Former Reds player and manager Phil Thompson has warned Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren that he must maintain his early season form if he’s to keep his place in the side long-term.
The Croatian was selected ahead of fellow defender Mamadou Sakho to partner Martin Skrtel against Stoke City for the opening game of our Premier League season last weekend, and did well.
Lovren, who attracted a vast amount of criticism for his performances last season following his big money move from Southampton, appears to be fighting hard to earn the renewed faith of both his manager and the supporters – but Thompson insists that he won’t be able to live off the back of just one good showing.
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“Dejan must have impressed the manager over the course of pre-season,” he said, in quotes taken by the Echo.
“In my honest opinion, I probably would have gone with Sakho alongside Skrtel. The Liverpool fans I speak to are split around 50-50 over whether Lovren or Sakho should be starting. Both have plenty to prove. For me, Sakho’s positional play was a bit better than Dejan’s last season, particularly when we played three at the back.
“But in fairness to Dejan he has clearly done something right over the summer and he did very well against Stoke. Now that place in the side is Dejan’s to lose.”
The 26-year-old started in just 22 of our 38 Premier League matches last season, failing to justify his huge transfer fee and falling some way short of the form he’d shown on the South Coast the previous year.
However, Thompson admits he can understand the difficulties behind the transition, explaining that it can prove much harder playing for a club like Liverpool – where the spotlight is always on you.
“No disrespect to Southampton, but being a Liverpool player is completely different,” he continued.
“The attention and scrutiny on your performances at Liverpool is so much greater. There is more media and every mistake you make is magnified.
“Some people are blase about that leap and think ‘it’s not a problem’, but then it hits them in the face and I think Dejan was one of them. I think that pressure surprised him and how every error is highlighted and not much is made of your good performances because they’re expected. You have to learn to live with that.”
Thompson also pointed out that several of last summer’s signing – not just Lovren – need to up their game this year, after a disappointing first campaign on Merseyside.
“Playing for a big club, you have to deliver week in, week out,” he added. “Whether it’s a League Cup tie against a lower league team or a Premier League match against Manchester United, the pressure is always there.
“You never get a rest day. Some accept that and adjust to it straightaway, others need some time. Dejan, like a number of last summer’s signings, needs to push on this season. Adam Lallana has to step up and the same goes for Lazar Markovic and Alberto Moreno.”