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It is now 333 minutes since Liverpool’s backline was breached, when Shrewsbury Town’s Daniel Udoh wandered between £110 million worth of centre-backs to score his first FA Cup since netting against Oxford City from the National League South.
There was an element of shock value to Jurgen Klopp playing against two divisions below them in the football pyramid, while also feeling their way through most of January without Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mane.
But since then it has been a shift in emphasis which has led to three clean sheets in a row. Klopp admits it is deliberate. With Salah and Mane at the African Cup of Nations, the question has been how Liverpool replace the irreplaceable. Yet the answer has been making sure they are tighter at the other end.
“It's essential, it's the only way you can do it. When you lose key players for injuries or tournaments or whatever, then the solution is not that you will be flying in the next game,” said Klopp. “It's not that you say 'okay now we will score five or six and create chances like hell'.
“Wherever they are on the pitch, whether it's strikers, midfielders or whatever, you have to adapt. In our case, it was 100 per cent clear that we need to be solid - rock solid - and we know that, that's a clear agreement.”
Virgil van Dijk has been a constant during Liverpool’s run of clean sheets, aided by Joel Matip or Ibrahima Konaté, with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson concentrating on solidity as much as their usual forward runs.
“Maybe you don't see it all the time but we [are] defending first, let me say it like this. We have to be organised, that's the basis for everything we do. And in this moment, I can see outstanding commitment to our defending, that's how it is,” said Klopp.
“Everybody is 100 per cent involved in everything because they understand it's now more important than ever. That's helpful that we didn't concede then. But it was clear we had to do it like this, put defending above everything to have a chance for results. If you want to have results, it's not that you fly through every period of a season with 3-0 4-0 5-0, you have to win football games 1-0, that's how it is.
“I like them as well; I don't like the 90 minutes most of the time but, afterwards, I take them like I take all other results. That was obviously necessary and the boys understood.”
So while Liverpool have scored 16 goals without reply in their last four games against Crystal Palace, it is unlikely to be a repeat of the 7-0 victory at Selhurst Park last season.
Van Dijk’s number of games has surprised some this season following his return from a serious knee injury. He played against Shrewsbury and both EFL Cup semi-final legs when he may have been expected a breather.
The Dutchman’s only Premier League matches missing this season was after testing positive for Covid-19, which Klopp admits impacted his form when he returned.
“I’m not surprised about pretty much anything that happened but it was just because it was a long recovery and there were little bumps going on there but that is normal,” said Klopp.
“Virg had to learn a lot of things, like some physical things are just not available like they were before - his family came back but it was not from the first day that it was like this. You have to adapt to these things. There are worries. I’ve had injuries myself and you cannot ignore that.
“When you are an intelligent person like Virg you can’t ignore everything or say ‘who cares’. The way back your best is a bumpy one and it did exceptionally well. The biggest thing was after Covid. We still don’t understand it 100 per cent. I see when players can’t (do something) which was the case in one or two games.
"Now we are over that as well and I’m really pleased with the development. Especially with long-term injuries we have done really well.”