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Liverpool: Jürgen Klopp’s Left-Back Conundrum

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 06: Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool celebrates victory after the International Champions Cup match between Liverpool and Barcelona at Wembley Stadium on August 6, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

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CHAT to any LFC supporter this summer and a common theme emerges. Although content with some of the transfer business already conducted by Jürgen Klopp, they are hoping there is more to come and that a new left-back will be arriving.

The fact that such a purchase hasn’t happened already is a surprise to most. Bolstering the position has been a priority for some time, none more so than after the 3-1 Europa League final defeat by Sevilla back in May.

The Spanish victors ruthlessly exploited that particular area of Liverpool’s defence on the night at St Jakob-Park in Switzerland, ensuring their former player Alberto Moreno was the subject of much criticism afterwards.

He was panned by everybody; from the pundits to those in the pubs and particularly for the role he played in the equalising goal just 17 seconds after the start of the second half.

Yet, months later, Moreno still remains as first choice left-back. The position hasn’t been strengthened.

Leicester and England under-21 international Ben Chilwell was long rumoured to be a target of Klopp, who was said to be willing to pay £7m but refused to go as high as the £10m the Foxes were reportedly asking for.

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 20:  Ben Chilwell of Leicester in action during the Emirates FA Cup Third Round Replay match between Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur at The King Power Stadium on January 20, 2016 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

In the end he signed a new contract with the reigning champions at the end of July.

The 19-year-old, yet to make a Premier League debut, was on loan at Huddersfield who are managed by Klopp’s good friend David Wagner, and is one of a host of names the Merseysiders are said to have looked at.

That also includes, amongst others, FC Cologne’s Jonas Hector, Lorient’s Raphael Guerreiro, Atletico Minerio’s Douglas Santos and Mattia De Sciglio of AC Milan.

As yet though nobody has arrived, this is despite the departure of the squad’s only other natural left-back Brad Smith to Bournemouth for £6m and Moreno limping off against AS Roma in a pre-season friendly with what was later revealed to be a dead leg.

There was also talk that in the aftermath of the Chilwell news Klopp was considering using James Milner in the left full-back role.

Undoubtedly, it’s something that in an emergency Milner could do with his usual diligence. The fact that he is strong on his so called weaker left foot would also be an advantage. However, an injury picked up against Barcelona makes even deploying that far from satisfactory solution doubtful.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 06:  James Milner of Liverpool is tackled by Aleix Vidal of Barcelona during the International Champions Cup match between Liverpool and Barcelona at Wembley Stadium on August 6, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

In many eyes using Milner would be a desperate times measure anyway, just like when he slotted in to the left back role in last season’s League Cup final penalty shootout loss against Man City at Wembley.

There is no way you want to be entering in to a new season that includes away games against Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea in the first few weeks with Milner regularly playing as part of the back four, if he is available.

Depending on who you listen to, failing to bring in a new name is being seen as the club not moving quickly enough or not being willing to pay the price demanded by those selling. Perhaps there is an element of both, or maybe they are being patient while they try to locate exactly the right candidate to fill what has often been a troublesome position for LFC for a long time.

A read of Elmar Neveling’s biography of Klopp might also give some clues as to why nothing has been rushed through yet.

In it he details the German manager’s footballing philosophy during his time in charge at Borussia Dortmund and the demands he places on both full-backs and wing-backs.

They read:

“For full-backs and wing-backs to have equally significant attacking as well as defensive roles. Since they have to cover the full length of the pitch and put in repeated intensive sprints, they have to be incredibly fit. Unlike central defenders, they have little chance of taking a break from play.”

The irony is that the much-maligned Moreno – unbelievably, some fans were actually Tweeting their happiness at the prospect that he might be injured recently – actually does fulfil a lot of that rather simplified criteria.

His dad was a long distance runner back in Spain and the 24-year-old certainly seems to have inherited some of that ability as he regularly covers the entire length of the field. There’s also no denying he can sprint as it’s a trait which quite often gets him out of trouble or helps him to push forward and score the occasional goal.

However, it’s the many other elements of his game which are lacking that leaves fans shaking their heads in anguish or covering their eyes in horror.

They are simply hoping, or maybe crying out, for an upgrade. Somebody who has filled the role well in the past, John Arne Riise, expects a new face to arrive but finding one that can be signed within budget and possesses Moreno’s physical traits plus the other assets of a top defender is obviously not a straight forward task.

The alternative of buying somebody for the sake of it, another body to make up the numbers, is also not the solution as the numerous purchases of previous left-backs have proved time and time again. Nobody wants somebody similar to Paul Konchesky, Andrea Dossena, Julian Dicks or Jose Enrique arriving – least of all Jürgen Klopp.

Instead, maybe he believes he can help Moreno to improve as he has clearly done so with others such as Divock Origi and Dejan Lovren. Only time will tell.

SANTA CLARA, CA - JULY 30: Alberto Moreno of Liverpool FC in action against AC Milan during the International Champions Cup match at Levi's Stadium on July 30, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Or maybe he still has something else lined up and is waiting to get the deal over the line in the last few weeks before the transfer window, as Sky state in their over-excited manner, ‘slams shut’.

“I’m long enough in football to know not to say the final word until August 31,”

Klopp has said.

“We are always ready to do something or handle something – on the leaving side or buying side. I am fine, the squad is good. But situations change. We have two or three defending players injured at the moment.

“So we have to see what happens with injuries and things like this and be ready to find a solution.”

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Author: The PA Team

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