Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher says that although it is slightly worrying that the Reds have so far been unable to keep a clean sheet in the League this season the fact Liverpool have predominately played the sides at the top end of the table it isn’t a major problem. Carra also welcomed the growing understanding between Lovren and Matip and believes Mamadou Sakho may find it difficult to get back into the Reds first team.
Speaking to host Neil Mellor on the 5Times Podcast this week, Carra was asked if he was concerned about the lack of clean sheets: “It’s a slight concern,” he said, but added: “You’ve also got to take into the account the opposition, we’re playing top quality opposition for almost every game we’ve played in the league at the real top end.
“It’s very difficult to keep clean sheets when you’re talking about coming up against some of the best attacking players in the league. I think for the majority of the game against Chelsea and Tottenham we defended very well it’s just one chance and they seemed to score.”
Carragher says Liverpool are limiting their opposition to few real chances: “It’s not that the goalkeeper Mignolet was pulling off all kinds of saves,” he said, “so I think as a team we are defending well, but it just seems that when the opposition gets a chance they’re putting it away.”
At the start of the season the Reds conceded three times in one game at the Emirates but Carragher can see Liverpool have improved as the back four has become more settled. “Against Arsenal it was slightly different, the three goals, but I’m sure given time, and with Matip and Lovren going forward as a partnership, I think it’ll be a lot better the more this team plays together and the more players integrate into the team.
“Milner’s still getting used to playing at left-back as well so there are signs it’s improving but it’s just nice, as I know playing in there, to keep that clean sheet. It’s like forwards getting goals, that’s what you want to do.”
Dejan Lovren and summer signing Joel Matip have now played a number of games together and their understanding is improving, Carragher says the importance of a settled centre-half partnership shouldn’t be underestimated: “It’s massive,” Carra says. “You can build on that.
“I always remember something Ronnie Moran used to say when I first joined: if your two centre backs play well, no matter how everyone else plays you’ve got a chance of winning the game and I think he’s right.
“If your two centre-backs build a partnership, don’t get too many injuries, can play week-in week-out you can build from that.
“It’s something to build your back four on, maybe getting clean sheets at times and, at times – as we know from when we played – you need a Fernando Torres, a Michael Owen, a Robbie Fowler, whoever it may be, they can nick you a goal and you can win games.”
Carragher says that the importance of a solid back four could be what earns Liverpool the points at times this season because he doesn’t believe the Reds will be able to maintain their exciting, free-flowing ruthless football through every game of the campaign.
“How well Liverpool have started the season, it’s impossible to continue in that vein of form. They can’t continue like that every week, they’ve been in fantastic form but there’s going to be times when they need to play poorly and win, to nick games 1-0 – and a lot of that comes from your centre-backs.
With Matip and Lovren doing so well at the back and Ragnar Klavan recovering from a recent injury it looks like Mamadou Sakho is further away from the first team picture than he’s been since joining the Reds. He’s also had run-ins with Klopp whilst away on the tour of the US, getting sent home early, and his absence at the end of last season after being accused of doping irregularities – later dismissed – may not have helped his situation.
So, what does Sakho need to do to get himself back in the team? “Behave himself by the sound of it!” Carra laughed.
“I don’t really know what’s going on but I think it’s off the pitch more than on it because I think he did OK in the second half of last season under Jürgen.
“I’m sure the manager wasn’t happy about the situation towards the end of last season, him and Lovren a great partnership and he ends up missing out on the Europa League final.
“He’s come back and obviously things have gone on.”
Carragher believes he will have his work cut out getting back where he was before his suspension in the spring: “I think it might be difficult for him to come back to be honest.
“There was talk of him going on loan, whether that was with a view to moving him on or in terms of what the manager said fitness wise who knows?
“Maybe we’ll find out around January time, if he does look to move Sakho on or to integrate him into the team.
“It’s OK saying get his fitness back but where’s he going to play, when’s he going to get that fitness back?”
With Liverpool drawn against Tottenham in the next round of the EFL Cup Carra believes the distance between Sakho and the first has lengthened even further.
“I just don’t know how he comes into the first team,” he said. “Of course he can play with the reserves, those kind of games give you a bit of fitness, but I don’t think he’s going to come in now and take the two centre backs’ place who are playing now, maybe even Klavan.
“You look at the [EFL] Cup game we’ve now got Spurs,that’s a huge game against top opposition and so it seems like he missed his chance in the first two rounds of the cup really, against maybe lesser opposition, where you can bed yourself in.”
Carragher also shared his views on the situation with James Milner taking over from Alberto Moreno at left back, and you can hear that along with some insight from Reds Legends Ray Houghton and John Arne Riise on this week’s podcast.
Also this week, former LFC Academy coach Hughie McAuley discusses the season so far from a youth perspective and former Hull captain Ian Ashby calls in to explain what Liverpool can expect from his old club in this weekend’s Premier League clash at Anfield.