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Wednesday 16 October 2019

Problem solved: Reds have found the missing pieces in their jigsaw puzzle says defender Lovren

 

Liverpool defender Dejan Lovern. Photo: Action Images via Reuters
Liverpool defender Dejan Lovern. Photo: Action Images via Reuters

Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren believes manager Jurgen Klopp has found the missing pieces to the puzzle which have frustrated previous hopes of a title challenge.

The vital piece which previous managers, Klopp included, had struggled to find is undoubtedly Virgil Van Dijk, with the Holland centre-back overseeing a 12th clean sheet of the season - the same number kept by Liverpool when the Reds last won the title in 1989-90 - in the 4-0 win over Newcastle.

But there are others elements which have made a difference, with summer arrivals Alisson Becker, Xherdan Shaqiri and Fabinho - the latter two both scorers against Newcastle with the Brazil international registering his first for the club - adding different dimensions in goal and midfield.

And with Mohamed Salah, now with 15 goals for the season, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane better understanding how they interact in their second season together, there is a feeling of cohesion all the way from front to back.

Asked what the difference was from previous years, Lovren said: "I think experience.

Puzzle

"There are quite a lot of players still here and it was like a puzzle, you just keep bringing these players you missed and now I think it's a perfect match.

"You feel that in the squad, it's how it should be. There has always been something missing all these years but I think now we have everything.

"But it doesn't mean anything. Even Manchester City has in every position two players, top players."

Liverpool have reeled in City's two-point and 14-goal advantage from the start of December and the gap to the third-placed champions is now seven points in the Reds' favour.

They have conceded just seven goals in 19 matches - eight better than City and 11 better than second-placed Tottenham - and while Lovren has been part of the defensive improvement, he stressed the success was down to an overall game plan which has seen Liverpool be less expansive but far more controlled this season.

ROCK SOLID: Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho have been huge additions by manager Jurgen Klopp. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
ROCK SOLID: Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho have been huge additions by manager Jurgen Klopp. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

"The foundation isn't about five players at the back. It's about Mo, Bobby, Sadio, Shaq, everyone up front, they are the first defenders.

"We know when we don't concede a goal, we score. That's the key for us and we need to always stay hungry. When we lose the ball, get it back quickly.

"Next game Arsenal, other game City, but we know how to control these games."

Liverpool have been installed as the new title favourites following the St Stephen's Day results but Lovren said that would not affect them.

"There's no pressure, to be honest. In the previous years, yes, but now when you look in the dressing room, when you go into Melwood (training ground) in the morning, everybody is happy," he said.

Klopp has found himself having to keep a lid on the expectations now being levelled at his side but felt the display against a Newcastle team set up to frustrate by Rafael Benitez on his return to Anfield, could not have been much better.

"A pretty perfect day for us; not a perfect performance, but a really good performance. Result-wise and a lot of parts of the performance, really good," Klopp said.

"If you are 2-0 up then you have to control the game. In the past we became, I wouldn't say sloppy, but we lost concentration. That doesn't help, obviously.

"Now we are much more awake, we control it in a better way, we switch sides, we still prepare and create - not as many as maybe would be possible but still enough - and we score goals."

Meanwhile, Salah will be available for Liverpool against Arsenal and Manchester City, as he will not face a ban for diving.

Salah went down in the area to earn a penalty - which he scored - in the win over Newcastle.

He tumbled after pressure from defender Paul Dummett, who appeared to put his hand on the Egypt international.

As there was contact, the incident did not meet the threshold for a diving charge. Had the FA opted to investigate, Salah could have missed the games against Arsenal tomorrow and City next Thursday.

Liverpool were 1-0 ahead at the time of the spot-kick and Benitez felt Salah went down too easily.

"At the start of the second half there was a soft penalty," he said after the game.

"It's hard when you're 2-0 down. If you have chances and don't take them or make mistakes it is difficult.

"The first goal is a mistake and the second is key in terms of confidence."

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