s performances on the pitch were due solely to concerted defensive work on the training grounds.
“What happened because of Van Dijk’s injury, they looked at their full four and their defenders and thought they needed to work on it,” Howe added. “They probably thought they needed to get the guys together and get along.
“A lot of that probably came from the training ground and working with the full backs to get the basics down because it’s a new full back indeed. They have come back to basics and that is the result. “