The Liverpool defence is a funny thing. Depending on who you talk to it is either a 'clown car', as one Spurs supporting historian keeps calling it, or a juggernaut that's slowly building momentum. Many of us are still undecided because it's difficult to get an objective assessment of our back line. That's why when I saw a table of statistics regarding our centre backs, published just before we played Everton, I kept hold of it. It makes interesting reading:
Firstly, the glaring statistic is how few errors by the defence have actually led to goals. We seem to have this impression that in the early part of the season our defenders were giving goals away left, right and centre but it would appear this was not the case. I realise a bit of leeway must be given to the term 'errors leading to goals' as we may all have slightly different interpretations of what that actually means but even if you add a couple more goals to these statistics they're still surprisingly low.
Secondly, it's clear the different defenders have different strengths. Unsurprisingly, 'Big Virgil' has won an impressive 108 aerial battles but look who it is with the highest tackle success - Klavan with 78%. Common wisdom would have you believe that he can't kick a ball but, again, surprisingly his statistics show that in certain areas of play he has been impressive. In fact, Klavan has a goals per game ratio of 0.87 whereas van Dijk has a ratio of 1.25 (although, admittedly, some of those were at Southampton). Lovren and van Dijk have made an almost identical number of clearances - this is the 'headless chicken' Lovren we're talking about - and both Lovren and Matip have played nearly an identical number of games that have ended with clean sheets, twice the number of games that van Dijk has.
So, what's my point? Well, there's no doubt the Liverpool defence has had some calamitous moments this season but they have been exactly that - moments, not the norm. I think these moments have unfairly coloured our overall opinions of our defenders because if we use van Dijk as the yardstick for the type of defender we want the other defenders don't do as bady in comparison as you'd expect, and, ironically, it can be argued Lovren has better overall statistics than van Dijk. When Klopp was saying our defence isn't as bad as everyone thinks it is, and we all scoffed, but the problem was that the team as a whole wasn't defending well enough perhaps we should've trusted his opinion more.