Why £20m man should be Liverpool's first choice this season

Dejan Lovren has enjoyed an impressive start to life at Anfield.

Thirteen minutes into his Liverpool debut, the Croatian had headed home from a corner to double the Reds' lead against Borussia Dortmund.

But, unlike what has become the norm for Liverpool defenders these days, Lovren also put in a fantastic display from a defensive viewpoint.

It was only a friendly, of course, but the fact that Brendan Rodgers' side kept a clean sheet was in no small part down to Lovren's efforts.

The 25-year-old, it seems, has brought his Southampton form to Merseyside, which bodes well for the Reds this season. And, should Lovren produce during the games that really matter, there is a strong case in suggesting he should be Liverpool's first-choice centre-back for the forthcoming campaign.

  TeamTackles Won / appInterceptions Won / appEffective Clearances / appAerial Duels Won / appGoalsAppsMins
Dejan Lovren Southampton 1.55 2.71 7.71 3.26 2 31 2,788
Mamadou Sakho Liverpool 1.39 1.50 7.56 2.67 1 18 1,480
Daniel Agger Liverpool 1.00 1.05 5.65 2.25 2 20 1,420
Martin Skrtel Liverpool 1.00 1.67 11.39 3.58 7 36 3,222

As Opta stats show, Lovren won more tackles and interceptions per game than any of Liverpool's leading centre-backs last term, while also averaging more clearances and won aerial duels than Mamadou Sakho and Daniel Agger.

And, like he proved at Anfield against Dortmund, the Croatian can score, providing a constant threat from set-pieces. At 25, meanwhile, Lovren has a blend of youth and experience - and has proven how suited he is to the Premier League from his time at St Mary's.

These are all obvious reasons that Rodgers spent £20 million on him, of course, but that fee will go largely wasted if the Croat isn't used to his full potential.

Liverpool's defensive problems last season were the one aspect of the side that could be considered below top-four quality. Anfield saw sloppy goals conceded all season - and a lack of a consistent pairing at centre-back didn't help.

Now, Lovren can help solve the problem - if not solve it altogether. Indeed, playing him through the middle with Martin Skrtel will likely be the Reds' best partnership. Agger may be leaving the club, while Sakho is not consistent enough to be picked ahead of 25-year-old Lovren.

The Frenchman proved his strength at the back last term - but not his ability on the ball. Throughout the campaign, Sakho looked clumsy in possession and he has continued the trend of giving the ball away on a regular basis this pre-season. He should certainly receive his fair share of games - but not as the no.1 pick.

It is Lovren, then, that should be Liverpool's first-choice centre-back, with Skrtel his partner. Any other scenario could see the Reds continue to leak goals. And that could prove even costlier this time around.

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