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Liverpool’s defence is better than before Van Dijk injury despite Brentford woes

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There was only eight minutes left on the clock at Brentford Community Stadium when Yoane Wissa pounced on the loose ball inside the Liverpool box and chipped the onrushing Alisson to level the score in a pulsating encounter.

Wissa had drawn Brentford level in a game that swung back and forth, and it was no more than they deserved. Worryingly for Liverpool, the strike meant they had conceded three goals against the newly-promoted side — and missed the chance to start building some distance at the top of the Premier League.

The last time Jürgen Klopp’s side shipped this many in the league was against Leicester City in February this year, when they lost 3-1. However, it must be said that this happened during a period when the club had barely any recognised centre-backs: Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joël Matip were all out, with Jordan Henderson and Ozan Kabak slotting in at central defence that day.

That 3-1 defeat came on the heels of a 4-1 hammering by eventual champions Man City at Anfield. Henderson was again used in central defence, but this time alongside Fabinho. The last time Liverpool conceded three goals in any competition was in April, in the disappointing 3-1 away loss to Real Madrid in the quarter final of the Champions League. In that game, Kabak was joined in defence by Nat Phillips.

Those games from last season are in stark contrast to the Brentford game, where its arguable that the club’s strongest defence was lined out, with Van Dijk and Matip joined by Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander Arnold.

Is this an issue to be worried about?

The club have played eight games in all competitions this season, and have conceded six goals. Two came against Milan in the opening night of the Champions League, and, yesterday aside, the only other goal scored against Liverpool in the league came in the 1-1 draw with Chelsea.

Compare those numbers to last season, and it’s a marked improvement.

By the same stage last season, Liverpool had already conceded a colossal 16 goals in all competitions, and most of those arrived before the defence became depleted. Perhaps it was the lack of crowds last season, where games almost took on the form of a training game, with minds less sharp and lapses in concentration often, that caused goals to flow in both directions.

But Brentford’s three goals, and the fact that they could’ve easily had more throughout the game, doesn’t negate the evidence that Liverpool’s defence has improved on last season.

The returns of Van Dijk and Matip play a major part in explaining why the last concession of three goals was in April. As for the improvement compared to the start of last campaign, when Van Dijk was fit and firing — that can partly be attributed to the return of fans to Anfield, with away sides often cowering through the sheer wall of noise that the crowd produces.

Alisson has kept four clean sheets from six league games. He had to wait until 16 games into last season to equal the same number.

So whilst yesterday might not have been the defence’s finest hour (or 90 minutes, if you will), there’s a vast improvement compared to the same stage last season.

Nothing to worry about, yet.



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