16 Feb 2017

Collymore insists: Liverpool must sign a 'specialist' like 'outstanding' £70m Chelsea star. Agree?

One of Liverpool's ex-players has urged Jurgen Klopp to follow Chelsea's example and sign a dedicated DM this summer.

In his column this week for Boyle Sports, Collymore claimed that Liverpool 'need to address their lack of clean sheets this season', and dispense with the 433 system to accommodate a 'designated holding player' like 'N'Golo Kante', with a remit to 'protect the central defenders'. He explained:

"433 is a system which encourages open, attacking play, but that’s not good enough [over a whole season]. [Liverpool need] a specialist holder to do the dirty work, intercept, destroy then pass the baton to better players. It’s really that simple".

This is an absolute no-brainer. It's been blindingly obvious for years that Liverpool need for a dedicated DM, especially under Klopp, whose time is Anfield is blighted by poor defensive play. The typical excuse used by fans to deny the need for a DM is that the main problem is defending set-pieces, ergo a DM is not needed. Clearly, this is spurious logic as it ignores the reality that opposition teams regularly scythe through Liverpool's midfield and/or midfield runners are constantly arriving in the box undetected (in the course of play, or untracked at set-pieces).

The main reason for this? In my view, none of the LFC's regular midfielders have the natural defensive instinct and/or experience that comes from playing regularly as a DM. The most maddening thing is this: history shows that the majority of successful, trophy-winning teams USE A DM. Look back winners of the Premier League, Champions League, International tournaments etc - almost every winning team employs a dedicated defensive-midfielder, and they do so for a reason: IT WORKS!

Chelsea and Spurs, for example: both teams use DM's (Kante, Matic, and Wanyama respectively), and it's no surprise they have the best defensive records. Then, look at Liverpool: the club's defensive demise over the last four years has coincided with the stubborn refusal to utilise a dedicated DM (not a makeshift DM/holder like Henderson or Gerrard).

Take the 2013-14 season: Liverpool finished 2nd, so great season, right? Wrong. The Reds conceded 50 goals (the worst of the top 5), which is only 3 fewer than Hull City, who finished in 16th place. If Rodgers' team had conceded, say, 10 fewer goals that season (Hardly impossible considering Everton conceded only 39 goals), Liverpool would've been Champions, and that's the difference a more solid defensive unit can make.

The last time Liverpool consistently played with dedicated DMs (Mascherano and Lucas, 2009-10), the team conceded only 35 goals in 38 league games. Even during the Hodgson/Dalglish era (with Lucas deployed as a DM), Liverpool conceded fewer goals than under Rodgers and Klopp. The defensive rot has really set in over the last four seasons, and has coincided with the Reds playing 433, and dispensing with a traditional DM (I'll illustrate the decline properly in a separate stats-based post soon).

Liverpool probably don't need to play a dedicated DM in every game, but the club needs someone in that position, and irrespective of how many passes he plays per game (defensively irrelevant), Henderson is not the answer.

* Kante: £70m-rated (CIES Football Observatory). Hailed as 'outstanding' by Antonio Conte.



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