Dismally retrogressing into an erratic, undependable and panic-stricken defender, Lovren is recreating his Lyon ordeal at Liverpool.
Arriving at Lyon from Dinamo Zagreb as a prodigious defensive prospect in the 2010 January transfer window for €9.4/£7.4 million, Lovren was designated to be a Croatian version of Edmilson, who once scored an overhead kick as a centre-back for Brazil against Costa Rica at the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
"My preferred position is in central defence, but I have no qualms [with Lyon] about playing on the right or the left," Lovren said, per Ligue 1's official website. "If I had to, I'd even play as a goalkeeper."
Lovren's initiation at Lyon was taxing as manager Claude Puel had doubts.
At one point, Cris, Jean-Alain Boumsong, Mathieu Bodmer and Jeremy Toulalan—a central midfielder—were Puel's preferred centre-backs over Lovren.
Playing a multifaceted role for Lyon also wore thin as Lovren started and finished eight Ligue 1 games on the bench during his first season.
"The first six months [at Lyon] were really, really difficult for me. I didn't speak the language [French] so I didn't understand anything [from Puel]," Lovren said, per Jim Lucas at Southampton's official website.
"[The French] journalists were killing me, asking why the club played millions for a player who didn't have enough experience."
A lack of experience did not hold back Miralem Pjanic—Lovren's team-mate at the time—scoring six times, registering 10 assists and appearing in 37 league games.
There were 11 players born in 1989 or later who played more than 2,000 minutes in the 2009-10 Ligue 1 season.
If you were good enough, age was not relevant—Lovren was barely Ligue 1 standard.
"Imagine being 20 [years old] and reading [harsh criticisms about you from the French media]," Lovren said, per Jim Lucas at Southampton's official website. "You start to think that is the truth."
But it was the truth because Lovren was unreliable.
- Lovren did not speak French and was unable to communicate effectively with his teammates.
- He gave away possession 27.7 percent of the time he attempted a pass, thus was ineffective in Lyon's build-up play.
- He was a nonexistent entity from an attacking point of view as a full-back. Averaged 0.3 key passes per game (pass leading to scoring chance) and failed to score or create a goal in 683 minutes.
Incompetent—as opposed to inexperienced—was the prevailing adjective to describe Lovren.
Liverpool centre-forward Mario Balotelli's catch phrase is "Why always me?"
Lovren spent his Lyon career thinking "Why always me?" every time he incurred another daft red card.
Clattering into then-Auxerre right attacking midfielder Dennis Oliech while booked, Lovren received two yellow cards in 22 minutes.
Leading 1-0, Auxerre were gifted a one-man advantage and scored three further goals to win 4-0 against Lyon.
"It's a big slap of course. A match to forget," Puel said, per AFP (h/t FIFA's official website). "The goal we conceded was stupid [and Lovren's] red card [was] stupid as well."
Post-Puel in a Remi Garde era, Lovren's inclination for red cards continued.
Despite being booked, Lovren hacked Lille centre-forward Nolan Roux from behind, who was dribbling away from goal.
Lyon spent the next 25 minutes (20 minutes plus five minutes of stoppage time) defending a 2-1 lead with 10 men against Lille.
Lovren half-heartedly accepted culpability.
"I agree with the second yellow card, but not the first," Lovren said, per Lyon's official website. "I'm not in the best form of my life and I'm very disappointed at being suspended."
In his final season at Lyon, Lovren's inability to retain standard positional discipline heavily factored into him being sent off three times in league play.
"I was thinking: 'Oh my God, what am I doing?'," Lovren said, per Paul Doyle at The Observer (h/t The Guardian). "[Lyon] didn't have the time to wait for me."
The idea of Lovren transforming from train-wreck defender to a wall for Southampton would be akin to Iago Aspas registering 10 assists from corners in La Liga on loan at Sevilla this season (currently has zero).
Lovren achieved a feat in the Premier League he had not accomplished since the 2009-10 Ligue 1 season: did not get red carded in league play.
He experienced a career-best season at Southampton but still brazenly maintained he was not a liability at Lyon, pointing the finger at Ligue 1 referees.
"I was the same player in France and I think now I'm showing the quality to everybody and proving, even to myself, that I was not so bad in France," Lovren said, per Paul Doyle at The Observer (h/t The Guardian). "It is just that in England the referees are different [and more lenient]."
As soon as Liverpool came calling, Lovren showed his true colours.
He abandoned Southampton, the club which rescued his career.
"When I decided to go to Southampton, many people were surprised ... [now] I realised I've got no business staying at Southampton," Lovren said, per Sportske Novotni (h/t Joe Rimmer at the Liverpool Echo). "Frankly, my head is already at Liverpool."
|Credit: Liverpool's official website.|
Liverpool signing Lovren for €25.6/£20 million was a routine inflated Premier League transfer.
"[Lovren] is still relatively young, so his peak years are ahead of him and I believe he will improve and progress even further with us," Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said, per James Carroll at Liverpool's official website. "He is a commanding and powerful presence and clearly has leadership skills, which is important."
Contrary to Rodgers' masterful public relations spin, Lovren's psyche is not that of a natural leader.
Lovren is not an efficient organiser of the back line, let alone a leader, which is why Liverpool's defence is in disarray.
Lovren is a "do as I say, not as I do" centre-back.
Liverpool did not put much stock into Lovren's powerlessness to work his way out of a rut at Lyon.
"[I'm] disappointed by certain people [at Lyon]," Lovren said, per Sportske Novotni (h/t Ian Holyman at ESPN FC). "[Management are] killing [my] calm and joy at going to training."
Lovren attempting to revise his history at Lyon, the persistent red cards and the diva-like behaviour gives you an insight into how mentally fragile he can be.
He is bringing back his Lyon misery at Liverpool: He never recovered from his mentally scarring start at OL.
Lovren probably wonders to himself every time Liverpool concede: "Oh my God, what am I doing?"
Statistics via WhoScored