Liverpool's leaky defence explained by Brendan Rodgers: 'It is because we haven't pressed the ball high enough'
The Reds have no problems going forward, but they've been conceding at the back as well
Friday 28 February 2014
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is less concerned about his defence than he is about winning their way to a successful end to the season.
The Reds have kept just two clean sheets in their last 11 games stretching back to mid-December, have conceded seven goals in their last three matches and their defensive record is the second-worst of the top 11 teams.
But, in contrast, they are the Premier League's leading scorers with 70 in 27 games and their superior firepower in their last two league matches against Fulham and Swansea is what has kept them afloat in the title race.
That does not mean defence is not an area Rodgers wants to improve but with just over two months of the season remaining results become ever more important.
"We obviously conceded disappointing goals last weekend (in beating Swansea 4-3) but ultimately at this stage of the season it is about winning," said Rodgers.
"We conceded one goal from a free-kick, another was a penalty and another was an incredible finish by Jonjo Shelvey.
"We have put in some outstanding team performances over the last four to six weeks and been so exciting to watch going forward.
"It's a collective effort. When we attack and score the goals we have it is because of the squad.
"If we've scored 70 goals and are the highest goalscorers it is because we are building a platform for the team to go forward and play.
"If we defend (badly) it is because we haven't pressed the ball high enough at the top of the field and that is a consequence for the rest of the team.
"It is just (having) that composure and focus but it is not just the back four and goalkeeper. Ultimately we won the game.
"This is a team evolving and improving all the time, and I will never move that to the side. You can never stop: performance is important for us because winning is a natural consequence of that.
"We don't put the team out every week to look nice, we are working to win.
"We won't play perfect football but we have put ourselves in a great position with 11 games to go."
That position is currently a healthy-looking fourth place, just four points behind leaders Chelsea and six ahead of fifth-placed Tottenham.
Champions League qualification remains the aim for this season and Rodgers believes his squad have the wherewithal to close that out even with the odd defensive wobble.
"I don't think there is any question about the character in the team; they've shown enough resilience this season to come from behind and to get something out of games we might have lost a year ago," he added.
"One of the key facets of this squad is the spirit. They score as a team and when we defend well there is a real camaraderie around that unit.
"That has been fostered over a period of time and takes hard work by the staff, players and everyone.
"It is isn't about any individual. We will improve individuals here because of the nature of our work but there is no-one more important than the team and thankfully the players have bought into that."
Liverpool have lost their last two matches against Saturday's opponents Southampton and their previous three visits to St Mary's but this is a fixture Rodgers knows they have to win to strengthen their grip on a top-four place.
Mauricio Pochettino's side are the only team to win at Anfield this season but the Liverpool manager believes much has changed since that encounter in September.
"We have improved quite a lot. On that day we had injuries that meant we had to put different players into different positions that probably wouldn't suit how we want to work normally," Rodgers said.
"But it doesn't mean it's going to be any less of a game. St Mary's has been a traditionally difficult place to go, and especially for Liverpool over a number of years.
"But we've got great belief and confidence at the moment. We know what we're going into each game looking to achieve, and we're going in with the ability and focus to get the results."
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