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Klopp’s reliance on top CB pair nothing new, but a problem

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When Jurgen Klopp was hired at Borussia Dortmund in 2008, he did something right away that would set the stage for BVB’s run back into Bundesliga power.

Klopp brought defender Neven Subotic with him from Mainz, and took Mats Hummels on loan from Bayern Munich.

The 19-year-old Subotic played 38 times for BVB that season, and Hummels played well on way to a permanent transfer.

[ MORE: Klopp left fuming at defending ]

Largely, Klopp seemed to “set it and forget it” with his center backs from that point forward: No big summer buys, and neither Subotic nor Hummels was headed anywhere.

That didn’t change until 2013-14, when Klopp bought Sokratis Papastathopoulos from Werder Bremen, adding Matthias Ginter the next season.

Klopp left BVB after a disappointing 2014-15, taking the job at Liverpool in October 2015.

He didn’t do much in January, but agreed to terms with Schalke center back Joel Matip in February and landed Ragnar Klavan from Augsburg in the summer. The Reds already had bought Dejan Lovren from Southampton in the Summer of 2014, and Klopp seemed set.

[ MORE: League Cup Weds. wrap ]

Lovren improved a lot with Matip next to him, and Klavan made just 15 appearances for the Reds last season. The Reds went hard at Southampton’s Virgil Van Dijk, but failed to get him for any number of reasons. Still, Klopp figured his quartet, including young Joe Gomez in a pinch, would be just fine this season.

And maybe they will be, but there are daunting signs for the Reds in the first couple months of the season. Klopp has used Matip in eight matches, tied for the most on the team with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino. He’s used Lovren six times, and Klavan four.

Liverpool’s record by CB pair (admittedly a tiny sample size):

Matip-Lovren: 3W-2D
Matip-Klavan: 1W-1D-1L
Gomez-Klavan: 1L (today)

The center backs, sans Matip and Lovren, especially hurt the Reds in the 2-0 loss to Leicester on Tuesday. All three moments of Leicester threat in this highlight package find either Klavan or Gomez cooked or out-of-place.

Look, a lot of teams are going to be hurt when using their second-choice CB pair, and many won’t be bothered by Liverpool’s exit from the League Cup. Furthermore, it’s not like anyone has been mistaking Lovren and Matip for Puyol and Pique.

But look at every English team in Europe, including the ones with far fewer defensive frailties heading into this summer than Liverpool.

Chelsea bought Antonio Rudiger.

Everton added Michael Keane.

Manchester United bought Victor Lindelof.

Spurs bought Davinson Sánchez and Juan Foyth.

Arsenal didn’t buy anyone besides Alexandre Lacazette, while Man City bought full backs and has received plenty of criticism for failing to add to its center back corps of Vincent Kompany, John Stones, and Eliaquim Mangala.

Liverpool? They sold Mamadou Sakho.

It’s problematic, yes, and it can’t be fixed until January. The question is whether Klopp sees a need to spend in the winter window. As illustrated above, he loves to ride his horses, even if Lovren and Matip aren’t quite Hummels and Subotic.

Think of what’s ailed Liverpool in recent seasons: Are some of those flops against lesser Premier League teams changed with more rest for their top pair or a better option for the mix?

PL roundup: Unstoppable Man City; Reds, Spurs held

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Sergio Aguero’s hat trick helped Manchester City put pressure on their neighbors, as a 6-0 win boosted City atop the Premier League table by three points before Manchester United takes the pitch Sunday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Elsewhere, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur failed to turn dominant performances into wins, allowing Newcastle United (!!!) into the Top Four mere weeks after the Magpies started their season 0-2.

What a league.


Watford 0-6 Manchester City — RECAP

Sergio Aguero scored a hat trick and Man City made it 15 goals in three matches following a 4-0 thumping at Feyenoord in the Champions League and last weekend’s 5-0 win over 10-man Liverpool. Nicolas Otamendi, Gabriel Jesus, and Raheem Sterling also scored for City.

Liverpool 1-1 BurnleyRECAP

The Reds outshot their visitors 35-5, but only Mohamed Salah found the score sheet after Scott Arfield gave the Clarets a first-half lead.

Newcastle United 2-1 Stoke CityRECAP

The Magpies sit fourth after starting 0-2, as Christian Atsu scored his first Premier League goal and captain Jamaal Lascelles acquired a second-straight match-winner following Xherdan Shaqiri‘s pretty equalizer.

Huddersfield Town 1-1 Leicester CityRECAP

Laurent Depoitre scored his first Premier League goal, but Jamie Vardy‘s penalty was his fourth of the season as the Terriers and Foxes split the points at the John Smith’s Stadium.

 

Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 Swansea CityRECAP

The hosts boasted a load of quality chances, attempting 25 shots, but Swans backstop Lukasz Fabianski helped make sure the visitors’ zero shots on target were enough for an away point.

West Bromwich Albion 0-0 West Ham UnitedRECAP

Gareth Barry played in his 632nd Premier League match, making his 600th start. Only Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs played as many matches, and no one has started as many. The game, unfortunately, made sure Barry’s achievement was the only thing of note.

Crystal Palace 0-1 SouthamptonRECAP

Roy Hodgson’s first match in charge of the Eagles oversaw an infamous record, as Palace became the first time in Premier League history to open its season with five-straight scoreless performances. Steven Davis scored for Saints.

Liverpool’s Klopp: “We were dominant” but draw “our fault”

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Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool dominated Burnley in every area but goals as the two sides split the points Saturday at Anfield.

The Reds outshot Burnley 35-5, but drew the Clarets 1-1 with Scott Arfield and Mohamed Salah trading goals.

[ RECAP: Liverpool 1-1 Burnley ]

It was Liverpool’s second home draw this week, having finished 2-2 with Sevilla in the UEFA Champions League.

Klopp? Not pleased:

“I’m not happy, I’m angry with the result but pleased with the performance. It’s our fault. We were dominant, fantastic attitude. We played good, were fluent with seven changes. But only one goal.

“When you have shots on goal it’s not about their defending. Their keeper made a few outstanding saves. I’m not happy as when Solanke hit the bar I am sure it was a penalty.”

The Reds’ center back pairing was sucked to big striker Chris Wood on Burnley’s goal, allowing Arfield space to rip a shot past Mignolet.

That lapse in focus cost the Reds dearly against Sean Dyche‘s side. It’s hard to say Liverpool is in significant trouble since they controlled both of this week’s matches but had two poor finishing days, but vibes won’t be too positive after another setback in their title chase.

Liverpool 1-1 Burnley: Clarets frustrate Reds

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  • Liverpool earn 1000th PL point
  • Arfield scores from Wood
  • Can cues up Salah for fifth

Canadian national teamer Scott Arfield put Burnley ahead, and a Mohamed Salah goal was all Liverpool could muster in a disappointing 1-1 Saturday draw with the Clarets at Anfield.

Liverpool sits seventh with eight points, while Burnley is sixth with a one-goal advantage in goal differential.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Liverpool was lively early, and Philippe Coutinho didn’t look bothered by his long lay off.

Salah came close to winning an 18th minute penalty off James Tarkowski, but the whistle did not arrive at Anfield.

Yet it was Burnley who went ahead, with Arfield running onto a Chris Wood flicked cross and hammering his shot past Simon Mignolet in the 28th minute. The defending was again primarily responsible for an opposition goal, with the center backs sucked to Wood.

The Reds were level through Salah within three minutes, as Emre Can opened the lid on Burnley’s back line and the Egyptian took the ball to his left before firing a low shot across his body and past Clarets’ backstop Nick Pope.

Would there be history for Burnley? The Clarets had not taken a point from Liverpool since returning to the PL.

Joel Matip saved a late chance from Burnley, and Mignolet made another stop.

Pope made a terrific save on Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Dominic Solanke cranked one off the bar from in-tight moments later.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

PL AT HALF: Man City running riot, Newcastle leads Stoke (video)

Owen Humphreys/PA via AP
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Manchester City’s UEFA Champions League midweek match hasn’t bothered it at all on Saturday.

[ LIVE: Stream Premier League live ]

Pep Guardiola‘s men are rolling in one of five Premier League 10 a.m. ET starts following Southampton’s 1-0 win at Crystal Palace.


Watford 0-3 Manchester City — STREAM

Kevin De Bruyne to Sergio Aguero. 1-0.

David Silva to Sergio Aguero. 2-0.

Sergio Aguero to Gabriel Jesus. 3-0.

Which side played at midweek and who’s on the road?

Liverpool 1-1 BurnleySTREAM

Chris Wood‘s tiny flick helped Scott Arfield put the Clarets in front, but Mohamed Salah leveled the score within three minutes at Anfield.

Huddersfield Town 0-0 Leicester CitySTREAM

USMNT midfielder Danny Williams looks decent in his first Premier League start, hitting a shot wide from 25 yards as Town looks to break down City.

West Bromwich Albion 0-0 West Ham UnitedSTREAM

Gareth Barry makes Premier League history at the Hawthorns.

Newcastle United 1-0 Stoke CitySTREAM

Christian Atsu‘s first Premier League goal has come from Matt Ritchie service, and USMNT back DeAndre Yedlin has looked good for the Magpies in his first start since an August leg injury.