While the 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace in Liverpool’s penultimate game of the previous Premier League season didn’t directly cost them the title, it will be a match forever synonymous with the deficiencies that saw the Reds fall just short in their thrilling but ultimately flawed pursuit of glory.
A late defensive capitulation at Selhurst Park saw the Reds relinquish a three-goal lead and effectively surrender the league championship to Manchester City; the Reds’ defensive woes finally caught up with them. So for Brendan Rodgers, it’s imperative that the back line is bolstered with some real quality this summer.
And while so far the Liverpool boss has focussed his attentions on freshening up the sharp end of the pitch, reports suggest that Southampton centre-back Dejan Lovren is on the brink of a move to Anfield.
Saints have reportedly accepted a £16 million bid for their star central defender and a move to Merseyside is looking increasingly imminent. New Southampton boss Ronald Koeman has already been talking about potential replacements for the player with Fox Sport (h\t Ben Jefferson of the Express):
Ron [Vlaar] would definitely be an option. But I think he won't be cheap right now. Let's just wait and see. We just have to wait how it develops.
For now, Dejan can still play with us. I don't want to lose him but, if he leaves he will only go for a top price.
Tony Barrett of The Times also expects a deal for the defender to be completed in the coming days:
As reported in Sportske Novosti, Dejan Lovren's £20m move from Southampton to Liverpool is expected to be completed in the coming days.— Tony Barrett (@TonyBarretTimes) July 20, 2014
The Croatian international would be the third player to swap the South coast for the North-West, with Liverpool having already completed deals for Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert in this transfer window. But the capture of Lovren—who has only been with the Saints for one season—could yet prove to be the most vital of the trio.
Lovren was superb during his first season in English football, slotting seamlessly into the heart of the Southampton defence and coping with the rigorous demands of the Premier League with an impeccable poise. Here’s how he fared compared to some of the top defenders in the division during 2013/14:
|Dejan Lovren||Vincent Kompany||Laurent Koscielny||John Terry|
Stylistically, he has all the attributes that Rodgers would typically look for in a central defender. Lovren is extremely comfortable on the ball and very much a front-foot player. He is happy to break the line, emerge from the back four and nick the ball from opponents, which is typically a dangerous tactic. But such is Lovren’s supreme decision-making, it’s very rare that he gets it wrong.
Will Lovren be worth the money for Liverpool?
Still young at 25 years old, Lovren’s positional sense and on-pitch awareness is also outstanding. He sniffs out danger early and provides an unflappably assuring presence within the back line. After a season in the Premier League, he’s only going to get better, too.
The fee—reported to be between £16 million and £20 million—might sound somewhat excessive, but if you break down what Liverpool could potentially get from Lovren, it quickly seems pretty reasonable. He’s a player that still has room for improvement and could be at the nexus of this Liverpool defence for years to come.
It’d also be addressing a problem in this team that Liverpool desperately need to resolve. Rodgers will lose mercurial forward Luis Suarez this summer and having already made moves in the market to replace his firepower, now he must turn his attentions towards resolving the Reds’ problems at the back.
Lovren will not solve those issues entirely—Rodgers could probably still do with bringing in a couple of full-backs to add even more steel to the defence—but getting the Croatian international on board early and fully integrated into the setup throughout pre-season would be the best course of action for the Liverpool boss.