Steve Nicol believes that Liverpool need to sort out one issue within their current squad if they’re to be considered as genuine contenders for the Premier League title this season.
A strong start with 10 points taken from a possible 12 (including wins over Newcastle and Aston Villa, both of whom are in European competition) has offered hope of competing near the summit of the table this time around, following a lowly fifth-place finish last term.
However, the former Reds player has insisted that Jurgen Klopp’s side need to improve defensively and lower the number of chances they present to opponents if they’re to truly push champions and early leaders Manchester City.
Speaking on ESPN FC, Nicol said: “I’m not in the camp [that] they’re going to contend with City… going forward I think everybody at Liverpool should be quite happy. I think Liverpool will score goals, which means they’re going to win games.
“One of the problems they have that we’re not quite sure is going to be fixed, certainly with this current squad, is the back line. It doesn’t seem to give an awful lot of cover to Alisson in goal and when anybody gets at it, it gives up chances, it gives up shots.
“So far this season, not a lot of goals [conceded], but as I said, if you keep giving chances up, then you’re going to start losing goals.
“The one thing Liverpool don’t want to do, they don’t want to have to be scoring three or four goals every week to win games, because you are not winning anything by doing that. For those reasons, that’s why I don’t think they are quite yet ready to be title contenders.”
The Reds’ tally of three goals conceded is the second-lowest in the Premier League so far this season (after Man City with two), but Nicol’s point about the regularity with which our opponents are getting chances against us is a pertinent one.
Liverpool’s xGA (expected goals against) is 5.3, which is inferior to six top-flight teams (FBref) and suggests that either Alisson is having to perform heroics (as he did against Newcastle) or that the opposition are letting us off the hook by missing opportunities they’d expect to score.
We saw during the 2013/14 season how a leaky defence which shipped 50 goals ultimately saw us fall narrowly short to City in the title race. Let’s hope that, if we’re in a battle with the Manchester club again, the concession rate will be considerably lower this time around.
You can see Nicol’s comments below, via ESPN UK on YouTube: