No defence for ‘undefending’

IT was Dejan Lovren who made the walk of shame, but it should have been Jurgen Klopp hanging his head.

It is, after all, with the manager where the buck stops and he can't say there hasn't been enough warning. Or a lack of culprits.

Instead of the lone, sacrificial centreback, the whole rearguard might have been replaced had the rules permitted.

As a staunch defender of the German manager's impact on Liverpool, I can no longer defend the indefensible – his hapless, accident-waiting-to-happen (but only a few minutes!) rearguard. Indeed, this was so bad you could coin a new phrase for it – "undefending".

There was certainly no case for the defence on Sunday, the prosecution winning every argument.

Ponderous, panic-stricken, prone to individual errors, prone to collective ones, Liverpool's defenders seem to give the heebie-jeebies to each other. And this was the worst outbreak yet.

Whilst Klopp can be said to have improved half a dozen players in his two years at Anfield, the argument that under him the defence has turned into a rabble is now the more compelling one.

After this tragicomic exhibition before a Premier League record 80,827 witnesses, including Diego Maradona, the case is surely rested.

Clearly, the no second-choice policy has backfired badly. And Klopp must rue his infamous "name me five centrebacks" remark when challenged over why he'd not bought an alternative to Virgil van Dijk in the summer.

Well, one centreback who was available was on view at Wembley – Davinson Sanchez who has added much-needed depth to Spurs' squad.

At £42 million (RM231m) he was not cheap but you'd fancy him to stiffen the wafer-thin red line of Liverpool's hapless back four.

Poor Lovren. No 34-cap international should have to suffer such humiliation. And at Wembley, of all places.

There was no consoling pat, nor hood in which to hide from the ghouls in a global audience. You have to say he took it like a man.

This is a player who has been a bulwark for Croatia, for whom none other than Mauricio Pochettino paid £8.5 million (RM47m) to bring him to Southampton from Lyon. And for whom Brendan Rodgers shelled out £20 million (RM110m) to take to Liverpool.

There is a half-decent defender in there somewhere and about whom Pochettino once said: "He's good at solving difficult situations".

Well, he should be the man for this then, because with more than two months before the January transfer window, Klopp finds himself in a bit of a mess.

Liverpool's title – or even top 4 – aspirations could effectively be over by then unless a magical formula is found. You can bet that every opposing manager from Pep Guardiola to Roy Hodgson will be out to exploit this well-advertised weakness.

Nor can he expect any sympathy this weekend – even from his best mate (and best man) when David Wagner brings his hungry Terriers to Anfield.

The sheer ineptitude of it makes Jose Mourinho's pacifism even more inexplicable. Especially when he remembers that Lovren was able to keep a lonely Romelu Lukaku on a leash.

Klopp must now acknowledge his mistakes and act as ruthlessly as he did in hooking Lovren.

The trouble is he cannot sign anyone till next year but he can start with Joe Gomez at centreback and give Danny Ward the gloves. Yep, he needs a keeper as well as a couple of centrebacks.

He bought Loris Karius as his first choice but the former Mainz stopper never looked like the main man.

Mignolet returned and finished last season strongly. But Klopp doesn't seem sure who is No. 1 now and the constant switching seems to be undermining the confidence of both keepers and outfield players.

Mignolet was partly at fault for three of Spurs' four goals.

So, Klopp has much to ponder as the manager closest to his "best method of defence is attack" philosophy threatens to run away with the League.

But Pep did buy fullbacks and a goalkeeper in the summer, and many of Man City's lightning counter attacks stem from the back.

Indeed, in Ederson, whose passing looks second only to Kevin de Bruyne's, he has the perfect springboard. He also has players of an entirely different class in midfield.

Swap the pedestrian Jordan Henderson, although he did play one superb ball for Mo Salah's goal, and either James Milner or Georginio Wijnaldum for De Bruyne and David Silva and even Liverpool's back four might survive a while longer.

There were times last season, when City also did a bit of "undefending". But in the summer Pep acted decisively to replace Claudio Bravo as well as his geriatric fullbacks.

Klopp must do likewise and accept that, unlike Pep, he doesn't have the quality to carry out his ambitious plans. Lovren was merely the fall guy.

The making of a great manager is to take a beating and learn from it. The greats all had them, but if Klopp doesn't, he is in danger of tarnishing his legacy. And Liverpool's drought will continue.


GOOD – Huddersfield

Winston Churchill was British PM the last time the Terriers beat the Devils. What a win for a small town club who have spent most of the last half-century in the doldrums. And what a player they have in Aussie Aaron Mooy!

BAD – Liverpool defence

We thought Victor Lindelof was bad but Dejan Lovren took the art of missing headers to another level. Mourinho will be grateful though – a convenient distraction to take the heat off United.

UGLY – Neymar's off day

The Brazilian rose to the bait but there was an awful lot of it about. Marseilles vs PSG is a war at the best of times and Neymar got caught in the crossfire. Coins, lighters, vitriol, constant fouling led him to lose his rag and pick up two yellows late on. When you're the world's most expensive player, you don't expect every game to be a picnic.

Bob will be signing copies of his book Living the Dream… or Enduring the Nightmare? at D'Legends Bar, 24, Jalan Datuk Sulaiman, TTDI this Saturday, Oct 28 at 6.30pm (before Man Utd vs Spurs). The book is also available at MPH, Kinokuniya and Popular book stores.