12:00 PM UTC
Match 19
Game Details
Saudi Arabia
3:00 PM UTC
Match 18
Game Details
6:00 PM UTC
Match 20
Game Details
12:00 PM UTC Jun 21, 2018
Match 21
Game Details
3:00 PM UTC Jun 21, 2018
Match 22
Game Details
6:00 PM UTC Jun 21, 2018
Match 23
Game Details
 By Tony Evans

Jurgen Klopp must address Liverpool's defence before it's too late

While everyone at Anfield was worrying about Philippe Coutinho's future, nobody seemed to notice that the back door was still wide open. Nearly two years after Jurgen Klopp arrived on Merseyside, Liverpool's defending is as shambolic as ever.

With a crucial Champions League qualifying tie against Hoffenheim looming, the manner in which Liverpool conceded so freely in the 3-3 draw against Watford is worrying. The Bundesliga side will be encouraged by the Premier League team's leaky defence.

Klopp has serious questions to answer: 22 months, 100 games and almost three transfer windows have passed since the 50-year-old took charge of the team. That's long enough to improve individuals on the training ground and fashion an effective back four. Virgil van Dijk has been one of the German's main targets this summer, but even if the Dutchman eventually signs for Liverpool, it is hard to see how one man could fix a multitude of problems.

Set pieces are a particular problem. Even in matches where Klopp's side outscore the opposition, free kicks and corners create panic in the Liverpool area. Simple tasks like blocking off forwards and attacking the ball are neglected. These issues should be solved at Melwood, but they recur with shocking frequency.

Poor defending by Liverpool is one of the problems that predates Klopp's arrival. Brendan Rodgers, whom the German replaced, struggled to build an effective back line, with some commentators even suggesting Rodgers needed to employ a defensive coach. It is possible to make the same arguments about Klopp needing to add to his staff.

Some managers have a natural inclination to build from the back. Klopp will never operate in the manner of Jose Mourinho or Tony Pulis -- and no one around Anfield wants that -- but Liverpool's reliance on outscoring the opposition is dangerous. Last season, they struggled against packed defences and were vulnerable to being caught on the break.

Going forward, Liverpool can be as thrilling as any side in the division. Even without Coutinho, they have plenty of firepower. But that alone will not bring a title to Liverpool. Until the team is more balanced, they will be unable to compete at the highest level.

Much of the blame should fall on Klopp, yet Rodgers' struggles in the defensive department indicate a wider problem at Anfield. In the January 2014 transfer window, Rodgers wanted the club to buy another defensive player. The scouting department told the manager -- and John W. Henry, the principal owner -- that there were "no defenders out there." It was a stunning failure of scouting. The man in charge of finding players then was Michael Edwards. He has since been promoted to sporting director and has a significant say in Liverpool's transfer policy.

Jurgen Klopp is working wonders at Liverpool, but inability to fix the defence could well doom him.

Against Watford, Alberto Moreno started at left-back. The 25-year-old has never looked like a Premier League player in his three years at the club. Last season, he saw little playing time; his position was filled by James Milner, a midfielder, instead. At Vicarage Road, Marco Silva's side clearly targeted the Spain international, aiming many of their attacks down the right wing. Every manager in the division will pick on Moreno if they get the chance.

What makes the left-back's appearance even more surprising is that last month, Liverpool paid £10 million to Hull City for Andy Robertson, who plays the same position. Robertson did not travel to Watford, despite being fit. It would be no surprise to see Milner drafted into the defence again as the season progresses.

In the Anfield boardroom and in the stands, it is considered heresy to question Klopp. His effervescent personality, optimistic outlook and ability to put together forward lines that thrill and entertain have won him many friends. But his inability to solve Liverpool's defensive woes could prove to be a fatal flaw. After all, there were periods against Watford when Klopp's team were bullied at the back.

It is not merely a matter of requiring new personnel, either. Dejan Lovren was a composed and effective centre-half at Southampton. Rodgers was not able to get the best out of the Croatia international, but a manager of Klopp's standing might be expected to do better with the raw materials provided for him.

There has been a sense of progression under Klopp. In his first full season, he secured a top-four place in the Premier League. Now Liverpool need to kick on. They will not be able to do that unless they stop shipping avoidable goals.

Seductive attacking play is not enough. Klopp needs to find a way to fix his defence, otherwise points and positivity will slip away. Klopp cannot afford another season of back-four chaos.

Are Chelsea going to bolster their squad?

The pair of Chelsea red cards in the 3-2 defeat by Burnley have left Antonio Conte's squad very thin going into a crucial Wembley derby against Tottenham Hotspur. Their activity in the transfer window has been bewildering, as more players have gone out the exit door than arrived in a summer when it looked like Conte could add to the squad from a position of real strength. Instead, the champions started the season considerably weaker.

With suspensions and injuries, Chelsea are down to the bare bones. So does anyone understand why five players on loan from Stamford Bridge -- Kurt Zouma at Stoke, Ruben Loftus-Cheek at Crystal Palace, Tammy Abraham at Swansea, Kasey Palmer at Huddersfield and Isaiah Brown at Brighton -- started for other Premier League sides on the opening weekend of the season?

If there is any logic at work, it needs to explained -- and not just to Conte, but to the fans and the players who remain at the Bridge.

A mistake to move Matic on

One of the most inexplicable departures from Chelsea was Nemanja Matic. The Serbia international might be a little one-dimensional, but his strengths are perfect for Jose Mourinho's Manchester United. It is early days yet, of course, but Matic's discipline and intelligence allowed Paul Pogba to range forward and flourish against West Ham United.

United look significantly stronger now. It is hard to imagine the thought process that allowed Matic's transfer to happen.

Tony Evans has been a sports journalist for more than 20 years. He writes for ESPN FC on the Premier League. Twitter: @tonyevans92a.


Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.