A Disciplined, Defensive Shield
Posted by Craig Muncey | Published on April 16, 2016
Been reading on social media over the last few days, a lot of people pointing fingers at in particular Mamadou Sakho and Dejan Lovren, over the lack of identifying runners for the Dortmund goals on Thursday night. My view on this is that I agree the defence has to be more alert to snuff out potential dangers, as I have mentioned before on this site, but I believe that the area that really needs strengthening sits in front of the defence, that position being a player whose natural game is to play as a shield to the defence, a defensive midfielder.
The greatest defenders in modern day history all had support from a defensive minded midfielder who was able to intercept passes into the strikers, or pick up a player floating more advanced than his team’s midfielders but not up against the opposition defence. Just some examples of this, Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini had Marcel Desailly or Frank Rijkaard at Milan. Tony Adams had Patrick Vieira at Arsenal. Jaap Stam had Roy Keane at United, and finally John Terry had Claude Makelele at Chelsea, a player or players providing that buffer, a speed bump to oppositions speedy attacks.
I am not saying that Lovren or Sakho are on the same level as the defenders I have mentioned above, they are not, but my point is that even the best need help. If the opposition have nobody putting pressure on the ball, or the back four are isolated with no cover in front, then players who can spot a pass have that creative ability will pick defence a apart of they have a striker willing to run in behind.
Look at Aubameyang’s goal on Thursday, there is no cover in front of the defence, Marco Reus, who is very creative and can spot a pass, is allowed to run with the ball for a fair distance, Emre Can tries to run back to stop the pass but is too late, Reus sees the run by Aubameyang, hits a great ball and the striker is away from Sakho’s efforts to score past Mignolet.
Liverpool recently have been going with a three in midfield of Henderson, Milner and Can, all good athletes, loads of energy, but in my view, none of them have a natural instinct to shield the defence. Can appears to be the one who many see as the defensive player, but for me, he has at times provided some cover, but this is down to his athletism, being able to run back and win the ball back from players who are in dangerous positions centrally, trying to run into Liverpool’s defence. Can is a powerhouse who likes to be offensive, run with the ball cause the opposition problems attacking wise, that’s his natural game.
When you think of Liverpool over last 20 years, the best teams we have had in that period had a defensive minded player in their ranks. Think of players such as Dietmar Hamann (who will forget the role he played in Istanbul when brought into the fray), Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano, top players who could play and almost as importantly stopped the opposition playing.
Many Liverpool fans are excited by the prospect this summer of Mario Gotze potentially joining Liverpool, and who can blame them. Fans are excited by the prospect next season of Gotze, Coutinho, Firmino all linking up with either Origi or Sturridge benefiting from the three creating goal after goal. However, you play those players who are going to stop the opposition when they get the ball and attack? Would only be left with two covering in midfield, and as mentioned earlier the current midfielders are not naturally defensive minded, potentially Joe Allen could play the role, but dont think he is strong enough as a disciplined breaking down opposition type of player, he could work alongside someone of that ilk though, providing the assurance and calmness in his link up passing.
Liverpool have been linked with a few midfielders for next season, players such as Gundogan, Pjanic, Granit Xhaka, Renato Sanches etc, but the one I have seen a few times last two seasons and has impressed me in terms of what I believe Liverpool need is Ignacio Camacho who plys his trade for Malaga.
Camacho is 25 years of age, has been capped by Spain and has won honours with his previous club Atletico Madrid, winning Europa League and the Super Cup, so has experience at a high level. He has played in La Liga for 8 seasons, so for a young man, has plenty of experience. Camacho is a natural defensive midfielder, is a good tackler, has a good reading for the game, has good passing range and another strength of his is that he is good in the air, which again would be a huge asset to Liverpool with their weakness at defensive set pieces. The Spaniard may not have the same reputation as Pjanic and Gundogan, but in my view is better value for money, and better fits what Liverpool need and a more realistic target.
Imagine next season, Liverpool having Joel Matip in the centre of defence, Joe Gomez playing left back and an attacking quartet of Gotze, Firmino, Coutinho and Origi. But having the security behind of Camacho and Can keeping the opposition in check. We can dream…..