The Rise of Ragnar

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Klopp’s transfer expertise 

 

Anyone that has heard of Jurgen Klopp will know that the German manager is no stranger to doing shrewd business in the transfer market. That was in fact one of the key qualities that enthralled Liverpool fan’s heading into his first summer transfer window in charge.

His transfer exploits were wonderfully documentated by his time at Borussia Dortmund as during his seven season spell at the helm of the ‘Bavarian’s, unheard players to much of the footballing world such as Robert Lewandowski, Mats Hummels and Ilkay Gundogan were all apart of the rise of the club from mid-table mediocrity to regular title challengers and hence being ranked up there with European football’s highest clubs. All three of the before-mentioned names cost a measly combined sum of £10.12 million and blossomed under the astute, but exuberant, eye of one of football’s most talented and exciting managers.

Now although Klopp is yet to recreate those stunning transfer feats on Merseyside and their has been no young,talented additions that have hit the heights of the stars that he enjoyed at his former employers, Klopp is already showing signs of using his transfer expertise in just his first full transfer window at Liverpool. While the likes of a young Lewandowski hasn’t exactly come through the doors of Melwood just yet, the Reds bargain of the summer is certainly nothing that should get fans off their seats but slowly Ragnar Klavan is emerging as another one of the manager’s better finds.

 

Ragnar Klavan is the perfect centre halve for Liverpool

 

At 31 years of age, Klavan is unlikely to materialise into a world class defender any time from now until the end of his career but what the Estonian defender has brought with him is a whole host of qualities that have, in recent times, improved Liverpool for the better. With Martin Skrtel parting ways with Liverpool after his nine-year association with the club, Kolo Toure’s contract not being extended and Mamadou Sakho’s removal from the first team squad – Jurgen Klopp was left with only two recognized first-choice centre halves in the shape of another new signing Joel Matip and the ever-unpredictable Dejan Lovren.

There was no doubt that Skrtel had lost a touch of ability over the last couple of seasons and his departure was not particularly unwelcomed by the fans, he did provide Liverpool with an old-school, sturdy, no-nonsence centre halve for many years and for that Liverpool fans were most grateful on the eve of his departure. In Klavan, Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool have seemingly found the ideal replacement for Skrtel and I am not just talking about their similar rough looks.

 

Klavan has had to be patient – and it’s paid off

 

Featuring in Liverpool’s first two games of the Premier League season, Klavan had to wait over a month until he regained his starting birth in the side courtesy of the injury to Joel Matip. With the 25-year-old defender suffering from a recurring ankle problem, Klavan found himself in and out of the squad on a monthly basis as he struggled to break up the partnership of Klopp’s preferred pairing of Lovren and the Cameroonian; as the German looked to solve Liverpool’s ever-present defensive woes by fielding a consistent defensive partnership. However just as the Reds seemed to be getting better defensively, disaster struck for Jurgen Klopp as the recurrence of Matip’s ankle problem returned.

It was no doubt very bad news for the whole team with a key first team player set for a spell on the sidelines. Also, with the fixtures coming thick and fast over the festive period and the course of January, (the reds will play a record of 9 games during January) fans feared the worst. Ragnar Klavan has since grasped the opportunity with both hands and given his manager a massive headache for when Matip comes back as the Estonian stalwart has well and truly risen to the occasion.

 

Is Klavan a surprise package? 

 

Klavan, much to the shock of Liverpool fans, has emerged as a more than adequate replacement for Matip and has turned in some fairly exceptional performances over the month of December. Recent superb performances against teams of the calibre of Everton, in the Merseyside Derby, and Manchester City is something definitely not to be ignored, especially when you consider he helped the Anfield outfit keep clean sheets against both. Yet despite this, the praise and recognition of the 31-year-old’s work seems to have gone largely unnoticed by both rival fans and Liverpool fans. Surely being involved in a back line that stops one of the best strikers in the league, in Sergio Aguero, from having a single touch of the ball in the oppositional box deserves immense credit.

The defensive statistics back up the fact that Klavan has been a revelation this term as statistically he has been considerably more reliable than Lovren. The Croatian has been responsible for a number of errors over the course of the 2016/17 season so far and that is evident by the fact that, on average per game, he has committed 0.06 errors leading to goals compared to Klavan and Matip’s zero. Now although that is a very marginal number and nothing to be too concerned about in the short term, judging by the 27-year-old’s tackling stats it’s no wonder why he has been at fault in at least one goal conceded this season

Dejan Lovren on Instagram after his mistake that lead to a Crystal Palace goal

Despite making 1 successful tackle per game, which is level with Klavan and slightly more than Matip, he has lost more tackles than his positional rivals. Lovren has lost 1.29 tackles on average per game this season compared to 1.10 and 0.83 for Klavan and Matip respectively. This perhaps suggest that, although Lovren has considerably improved under the guidance of Klopp, he still consists that rash side to his defensive game that Liverpool fans have seen on show far too many times since the Croation signed from Southampton in 2014. Klavan and Matip represent quite the obvious as both represent an ideal calmness at the back and both have made more successful passes than Lovren thus far, no doubt a key element to the modern centre halves game.

 

Reliable, consistent and unwavering 

While Klavan may not be the ideal long-term partner for the reliable Matip, the Estonian man has demonstrated to Liverpool fans that in the short-term, his experience and knowledge of the game is just as good, if not better, than Jurgen Klopp’s preferred choice of Lovren. When Joel Matip is back to full fitness, we can expect him to return to the regular starting line-up, alongside Dejan Lovren.

We suspect Klavan will continue his run in the first team as Liverpool look to start off on the front foot in the FA Cup semi-final first leg tie against Southampton tonight.

 

 

 

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