Liverpool’s attacking prowess last season was well-known – even taking Luis Suarez out of the equation, the Reds still would have out-scored everyone bar champions Manchester City and Chelsea – but it was at the other end of the pitch where the club’s Premier League title challenge eventually faltered.
Suarez may have upped sticks for Barcelona but the attack looks strong even without the Uruguay international. Daniel Sturridge and his 20 goals-a-season remain, Lazar Markovic has the potential to be one of the revelations of the new campaign and Rickie Lambert provides an alternative not available last season to Brendan Rodgers.
Throw in the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling and goals won’t be in short supply. The defence, though, was a concern – Daniel Agger’s injuries, Mamadou Sakho’s adaption to the Premier League, Martin Skrtel’s own goals – a more secure defence would have seen Liverpool lifting the title.
The numbers and bare facts don’t make for good reading. Liverpool conceded 50 goals in 38 games, more than every other top five team, more than mid-table Crystal Palace and only slightly fewer than relegation-threatened Hull City, Swansea City and West Ham. It’s no surprise then that Rodgers has moved to correct this deficiency ahead of the new season.
Dejan Lovren is the man picked to sure up the defence and he joins off the back of a very good first year in English football. The Saints conceded only 46 goals in their 38 games and Lovren, with 31 appearances, was a major part of the south coast club’s stinginess.
Powerful in the air, cultured on the floor and with excellent positional sense, Lovren appears to be the perfect complement to Skrtel, Agger or Sakho. He’s comfortable playing on the right or the left of the centre-back pairing as well.
Statistics from EuroFantasyLeague.com reveal Lovren racked up fewer points than either Agger or Skrtel, the latter leading the way with 170, Agger just behind on 165 and Lovren trailing on 150, but there are mitigating circumstances. He played almost twice as many games as Agger and since Southampton lost 12 to Liverpool’s six, suffered defeat more often.
Lovren was also less prolific than Skrtel, who gained a large chunk of points with his seven goals – handy but not the job of a defender, and he was at least superior to Sakho, who ended up on minus 20.
The 25-year-old Croatia international will then have a major role to play in Liverpool’s 2014-15 season and should be bring his Southampton form to Merseyside, could help push the Reds one further than they managed last year.