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Statistically, Which Has Been Liverpool’s Best Centre-Back Partnership This Season?

PASADENA, CA - JULY 27: Ruben Loftus-Cheek #36 of Chelsea is pursued by Ragnar Klavan (L) #17 and Dejan Lovren #6 of Liverpool during the 2016 International Champions Cup at Rose Bowl on July 27, 2016 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Liverpool’s Premier League title challenge this season has been built on the foundation of a relentless attack.

Jurgen Klopp’s side have scored the most goals of any other side in the league this season – 41 and counting – but no side in the top seven has conceded more than the 20 that the Reds have (thought Manchester City are level with that tally).

That being said, there seems to have been an upturn in their defensive fortunes in recent games. In the two matches since Klopp took under-pressure goalkeeper Loris Karius out of the firing line, Liverpool have kept two clean sheets with Simon Mignolet guarding the net.

Both clean sheets are also notable for the fact that Joel Matip, arguably the side’s best defender this season, was absent for both with fellow new signing Ragnar Klavan deputising for the Cameroonian international.

According to the below stats, obtained from Whoscored, Matip is still statistically the best defender over the course of the season, though he is bring pushed close by the much-improved Dejan Lovren.

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The stats also point to Klavan being a solid backup choice – not threatening to usurp either of the first choice defenders, but at the same time ready and able to do a job when called upon (as was the case in the wins against Middlesbrough and Everton).

Lucas, meanwhile, should be used in emergencies only. The Brazilian was chosen ahead of Klavan for the recent match against Bournemouth and that didn’t go so well, with Klopp stuck for numbers having given up on Mamadou Sakho.

But how does the defence compare as a unit as opposed to individually, when looking at the five pairings Klopp has used in their 17 Premier League games so far this season?

Joel Matip & Dejan Lovren

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur (C), Dejan Lovren of Liverpool (L) and Joel Matip of Liverpool all watch the ball during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at White Hart Lane on August 27, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Games Played Together: 9  Goals Conceded: 8  Clean Sheets: 3

Klopp’s undisputed first-choice partnership, Lovren and Matip have played together in just over half of Liverpool’s Premier League games to date, including the draw at White Hart Lane and win at Stamford Bridge. The side has generally looked at its most composed with both players on the pitch, but Matip’s injury issues have led to them struggling to get a run of games together in the centre.

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Dejan Lovren & Ragnar Klavan

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 20: Andre Gray of Burnley takes on Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Liverpool FC at Turf Moor on August 20, 2016 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Games Played Together: 4  Goals Conceded: 5  Clean Sheets: 2

The pairing of Lovren and Klavan started the season together, and promptly conceded five goals in their first two games. Having allowed Arsenal give them a scare when leading 4-1 to the horror show at Burnley, Liverpool fans were apprehensive when the duo were to be reunited for the visit to Middlesbrough earlier this month.

However, the pair have been in fine form in the two games that followed. Where Matip’s injuries had previously caused panic, fans are now not quite so worried about the prospect of the axis playing against Stoke next Tuesday.

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Joel Matip & Ragnar Klavan

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Ragner Klavan of Liverpool and Joel Matip of Liverpool hug before kick off during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Hull City at Anfield on September 24, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)

Games Played Together: 1  Goals Conceded: 1  Clean Sheets: 0

Klavan and Matip were only together for one full game – the 5-1 demolition of Hull City at Anfield in September. Despite conceding, the two were largely untroubled as the ball was in the opposition box for the vast majority of the game.

They did, however, play the second half together in the 2-2 draw against West Ham when Lovren came off injured at half time. Liverpool didn’t concede in the time the two summer signings were paired up.

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Joel Matip & Lucas Leiva

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 01:  (THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT) Joel Matip and Lucas leiva of Liverpool during a training session at Melwood Training Ground on November 1, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Games Played Together: 2  Goals Conceded: 2  Clean Sheets: 0

Although Klopp has settled on Klavan as his third-choice centre-back, there was a time when he trusted Lucas Leiva with that that responsibility. Lucas is a midfielder by definition but has been played in defence at times by the manager.

However, it has not gone well, particularly against Leicester. The 29-year-old gave a soft goal to Jamie Vardy at a time when his side were dominating; luckily for him, Liverpool were in one of their “rampant” moods and beat the champions 4-1.

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Dejan Lovren & Lucas Leiva

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Games Played Together: 1  Goals Conceded: 4  Clean Sheets: 0

A brief summary of the one game Lucas and Lovren played in together at the centre of the side’s defence:

  • 75th minute: Bournemouth 1-3 Liverpool
  • Full time: Bournemouth 4-3 Liverpool

As a partnership, it is highly unlikely to be seen again.

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From the above, it becomes clear that Lovren and Matip are the duo that Klopp has the most faith in, and is the most solid going forward. As long as Matip can stay fit, Liverpool’s defence could end up being as important as their attack in terms of their title challenge.

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.