Dejan Lovren Isn't the Upgrade That Liverpool Need in Their Defence

Nick MillerFeatured ColumnistJuly 28, 2014


On the surface of it, a team that finished second in the league buying up half the players from the side that came eighth would seem to be a slightly curious strategy.

That is, of course, a glib reading of Liverpool's recruitment of Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and now Dejan Lovren from Southampton, but it does raise the question of whether their summer spending thus far has improved their side in the manner required to take the next step and actually win the Premier League.

Uncredited/Associated Press

Lambert will probably not be an automatic first-team selection but will be at the very least a strong, willing and different option for Brendan Rodgers, so he undoubtedly improves their squad.

Likewise Lallana, when combined with Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho or Lazar Markovic, gives their attacking line an exciting and pacey look and is an upgrade on Victor Moses or Iago Aspas.

However, while those two players have supplemented Liverpool's attack, the area of their team that most needed attention was in defence.

The reason Liverpool did not win the title last season was not an insufficient attack, but a leaky back line, whether that was because of insufficient midfield protection, an unconvincing goalkeeper or simply deficient defenders.

When any team spends £20 million on a centre-back, a price which makes him the most expensive defender in Liverpool's history, one has to ask whether he fixes the problem. And in this respect, the answer simply has to be no.

Uncredited/Associated Press

"He is a commanding and powerful presence and clearly has leadership skills, which is important; he fits the profile of player we are looking for,” Rodgers told the official Liverpool website after Lovren's signing was confirmed.

"He is still relatively young, so his peak years are ahead of him and I believe he will improve and progress even further with us.”

While it is true that, at 25, Lovren's peak years could be ahead of him and he has scope to improve, he is not significantly better than the options Liverpool currently have in the heart of their defence.

Mamadou Sakho can be erratic but is generally strong and indeed started for France in their World Cup campaign; Daniel Agger is a much-coveted ball-playing central defender while Martin Skrtel improved from a period of shaky form to become one of the more reliable defenders in the division last season.

Indeed, centre-back is arguably not the defensive position that required an urgent new recruit.

Liverpool have more pressing needs at full-back, where Jose Enrique is unreliable in terms of both form and fitness, while Glen Johnson, despite being England's first-choice in the position, continues to frustrate.

Meanwhile, Simon Mignolet was not entirely convincing last season, and according to The Times football editor, Tony Evans, the Liverpool hierarchy do not feel entirely comfortable with the Belgian goalkeeper.

Of course, there is still time for Liverpool to improve in those positions. But with the likes of Keylor Navas heading to Real Madridas per Spanish paper ASand David Ospina signing for Arsenalas reported by BBC Sportthere aren't too many goalkeeping options out there.

The most persistent rumour surrounding a left-back signing is Ryan Bertrand, as per the Daily Mail, and he is a player who would also not be a significant upgrade.

Lovren is at best a useful addition to the options currently available to Rodgers, and the recruitment of another central defender will give the Reds boss further scope to deploy the 3-5-2 formation he did occasionally over the last two seasons.

However, Liverpool must ask themselves whether, after spending £20 million on a defender, he has significantly improved their team. The answer at this stage is no.