The former Reds striker says “the art of defending was dead” as Jurgen Klopp’s side suffered a humbling 7-2 defeat at Aston Villa
Virgil van Dijk lacks the leadership skills of Liverpool greats Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson, says Stan Collymore, with a stunning 7-2 defeat for the Reds at Aston Villa showing that “the art of defending was dead”.
Jurgen Klopp’s reigning Premier League champions were given a rude awakening in their most recent outing.
Questions were already being asked of their decision to play with a high line at the back prior to heading to the West Midlands, but chinks in their armour were ruthlessly exposed by Villa.
Many are writing a humbling reversal off as a freak result, with Liverpool’s success over recent years proving that their methods can deliver rich rewards.
Collymore, though, believes issues in defence have to be addressed, with talismanic figures such as Dutch centre-half Van Dijk needing to accept more responsibility as they inspire others with their actions.
The former Liverpool striker told The Mirror when reflecting on a remarkable contest at Villa Park: “If ever we needed proof that the art of defending was dead, then Liverpool and Manchester United provided it on Sunday.
“Liverpool, in particular, given their status as the reigning Premier League, European and world champions.
“And what worried me most about their performance was the fact Aston Villa didn’t even have to break their will to put seven goals past them — they simply rolled over and waved Ollie Watkins and Co through.
“I’m not saying Van Dijk is anything other than a grade A, world-class footballer, because we all know he is. But what bothered me was how little responsibility he nor any of the other individuals in Liverpool and United shirts wanted to take.
“Hansen and Lawrenson or [Gary] Pallister and [Steve] Bruce would have soon worked out a team was getting the run on them and would have taken responsibility, dropping off for five or six minutes to force opponents to try to find a different way through.
“These days, though, nothing ever seems to change — it’s as if players and managers are waiting until half-time for someone else to sort things out, or for the end of a game for an inquest.
“Even managers seem to want to keep doing the same thing even when it’s not working because, ‘That’s the way we play’.
“Well, I’m sorry, but that shouldn’t be the case and I wish someone could tell me what has changed since 1996, when Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle capitulated in the title race by continuing to be gung-ho and everyone called him naive.
“If me, Alan Shearer, Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Les Ferdinand, Ian Wright or any of the other top strikers who were around in my day had been playing against Liverpool on Sunday, we’d have walked off with three match balls given that nothing changed.”
Liverpool have the international break to fix any supposed faults in their plans, with a return to action set to be made in a derby date with high-flying Everton at Goodison Park on October 17.