Merely a few months ago, the idea of Alberto Moreno having a future at Liverpool was unthinkable. Last season was a torrid one for the Spaniard — not only did he lose his place at left-back to a 31-year-old central midfielder but the most memorable image of him was arguably the one of him ‘bottle-flipping’ while sat on the bench against Southampton at Anfield. The ‘bottle-flipping’ almost epitomised Moreno’s career as an object of ridicule ever since his arrival at the club and with rumoured interest from former team Sevilla as well as an £11m bid from Napoli, it would have been a surprise for everyone if Moreno was still at Liverpool come deadline day.
However, then came Bayern Munich. I think it would be an understatement to say that most fans were surprised to see Moreno in our strongest line-up – why was Klopp starting someone who was seemingly on his way out of the club in our best team? Despite his questionable inclusion, Moreno was phenomenal that night in the Allianz-Arena. It was one of the best performances from a left-back I’ve seen in a long time; he was defensively incredible, making crucial tackles and nullifying the threat of Muller and James, while he was arguably even better when going forward, making key passes and providing a wonderful assist for Mane. Considering the talent on display, it would have been laughable before the game to suggest Moreno would have been the best player on the pitch but that’s exactly what he was. After he followed this up with another good performance against Bilbao and started the season against Watford, it seemed as if Moreno’s fortunes were perhaps changing at Anfield.
Part of me thinks that Moreno is often unfairly criticised. I know he played a huge part in costing us silverware in the Europa League final and often seems to play as if he lacks a brain but apart from that how much did he do wrong last season? Apart from the opening day against Arsenal and the open goal miss against West Brom, Moreno did a decent job last season and it often feels as if fans scrutinise him far too much purely based on the game against Sevilla. He still has obvious flaws but every mistake he makes tends to be overanalysed and blown out of proportion and he seems to be judged much more harshly than he probably should be. It was bizarre that Moreno didn’t get more opportunities last season considering Milner’s lacklustre form after February and it seemed to reflect how lowly rated he was by Klopp.
Therefore, after signing Andrew Robertson, Klopp’s decision to start the season with the same player who he benched for the whole of the last campaign seemed strange but on reflection it actually makes more sense. Even with Klopp’s claims that Moreno is like a ‘new signing’, the reason for his decision could simply be down to a slight change in system. Like with Alexander-Arnold, who the manager has openly admitted needs to work on his defending, Klopp knows that Moreno isn’t the best defender but is still deciding to start him anyway, which perhaps suggests that he is going with the tactic of simply trying to outscore the opposition. With the devastating attacking threat that our front three provide, Klopp may be trying to counteract the lack of creativity from midfield with full-backs that prioritise attacking over defending.
Although this may result in an extremely exciting brand of football, it’s still a very risky experiment to be making, especially when good results are needed to boost morale around the club at this point. In spite of scoring five goals in two games, which is a very impressive total, Liverpool have conceded only one less than this, which from a defensive standpoint is worrying. If Klopp is willing to abandon defending in the short term while waiting for either the return of Coutinho or the signing of a new creative midfielder, it could work but this can in no way be a long term plan. As Chelsea showed last season, a solid defence wins titles and this is simply something Klopp cannot choose to sacrifice just to add more attacking impetus.
The next few games are definitely make or break for Moreno. He needs to prove that for all the positive aspects he contributes when going forward, he still has the ability to not be caught out of position and defend effectively. With the emphasis on deadly speed in attack, the Spaniard is perfect for Klopp’s system at the moment but once the gaffer has a solid defence, Moreno could be in trouble. It is vital for his Liverpool future that he makes a great impression in the next month as otherwise it will be game over and Andrew Robertson will be more than willing to grasp his opportunity.