One of Sir Alex Ferguson’s most famous quotes has certainly come true in the Premier League in recent seasons.
As Liverpool claimed the Premier League title in 2019/20, finishing 18 points clear of second-placed Man City, Pep Guardiola’s side were left to curse the absence of star center-back Aymeric Laporte after that the Spaniard suffered a serious knee injury in August.
As a result, limited to 15 Premier League appearances that season, City have already found themselves 13 points behind the Reds, having made two more appearances, when the center-back returned to Sheffield United in January with the damage already. caused and the title race effective. already won.
Still, the shoe was on the other foot last season as Liverpool saw their own defensive injuries decimate their own title defense.
As Guardiola signed Ruben Dias for £ 61.2million to bolster his center-back options, with the Portuguese shining alongside a revitalized John Stones, the Reds have lost Virgil van Dijk for the season after sadly suffering an ACL injury against Everton in October just six games into the season.
Losing the talismanic Dutchman was bad enough, but when Joe Gomez suffered a season-ending injury the following month, the writing was on the wall for Jurgen Klopp.
Joel Matip then suffered the same fate in January as Liverpool were forced to field youngsters Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams, and sign emergency signings from Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies, with the Reds essentially left to stand. settle for a top-four finish as City stormed to title success.
The fact that Dias won both the FWA Footballer of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season award only demonstrated how defensive situations Man City and Liverpool have been. decisive in the two previous title races.
As the 2021/22 season approached, it was Klopp who responded, stepping up his options with the £ 36million signing from Ibrahima Konate to ensure his side do not suffer a repeat of the crisis defense of last year.
The German is of course no stranger to spending big to improve his defense, having parted with £ 75million to sign Van Dijk for the Reds in January 2018, while Guardiola spent £ 57million on Laporte the same month to strengthen his own options.
Still, this season there will be a new contender to challenge both the Reds and Man City, with Manchester United imminent signing of £ 34million by Manchester United of World Cup winner Raphael Varane from Real Madrid, a final declaration of intention, the Frenchman to form 114 million pounds sterling. center-back partnership with Red Devils captain Harry Maguire.
With Klopp, Guardiola and now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer taking such steps to bolster their defenses, it’s clear they all know the truth in Ferguson’s famous words.
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United’s premier duo are therefore clear, as it will be up to Laporte to reclaim his City place at the Stones alongside Dias.
However, with Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip still recovering from pre-season injury, Liverpool’s premier partnership remains to be decided, at least for the training weeks of the campaign.
Yet bragging about the strongest defense isn’t always the end of everything when it comes to winning the title in May since Klopp took over from Liverpool in 2015.
Last season Ederson won the Golden Glove award with 19 clean sheets as City conceded a total of 32 goals, the lowest in the division, on their way to being crowned champions, but that has rarely been the case in recent seasons. .
Liverpool conceded 33 goals in 2019/20 in winning the title, two less than second-placed City, but it was again Ederson who won the Golden Glove with 16 of Pep Guardiola’s side’s 17 clean sheets.
Yet in 2018/19, when the Reds missed the title by a lonely point at City, they conceded just 22 goals against 23 for the champions, with Alisson taking home the Golden Glove award as he retained 21. shutouts – one more than his compatriot Ederson.
In 2017/18, Manchester United finished second to City, conceding one more goal than their 27, but it was David De Gea who won the Golden Glove keeping 18 of United’s 19 clean sheets in the Premier League.
Meanwhile, in 2016/17, it was Chelsea who became champions as Thibaut Cortois won the Golden Glove with 16 clean sheets. Still, second-placed Tottenham Hotspur and third-third Manchester United kept more clean sheets in aggregate (17), with Spurs conceding the division’s weak 26-goal tally.
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And in 2015/16, Tottenham (3rd) and Manchester United (5th) conceded 35 goals, one less than the top two Leicester City and Arsenal, with the Red Devils and Gunners both keeping 18 sheets clean but Petr Cech winning. the Golden Glove. after keeping 16 himself – one more than De Gea.
Therefore, it is clear that the best defense will not automatically guarantee the title for any team, but you absolutely have to be at the top of the white sheet leaderboards if you want to have a chance to be crowned champion.
With last season’s top-three now enjoying big-budget central defense partnerships, it would be surprising if Man City, Liverpool and Manchester United aren’t leading the pack when it comes to clean sheets next season.
And having only kept 12 shutouts, the Reds know exactly what they need to improve if they are to have any chance of reclaiming their title against Pep Guardiola’s men.
After all, it’s fine for Mohamed Salah to challenge the Golden Boot at the other end of the pitch to win Liverpool’s games, but it will be the contributions of Alisson, Van Dijk and Konate that can help decide whether Klopp’s men end the season with a second Premier League title.
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