Former defender Martin Keown thinks Liverpool missed Virgil van Dijk’s calmness on the ball as Joel Matip “panicked in possession”.
The Reds played out a goalless draw in the first leg of their last-16 Champions League clash against Bayern Munich on Tuesday night in a fairly uneventful match.
And Keown thinks Jurgen Klopp’s men missed Van Dijk’s positive nature on the ball despite keeping Bayern Munich’s attackers at bay.
“Everyone thought the absence of Virgil van Dijk would cost Liverpool defensively,” Keown told the Daily Mail. “While the makeshift centre-half pairing of Joel Matip and Fabinho kept a clean sheet — no mean feat against Bayern Munich — they missed the Dutchman’s forward thinking.
“Positivity from the centre backs is crucial to the way Jurgen Klopp’s team play. Van Dijk and Joe Gomez — Liverpool’s first-choice pairing — are usually effortless in possession. They are always looking to play forwards to give the platform to build their attacks.
“That was not always the case on Tuesday night. Matip, in particular, panicked in possession. His most frequent pass in the first half was back to Alisson, finding his goalkeeper eight times.
“It prevented Liverpool from getting on the front foot and striking an early blow.
“Bayern may not be the force they once were but they still carry the aura of champions. They were able to grow in confidence throughout the match and their forwards quickly started to anticipate that Matip would keep going backwards.
“When I was playing in defence for Arsenal nothing made Arsene Wenger more angry than when we passed back to David Seaman. Go forward and the opposition are deterred from pressing your goalkeeper. Go back and you only invite them on.”