Rodgers explains reason behind Lovren's excellent form, veiled criticism at Liverpool defender?

Brendan Rogers Press Conference Smiling - 16/02/2014

The Reds boss has been discussing the Croatian centre-back.

Liverpool head coach Brendan Rodgers says Joe Gomez and Nathaniel Clyne have 'really helped' Dejan Lovren turn his form around, according to the club's official website.

The 26-year-old struggled badly during his first year at Anfield but has made a promising start to his second season on Merseyside.

And the Liverpool boss has praised Lovren - as well as the full-backs flanking him. Could he, in essence, be suggesting Glen Johnson and Alberto Moreno simply weren't good enough last term?

Rodgers is quoted as telling reporters: "Like a lot of players, it was difficult in the first year coming in. There was a lack of stability in the overall group. It was a case of reassuring him that he’s still a top-quality player.

"What has really helped him has been the full-backs on either side - how quickly they close the game when we lose the ball, that transition, either to get the ball back or close the space.

"You saw examples from the other night. When the pitch was open we tried to play and when the game breaks down, how quickly it’s closed. [Nathaniel] Clyne and [Joe] Gomez on the sides really help the centre-halves."

 2015/16 TacklesInterceptionsClearancesMinutes Played
Emre Can 7 3 2 155
Nathaniel Clyne 7 7 8 270
Joseph Gomez 7 9 15 270
James Milner 6 1 3 270

There is certainly some sense in this particular Rodgers theory and, as Opta stats show, there are cold, hard numbers to back it up.

Indeed, Liverpool's full-backs have very much closed play down during their opening three Premier League appearances of the season. No one in the Northern Irishman's squad has won more tackles than either, while Gomez in particular - his meteoric rise continues - has made an abundance of interceptions and clearances.

Clearly, then, the Liverpool boss is right to praise the duo. And it's not unfair to read what he's saying as a veiled criticism of Johnson and Moreno, too. The former has already left Anfield but the latter's form now looks very disappointing with hindsight.

The 23-year-old came in as a Europa League winner. But what he couldn't manage is being made to look ridiculously easy by a teenager who was playing in the Championship last season.

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