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14th Sep 2017

Phil Neville’s suggestion would make Liverpool’s defence even worse

What a terrible idea

Robert Redmond

Liverpool’s shaky defence has come under scrutiny over the past week.

Jurgen Klopp’s side played out a 3-3 draw with Watford on the opening weekend of the season, conceding twice from set-pieces. They then recorded two clean sheets in a row against Crystal Palace and Arsenal respectively. However, any hope that Liverpool had developed some defensive solidity now appears misguided after their last two results.

Manchester City put five past them on Saturday, and Sevilla scored from their two shots on target on Wednesday night in the Champions League, earning a 2-2 draw. Liverpool had 24 shots of their own, but couldn’t find a way to win.

Jurgen Klopp evidently sees that his side has defensive issues, as he tried to make Virgil van Dijk the most expensive defender in the world, but Southampton wouldn’t do business.

Van Dijk is an obvious upgrade on Dejan Lovren or Ragnar Klavan. Yet, there is a sense that the Dutch defender alone wouldn’t be enough as Liverpool’s defensive troubles are a collective issue, rather than because of certain individuals – as Jamie Carragher stressed to Jamie Redknapp when analysing Liverpool’s draw with Watford.

Redknapp argued that Van Dijk would instantly improve Liverpool, but Carragher was adamant that the issues run deeper, and Liverpool’s problems cannot be solved by one player alone.

There were merits to both arguments, even if we have to agree with Carragher on this one. However, at least there was a basis for Redknapp’s view, unlike the nonsense Phil Neville came out with on Wednesday night.

The former Manchester United defender, speaking following Liverpool’s draw with Sevilla, claimed that Joe Hart would improve Klopp’s team.

“I think they’ve got problems at centre-back,” Neville told BBC 5 Live on Wednesday night.

“But I’m surprised he really didn’t go out and get Joe Hart – a real top-class, experienced goalkeeper.”

Presenter Mark Chapman then asked Neville if he still considers Hart “a top-class goalkeeper.”

“I think he’s better than what Liverpool have got. I think he would have given them a bit of stature at the back.”

Neville spouted so much drivel in two sentences that it’s almost impressive.

  1. Phil might be the only person “surprised” Klopp didn’t sign Hart, a goalkeeper with serious question marks about his ability.
  2. Hart is not a “top-class goalkeeper”. He never was, and evidence suggests he’s actually a distinctly average ‘keeper. West Ham’s 2-0 victory over Huddersfield was Hart’s first clean sheet in 23 league games – that’s more than half a season worth of fixtures.
  3. If Huddersfield had have shot low to Hart’s left, he probably would have gone 24 games without a clean sheet. As The Telegraph noted, after three games of the season, the West Ham ‘keeper had conceded five goals from seven shots down to his left.
  4. Opposition teams are aware of this weakness in his game. At Torino last season, Hart faced 44 shots down low to his left and just 25 to his right. The season before that, his last with Manchester City, the England number one faced 28 shots down low to his left and 18 to his right.
  5. He has conceded 10 goals in four games this season, and was beaten with a shot to his left against Slovakia when on international duty. Gareth Bale scored a free-kick to Hart’s left at Euro 2016 and Leigh Griffiths scored two free-kicks for Scotland against England back in June when Hart was in goal.
  6. Both Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius have failed to convince Liverpool fans that they are capable of cementing the number one spot for Klopp’s side. But there’s nothing to suggest Hart is better than either.
  7. Phil’s argument that Hart would have given Liverpool “a bit of stature at the back” is just nonsense. The last thing a jittery Liverpool defence need is Joe Hart screaming at them, posturing for the cameras and then conceding goals to his left.
  8. Karius wasn’t really at fault for Sevilla’s goals on Wednesday night. Mignolet has been solid enough since returning to the team earlier this year. No-one could look at the goals Liverpool conceded since the start of the season and concluded that the goalkeeper is the cause of their defensive issues.

Once again, Phil Neville’s punditry would leave you scratching your head.