Jurgen Klopp’s reign at Liverpool has been marked by some exhilarating attacking play and some haphazard stuff at the other end but a recent closing of seams at the back has seen his side turn a corner in the defensive stakes.
So much so, in fact, that they’re on course to beat a long-held Premier League defensive record at their current rate of going.
The title-winning Chelsea side of 2004/05, led by that master of the rearguard Jose Mourinho, conceded just 15 goals over the course of the campaign. At the same stage of the season we’re at now, 14 games played, they’d conceded six goals. Liverpool sit on 5 conceded right now after another clean sheet in the Merseyside derby on Sunday.
The phenomenal outlay that the club has made on defensive totem Virgil van Dijk and a goalkeeper in Alisson Becker who was very briefly the world’s most expensive has reaped dividends and kept them on the coattails of Manchester City in the race for the league title.
While the frantic attacking football of last season, in particular, has been missing at times this term, the levels of productivity that their famed front three of Messrs Mane, Firmino, and Salah need to stump up to win games has been reduced greatly by how solid the clubs rearguard has been.
Earlier this season the club’s German coach admitted that a purposeful realigning of priorities has had an effect on how sharp his attack is able to be.
“We want to be stronger defensively but that doesn’t mean we don’t have interest in offensive things," he said.
“It is normal in a period of adaptation. You put the focus a bit more on something – close this gap, close this space – and immediately you lose a bit of the fluency in something else.”
So long as those results keep coming and the Reds stay in the conversation at the summit - bobbles on the crossbar, whatever - you feel their fans won’t mind a jot.