Jamie Carragher has argued that Liverpool could face a tougher test against Arsenal on Saturday evening due to their new defensive approach.
The Reds are yet to keep a clean sheet this season, having conceded to Norwich, Chelsea and Southampton, and the formidable back line of the previous campaign has looked decidedly shakier.
One of the most common reasons cited for this is a higher line held by the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez, and how often they have been caught out as a result.
The belief is that, due to the influence of VAR in offside decisions, Liverpool are staying further up the pitch in the knowledge that opposition attackers are more likely to be flagged.
But against Norwich in the Premier League opener, Jurgen Klopp‘s side faced 12 shots on goal, while at St Mary’s in the first away game of 2019/20, the Saints had 14 efforts.
Though the UEFA Super Cup should be considered an anomaly given it is effectively a late pre-season game, Chelsea fired 20 shots on Adrian‘s goal.
By way of example, the Reds restricted Chelsea to just six shots in their last meeting—the 2-0 win at Anfield in April—on their way to conceding just 22 goals over 38 games in the Premier League.
Both Norwich and Southampton had opportunities to score more, with strikers Teemu Pukki and Che Adams particularly troublesome in behind the Liverpool defence, and failed—but Carragher believes Arsenal won’t be as lenient.
“When I say Liverpool have got away with it [so far], the quality they’ve played against hasn’t been top class,” he told Sky Sports.
The Gunners certainly have top-class attackers, with Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang in excellent form and Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe dangerous in support.
“The quality Arsenal have, if Liverpool get caught in those positions and don’t run back, they’re going to have major problems within that game,” Carragher continued.
“You think about on the counter-attack as well, Liverpool playing higher up on the pitch on Saturday.
“And listen of course Liverpool are going to cause big problems the other way, I have no doubt about that.
“But the chances, the shots on goal that they’re allowing at this moment, better quality teams, better quality strikers, are going to make Liverpool pay.”
The 41-year-old certainly makes a good point, particularly given Liverpool are unable to field their first-choice goalkeeper as Alisson remains sidelined and Adrian fills in.
Whether the Spaniard suits the higher defensive line is questionable, as Adrian has been slow off his line at times during his two starts so far.
Matip was preferred to Gomez last time out at Southampton, but has also struggled with a relative lack of pace on the recovery, and it could be that the No. 12 is better suited for Saturday.
Klopp, Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold have all rejected claims that Liverpool are deliberately operating with a higher line this season, but their approach seems to have changed nonetheless.
Carragher isn’t a fan, arguing that his old club have been “lucky and fortunate at different times” already this season.
“I’m not necessarily sure it’s a higher line, but it looks to me as if they’re trying to play offside,” he added.
“They caught players offside more than anyone in the Premier League this season.
“[But] I don’t like it and I think they’ve been lucky and fortunate at different times this season to get away with it.”