Along with Lucas and Mamadou Sakho, left-back Alberto Moreno has arguably been Liverpool’s Player of the Season so far, but it’s easy to forget that he wasn’t in the starting lineup until Brendan Rodgers switched to a wing-back formation.
The indication was that our former manager didn’t think the Spaniard was defensively capable in a flat back-four, instead favouring young Joe Gomez, a centre-back, in the position.
But since Jurgen Klopp’s arrival Moreno has started on the left of a back four, and done superbly – quashing suggestions that can’t be trusted in the role.
And the player himself thinks it’s a matter of trust, which has inspired him to up his level.
“Jurgen talks with me a lot,” Moreno began, cited in the Echo.
“I do feel he trusts me, he spends a lot of time with me. The fact he has spent so much time with me, I think, shows up in good performances on the field.
“I perhaps felt that Brendan didn’t have quite so much confidence in me, certainly at the start of the season. He told me I was training hard but then I didn’t feature for those first five or six games.
“He said to me that it was still early in the season and that my opportunity would come but after the first game against Stoke, when we kept a clean sheet, he said he wasn’t going to change anything defensively at that point.
“It is true that when I was out of the team I was angry. It never entered my head that I was going to leave as I want to stay forever, but I had this inner anger, a rage almost.
“I felt I was playing well, training well. He told me that I was training well. But I couldn’t see why I wasn’t getting a chance at the beginning.”
“I think I am playing well,” Moreno continued.
“I feel like I have fully integrated into the team again. Not being in the side for the first five or six games just inspired to me work as hard as I could in training so I could fight for my place in the starting XI.
“The manager has a huge passion for the game which I think I do. He wants you to express yourself on the field. He wants you to offer not 100% but 200% when you are performing and I think I offer that. It fits in with me.
“He really wants me to learn English as quickly as possible so he can get his ideas over. I have to brush up on my English.
“Through Lucas, he tells me to get forward, to be attack-minded. When I am defending, he tells me to be aggressive and stay tight to the person that I am marking. When I am going forward, not to be scared or play with tension and to be relaxed in possession of the ball.”
“The people of the city were very excited when he was coming in. It was the same for us too. It transmitted to us.
“We know that Klopp is a great manager, an important manager and a very good coach. We also knew it was important for the club, a great change.
“I am confident that it will come good. It didn’t start so well with the three draws but then we got out first win. I am convinced sooner or later things are going to go well for the club and we will get many more victories under him.
“I think that it has been a 100% change. Everything is totally different. He spoke to all the players and the first thing he said to us was that he was going to judge things on what he saw and what he felt. He told us we all started from zero. He said the present had nothing to do with the past and the previous regime.”
Moreno’s newfound defensive confidence was visible during our draw with Southampton on Saturday, as the 23-year-old sprinted back into our box to tackle an onrushing Sadio Mane brilliantly. It earned him raucous applause, and Moreno says that’s the reason he steps out onto the field.
“I love it when something like that happens,” he said. “When the fans get behind you and congratulate you for a good piece of play like in that case the tackle, it’s amazing.
“It’s almost why you go out on the field to perform well and do things well for the fans. The other reason I go out on the field is to defend well and put in challenges like that. I know that my first job is to defend, and I think I’m much better defensively this year,
“That part of my game is primarily what I’m in the team for, but as well I still have that desire and love of going forward when I get the chance.
“I haven’t just learned to defend under Klopp, I‘ve been defending since I was a kid and learnt the art of defending before he arrived.
“But what is true is that he spends a lot of time on the training field on how we set up – not just defensively but also where we are position wise in the middle of the field and also in attack.
“Each training session is quite tactical, we cover a lot of positional work and strategy as well. I think you can start to see that on the field where we are working as one and we seem very united as a group.”
It’s great to our fullback so motivated, and his current positive mindset has resulted in high level performances. He has the potential to develop into one of the Premier League’s best attacking fullbacks, and we hope Klopp can continue to nurture his talent.