For Dejan Lovren, injury could not have struck at a worse time.
Since his £20 million move to Liverpool from Southampton in 2014, the jury has very much been out on the Croatia international. In fact, more people than not believe that his price-tag comes nowhere near to the form he’s shown at the Reds.
It’s true that Lovren has struggled to display his true colours. He was given a stiff task from the beginning in fairness by Brendan Rodgers, who said he could lead the defence and take over from Jamie Carragher.
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Nonetheless, his maiden season at Anfield was far from inspiring. He committed no less than six defensive errors and was dropped to the bench for the most part after Christmas. His penalty miss in the last 32 of the Europa League and skied effort in the dying seconds of the FA Cup semi-final did not help public opinion of him, either.
The 26-year-old was given a fresh start by Rodgers at the start of this season. Again, Lovren failed to impress and soon found himself back out of the firing line following a dreadful error against West Ham United in October.
Upsurge In Form
However, he’s hit a decent vein of form since Jurgen Klopp took the reins at Anfield in October.
When Mamadou Sakho limped off injured in Novemeber’s 2-1 loss to Crystal Palace, Kopites feared how many goals their side would concede whilst the Frenchman was on the sidelines after adding much needed stability to the Reds’ rearguard.
Whilst Sakho has been injured, Lovren has reacted in the greatest manner possible and improved leaps and bounds, and been highly impressive alongside Martin Skrtel at the heart of Liverpool's back-four.
Previously, the Zenica-native played with little confidence. He was tentative on the ball and his positioning caused his side many problems.
That hasn’t been the case during his latest stint in the team. Instead, Lovren has almost looked the player that he was at Southampton and has been growing in confidence as each game passes.
He credited his good form to Klopp and admitted the German has inflicted a new lease of life into both himself and the entire Liverpool squad.
"We have only been working with him a short time, barely two months, and we have already had some good results with him," the ex-Lyon defender said on his manager.
"With time it will be better. With his methods and his way of working, I don't see how it cannot be better.”
When he came in for Sakho, his first game was against Manchester City. It was a stern test, but Lovren passed with flying colours in Liverpool’s 4-1 victory at the Etihad. He could not do anything about Sergio Aguero’s superb strike, with Skrtel’s poor clearance leading to the chance but, otherwise, he was technically sound and was a significant factor in thwarting the Citizen's luctrative forward line.
Lovren’s form throughout Novmeber was so impressive he was a surprise candidate for November Player of the Month. He was no match for Jamie Vardy, but it shows how much he did improve.
Disaster struck for Lovren when he was hit with a flying late challenge by Craig Gardener in the 2-2 draw with West Bromwich Albion and was forced to leave the field. Although he luckily avoided ligament damage, he faces three weeks on the treatment table.
To make matters worse for Lovren, Sakho is back and started against Watford at the weekend, though he was given a torrid time by Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo.
Lovren was in a position to keep his place and force Klopp to either keep Skrtel or Sakho on the bench. Despite the Frenchman's poor performance against the Hornets, if Sakho finds his stride along with the consistent Skrtel, it may be difficult for Lovren to win his place back.
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