The dust has settled on the Reds’ season. A second half collapse in Basel saw Liverpool succumb to Sevilla in the 2015/16 UEFA Europa League final. One major talking point out of the game came in the form of a certain Liverpool left-back, who left the St. Jakob-Park Stadium as public enemy number one.
It was on the eve of the 2014/15 Super Cup final against Real Madrid that Liverpool and Sevilla both announced a deal had been concluded for the Spanish left back; Alberto Moreno Pérez to move to Merseyside. Jose Enrique struggled with injuries throughout the 2013/14 season and this catapulted Jon Flanagan into the first team. With Brendan Rodgers unwilling to put his full faith in Enrique, he earmarked Moreno to give some competition to Flanagan. In the 2014/15 preseason, Flanagan developed fluid in a knee and underwent surgery to correct it. His knee problems would keep him out for the majority of the 2014/15 season and with Enrique still struggling, Moreno became the default option at left-back.
Moreno made his league debut on the 25th August 2014 away to Manchester City in a disappointing 3-1 league defeat. He was at fault for the first goal, opting to try and clear the ball with the outside of his left foot rather than clearing with his right. This allowed Stevan Jovetic the opportunity to smash the ball under Simon Mignolet. However, in the next game he scored a wonderful break away goal to cap off a 3-0 win at White Hart Lane. Spells in and out of the side followed until Rodgers switched to his now infamous 3-5-2 that propelled Liverpool up the table during that season.
With the formation change, Moreno played primarily as a left wing-back and this coincided with an upturn in his performances. However, towards the back end of the 2014/15 season, Moreno put in some poor performances notably in the final home game of the season against Crystal Palace. He was also replaced at half time in the 6-1 mauling away to Stoke City. This is not to say that anyone in Liverpool colours could walk away from the Britannia Stadium feeling they did themselves justice that day. Moreno lost his position at the beginning of the 2015/16 season to new signing Joe Gomez. That was until Gomez suffered an unfortunate cruciate knee ligament injury that cut his season short.
Moreno is effective when joining in the attack providing the outlet on the left. He can strike a decent ball which is evident in the debut goal he scored against Tottenham at White Hart Lane. When defending, however, he is aerially weak, is often caught out of position, and can be rash inside his own penalty area. He makes questionable decisions in dangerous areas which leads to goal-scoring opportunities for opponents. Away to Norwich City on the 23rd January 2016, he gave away the penalty that led to Norwich’s third goal. This gave Norwich a two goal advantage at that point in the match and had it not been for some defensive lapses from Norwich themselves, it could have proved costly. During the Europa League final, a weak header from Moreno on the edge of his own box, presented Mariano Ferreira with the ball. Mariano then skipped past tame challenges from Moreno and Philippe Coutinho before firing across for Kévin Gameiro to equalise 17 seconds into the second half. These moments will stick in the mind of fans alike, as Moreno’s defensive lapses in concentration is not an uncommon sight. Another instance against Villarreal in the second leg of the Europa League semi-final, Moreno almost gave away a penalty; again bundling over a player in the box.
The errors in decision-making could be down to how Moreno reacts to the fatigue of playing a large number of consecutive games over a short period of time. The Norwich game, for example, occurred at the end of the notoriously hectic winter period of British football. Moreno featured heavily for Liverpool due to the other left full-back options at the club still recovering from long term injuries. In the case of the Europa League final against his hometown club, it is impossible to rule out the occasion affecting him emotionally. There is also the added ingredient of Liverpool struggling to effectively field a settled back line for any sustained period of time. Many factors including injury, loss of form, and the change of management, coupled with changes in formation, contributed to consistent changes. Stability has been lacking at the back for Liverpool for a long time.
With Liverpool missing out on European football altogether for the upcoming season, their fixture schedule should be significantly lighter. In addition, Jon Flanagan has been back in training for a number of months now and he’ll be able to provide cover at left-back. With the lighter fixture schedule, Jurgen Klopp and his men should be able to afford beneficial defensive training for Moreno and the rest of the defence between games. No European football could hinder the pursuit of an upgrade at left-back even with the ‘Klopp’ lure, and there are other positions in the squad that require more attention. Moreno may have one more season to convince Klopp that he can improve on his defensive weaknesses and become a left-back who can be fully trusted.