Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp indicated that he was keen to embark on a four-man squad rebuild over the summer, including a goalkeeper, another forward and a centre back. The German has targeted Newcastle’s Jamaal Lascelles, who played a vital role in helping the Magpies comfortably achieve Premier League safety for another season.
The Reds have a date with destiny in Kyiv when they battle back-to-back Champions League winners Real Madrid in the final of this year’s tournament, whilst they secured a fourth-placed finish on the final day of the Premier League season.
Domestically, though, the Reds’ season was nothing to shout about. They finished 25 points behind comfortable winners Manchester City and there’s still some way to go to bridge the ever-widening gap.
The first place to start is at the back.
One of Klopp’s most lauded achievements at Anfield is the extraordinarily dangerous front three he created. Consisting of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, the trio terrorise defences across the continent with free-flowing, fast-paced and fluid football. The German even devised a system that negated the need of Philippe Coutinho.
However, Liverpool’s Achilles heel in the Klopp era has consistently been their defence. It’s forever a story of defensive errors, avoidable mistakes and searching for centre backs.
In fairness, Klopp took measures to rectify the problem with the £75 million signing of former Saint Virgil van Dijk in January and Liverpool have certainly benefitted from his arrival, conceding 0.6 goals per game since his debut, compared to 1.16 goals per game prior.
The job, however, isn’t complete. For instance, the Reds conceded two goals apiece in the final ten minutes of each of their Champions League semi-finals against Roma, demonstrating a lack of sustained concentration and organisation.
The key aspect of a potential deal for Jamaal Lascelles is the fact that the 24-year-old provides a strong measure of leadership, filling a void at the heart of Liverpool’s defence.
He currently captains Newcastle, no small feat for the young centre back, having been appointed in 2016/17, just his second season at the club, and has been coached by Rafa Benitez in the art of defensive organisation.
He would arrive at Liverpool with a great deal of experience and defensive knowhow, ready to use such skills to improve the Reds’ back four.
Lascelles, additionally, whilst being an assured and confident defender first and foremost, an art often lost on defenders of the modern era, is a capable ball-player, able to aid in build-up play from the back.
With a rate of 2.4 successful long balls per league game, too, Lascelles’ vertical passing ability will also have its uses for quick transitioning.
There’s no shortage of quality at the back for Liverpool, but Klopp’s style of football is inherently chaotic, which reverberates onto the defence. Lascelles’ cool, calm and collected presence certainly wouldn’t go amiss.
So the story goes; attack wins games, defence wins titles. Lascelles alone isn’t the answer to Liverpool’s Premier League shortcomings, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.
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