Centre-back Joel Matip‘s return is set to bring a calming influence to Liverpool’s defence but manager Jurgen Klopp has tried to deflect attention away from the 25-year-old.
The statistics show the Reds have much better results when the summer free transfer from Schalke is in the team. He missed last weekend’s shock 4-3 defeat at Bournemouth, notable for the panic which spread through the ranks when the home side began to apply pressure, but is ready to return from an ankle injury.
In the three Premier League matches in which Matip has been absent Liverpool have conceded nine goals, won one and lost two.
In the 11 games he has featured in, the side have let in just nine. Klopp, however, was keen to emphasise defending was not the sole responsibility of one player – or even the back four and goalkeeper – but the whole team.
“Obviously he has had a good influence. He is a good player and adapted soon to what we need but it is not fair (to place the burden on Matip),” said the Reds boss.
“The centre-halves (at Bournemouth) were not perfect around the goals. That is pretty likely most of the time when you concede goals, the centre-halves are around and could have done better.
“At Burnley, the other game we lost, we should have defended the goals much earlier than in the centre-half region.
“We made similar mistakes again, and again a team used it.
“It was clear a lot of people will say a lot of things about what we did wrong, and they are all right, but it is one match.
“We had a few similar problems in other matches which the opponent did use and so we were aware of it but this (Bournemouth) match helped us a lot to understand really what the problem is with our protection sometimes.
“Joel is a wonderful player but Lucas and Dejan (Lovren) and Ragnar (Klavan) and Joe Gomez in the future – they are really good football players and will do a wonderful job for Liverpool.
“They have done already, but in one game (they did) not. If you want to judge these players, do it.”
Having, according to Klopp, learned a valuable lesson on the south coast last weekend, the manager expects his players to put it to good use when West Ham visit on Sunday.
Liverpool have not lost at Anfield since May 1, dropping just two points in six matches at home this season, and the Reds boss expects that to continue.
“Is there any influence on the next game? No idea,” he added.
“What we will be, more than maybe we were before Bournemouth, we will be angry again – angry about ourselves, that’s important.
“In sports, always when you are at the highest level there are not a lot of things that can make the difference.
“Sometimes it’s the quality, but not very often. Most of the time it’s the attitude because the other team is really well prepared too.
“A few details make the difference. As I’ve said a lot of times, being aggressive means in my understanding, being ready to hurt yourself, not the other player.
“That’s the kind of angry we need. To be angry doesn’t mean they are responsible for what happened in the last few weeks but they want to have the points at Anfield, and that makes me angry already when I speak about it. That’s all you need.
“At the highest level, have you ever seen a race where the winner was not this kind of angry in the last few yards?
“Maybe Usain Bolt can do it, he enjoys it after 80 metres probably, but most of the other sportsmen in life have to fight until the end and that’s what we have to do each week.”