Liverpool's Greatest Premier League Xl (Part 1 - Defenders!)

We are putting together the best ever XI to have don the famous red jersey in the Premier League era, starting with the defence.


Since the Premier League was formed in 1992, we have been really fortunate to have seen some really great Liverpool players strut their stuff at Anfield. Yes, the golden era might have been in the 80s, but we sure did have some truly magnificent players that graced the Premier League who captured the hearts and minds of the famous Kop.

Ok, the XI we all dream of but maybe not too many goals here...

Starting at the back

One of the Premier League's finest centre back

Defending is a key part of football and the Premier League was home to some world class defenders. The likes of John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Vincent Kompany spring to mind in more recent times, while the Martin Keowns, Tony Adams and Dennis Irwins were the stalwarts in the beginning of the Premier League.



We've selected a 4-3-3 formation for this Liverpool Boleh's Premier League All Time Greatest Liverpool XI, and we are kicking things off with the back-line and goalkeeper.


GK: Alisson Becker


The story of two Brazilian goalkeepers - one a legend and the other firmly in the making

Alisson Becker
Alisson played a starring role in his first season at Anfield

To kick things off, we have Alisson Becker in goal. To be fair, we haven't had too many goalkeepers that we can really shout about in the past 27 years, other than the likes of Pepe Reina and to an extent, Jerzy Dudek (would his name be mentioned as much today, if not for his Champions League heroics?).


Simon Mignolet was a mainstay at the club for about 5 years, and while he was far from terrible (think Loris Karius), he wasn't really going to propel Liverpool to the next level, to compete with the big boys for silverware. Karius was brought in to provide more quality, and well, we should have known what was coming from a pretty boy embracing a Mickey Mouse glove tattoo. We suspect he might actually have been wearing those Mickey's white gloves too in that heartbreaking night in Kiev.


Allison was signed in 18/19 season for 66.8 million pounds - making him the most expensive goalkeeper. The title was be then taken over by Sarri Arrizaba- oh I meant Kepa Arrizabalaga on the eve of transfer deadline day. And I am sure even die-hard Chelsea fans must question that decision, really.


"Ali", as teammates affectionately call him, had earlier in his career been competing for a spot with Brazilian legend Dida at Internacional. His outstanding ability and work ethic saw him oust Dida eventually and claimed the number 1 spot. That in itself, speaks volume of his ability. He then joined Liverpool after a really successful stint at AS Roma (despite conceding 7 goals against us in 2 legs), where he caught the attention of other European big boys as well.


Alisson stands out by making the difficult things look really simple, and that's all down to his great positioning. His ball distribution is second to none in the league, often kick-starting Liverpool counter-attacks with his swift and accurate distribution to the front three.


He is rarely caught out of position, which also means that he doesn't pull off those world class saves that you see in YouTube highlight reels quite as often - perhaps putting him slightly under the radar. That should not undermine his ability the slightest though, and being ahead of Ederson in the Brazil national team rightly justifies that.


But the real reason he is in the XI really it's because of his hair - how dare he turn up game after game, looking so good even with his unkempt, disheveled, I-don't-give-a-damn hair?

Or is it the beard? Or his eyes? We don't know, bit we are certain we will be fired from work almost immediately the day we turn up like that.


After winning the Champions League in his first season at the club as well as the Premier League Golden Glove, we can only expect more similar majestic performances - and cementing his place as one of the greatest Liverpool and Brazil ever had.



LB: Andrew Robertson


Oh, Andy, Andy!

Solid defending, assists, goals - everything you want from a modern full back

Surely to go down as one of Premier League's classic matches: Anfield, 15th January 2018 - Liverpool 4, Manchester City 3. The Reds were playing catch-up, chasing a runaway City team in the league who were unbeaten after 22 matches.



You can already sense that there was something special brewing in this Liverpool team (although the table shows us some 15 points behind) back then, and we raced to a 4-1 lead after just 68 minutes.


Who can forget the four glorious goals - Alex Oxlade Chamberlain's low drive, Roberto Firmino brushing John Stones away followed by a chip only Brazilians are capable of, Sadio Mane rasping shot that makes us wonder if footballers really have a "weak" foot and Mo Salah's lob that sent Anfield's faithful into an ecstatic frenzy?

The goals were great, but this was also the game that saw Andrew Robertson cement a special place in all of Liverpool fans' hearts. "Robbo" played like his entire life (and his pet dog's and possibly James Milner's life too) was dependent on the three points, running his socks off and putting in a shift so passionate that the intensity he stuck in for 90 minutes have almost certainly eclipsed both Ozil and Berbatov's entire careers combined.


This was summed up perfectly in one lung-busting, Forest Gump-esque press that we are about 100% sure we would shit in our pants if we were either Otamendi or Stones.

Robbo's one man conquest of the ball saw him setting off from his own left back position, before ending at City's left back spot, and ensuring Otamendi, till today, still endures sleepless nights of a charging Scot.


Robbo might not possess a left foot as powerful as John Arne Riise (who is a close contender for a spot in this list), but his crossing ability more than makes up for it, registering assist after assist, and long may that continue. His pace and aggression makes him a really tough opponent to beat and possesses good tackling skills too, certain an upgrade on his Spanish predecessor. More importantly, we do think it's his positional sense (which not many talk about) that allows him to become one of the most elite fullbacks - knowing when to make a foray forward and when to track back.


Fabio Aurielo was probably the last decent left-back we've had, and now we are enjoying all of the beauty of the Scot, for just some 8 million pounds from Hull City...


CB: Sami Hyypia


The Finnish gentle giant

For a decade, Hyypia was a rock at the heart of our defence
Signed for 2.6 million pounds in 1999, Sami Hyypia grew to become one of Premier League’s finest centre backs.

Standing at 1.93m, he first arrived in England pretty unknown, with a name most people at local coffeeshops will struggle to pronounce.


Hyypia went on to make over 400 appearances for the club - his towering presence saw him became a key leader in the dressing room, winning major trophies under Gerard Houllier.


He was never blessed with real pace - but at a whopping 1.93m, what were you expecting really? A certain Dutchman stands tall at the same height, but then again is Virgil really human? Height isn't the only similarity they share - being a real threat in the opponent's box was a constant theme throughout big Sami's career, scoring some 35 goals during his decade at Anfield, including some really important ones.


It was Hyypia's brilliant reading and understanding of the game that really stood out as one of his major attributes. Always calm on the ball too, he was the perfect partner for the rasher Jamie Carragher and Stephane Henchoz - forming some of the most stable defences we had.


Carragher, five years his junior, grew to become one of Liverpool’s very own legend, and we would think that a huge part of his growth was down to the Finnish giant. He too, knows it. “One of the greatest pieces of business Liverpool did was getting big Sami for 2.5 million pounds from Willem ll in 1999. What followed was a decade of supreme consistency. He transformed our defensive record and won 10 trophies.”


“The only thing he lacked was pace but he was the best partner I had a club level and our numbers over eight years were excellent.” Carragher explained.

Hyypia’s last game at Anfield will always remain a truly emotional moment, seeing a huge man so overwhelmed with raw emotions was truly touching, and that further drove home his reputation as one of the most genuine football man of his era and definitely deserving of a spot in this list.


CB: Virgil van Dijk


The calmest man on Planet Earth

Calm as you like

Virgil van Dijk has established himself as quite simply the best defender in world football since joining Liverpool in January 2018. This itself should be a fact, and not merely an opinion anymore. Who else will you even have the audacity to place in the same bracket as the Dutch? Ok fine, perhaps only this guy here.


Van Dijk combines grace and athleticism to the ultimate perfection, redefining the centre back position once more. Long gone are the days of “no-nonsense" defending, where you hoof the ball to Row Z as soon as you sense danger - instead retaining possession and setting up counter attacks are very much part of a back-line's job scope today.


Forget stats and numbers for a moment here, we all know of his extraordinary run of allowing a grand total of 0 players complete a successful dribble against him for the entirety of the season. Top defenders do that; they possess great tackling skills and a good reading of the game to make them hard to beat. In the case of van Dijk, he evidently perfected those attributes, but has so much more in his locker.



His calmness on the ball is second to none, he seems to be ten steps ahead of everyone else, a virtue that made Xavi the midfield maestro he was. He plays with an Ozil-esque finesse, making the hard things look really simple, gliding across the pitch so majestically and never needing to break a sweat.


And that has had a major influence on his defensive partners, too. We have seen the likes of Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren in particular raise their game to another level since his arrival – and it’s no coincidence. You can always see van Dijk commanding the players around him, instructing them to execute the next best move, almost as if he is controlling them on a PlayStation 4.


Van Dijk doesn’t sprint, he glides – and on the rare occasions when he has to, he is so quick that he catches up with the opponent in a few powerful strides. Adama Traore, probably the quickest player in the league can testify to that, being left on his backside after looking as though he had an edge over the colossal Dutch.


If there was a Puskas award handed out for defending, van Dijk will surely be handed the trophy after his defending masterclass he displayed against Tottenham.

The game was delicately poised, and Liverpool were caught out on a counter attack, with van Dijk facing a two-on-one situation which saw Mousa Sissoko and Son Heung Min baring down on goal. There was only five minutes left remaining in the game, and the chances of scoring in that situation was probably higher than that of a James Milner's spot-kick.


Van Dijk judged the situation expertly, cutting out the passing option to Son, who was undoubtedly a better finisher, and showed Sissoko on his left foot. With van Dijk seemingly caught out of position as he blocks the option to Son (which must surely result in a goal, had the Korean receive the ball), Sissoko must have thought that he had all the time in the world to pick a spot and put it past Alisson.


But it was as if van Dijk was a predator waiting for his prey to be weakened before making a move, closing in on Sissoko at the last moment as soon as he sensed that he had dallied for just a fraction of a second too long, just enough to put him off and see him blast it over the post.

At 27 and two seasons in Melwood now, and already with a Champions League medal around his neck, van Dijk is approaching his prime and the thought of him getting even better is probably a nightmare for the forwards in the league.


RB: Trent Alexander Arnold


"Corner taken quickly, Origi!”

Champions League gold and silver medal under his belt at just the age of 21

That will go down as one of the most iconic commentary moments in football history. It was another special European night that will forever be etched in the hearts of Liverpool fans, and we have a 21 year old Scouser to thank for.


The odds were completely stacked against Liverpool, having to overcome a 3-0 first leg deficit – no one really expected a result. But it’s Liverpool and a Champions League night at Anfield, which also means that an incredible result is not beyond the realms of possibility.


We were some 5000 km away from Anfield in sunny Singapore, but you can feel the belief bursting through the TV screen that night. Champions League nights means waking up at 3 am in the morning here, groggy and disoriented.


The Champions League anthem then plays and serves as the perfect antidote to all the sleepiness, gearing you up for yet another special European night at Anfield. You get goosebumps as the anthem echoes and the camera pans across the players' focused faces and you just wonder for a split second what's going through their minds.

Before you know it, it was 3-3, Gini Wijnaldum came on and scored two – one a header that reminded me so much of Gerrard’s first goal in Istanbul. Anfield was rocking. Barcelona had no idea what hit them, but Liverpool fans do. These European nights mean that the players perform at a 120 percent, the fans give another 120, and the hot dog sellers are at the form of their lives. No one really stood a chance the moment they came out of the tunnel.


And no one probably believe in that more than Trent, a local lad who grew up and saw the likes of Steven Gerrard perform miraculous feats that he can only dream of emulating. Only now, it’s not a dream.

Football is a game of tactics, drills and routines that footballers work on day in, day out. Set-pieces involve attackers practicing to be in the right place at the right time, knowing exactly where the ball might fall to score a goal. Defenders go through hundreds of such drills so that they can prevent that from happening.


Trent, presented the opportunity on one of the biggest stage in world football, threw all the footballing lessons he had out of the window in one single defining moment.



His audacity and brilliance saw him swing a quick corner while half the Barcelona players were still looking at the opposite direction. We will get into Origi’s brilliant finish and his performance another day, but the teenager just disregarded all the hours put in for the preparation of this game and relied on something no coach can really train you for: instinct and guts. That moment of sheer genius alone will be spoken and marveled for years to come, and quite rightly so.


The rest of the night is history, and we can only be thankful that Trent is only 21, bleeds red and has all the tools in his locker that can see him go down as one of Liverpool’s greatest ever player.


The all time greatest backline we are witnessing today?


With 4 out of the above 5 players in the list currently playing for Liverpool, we are surely blessed with one of the best defence we've had in years. A world-class manager, shrewd recruitment team, combined with a brilliant academy is surely reaping its rewards. The full-backs are combining to devastating effect, while big Virg and Ali have added much needed world class quality into the mix.


Just how important are they to Liverpool?

Add a certain big Finn into the picture, and it completes the defence for Liverpool's greatest XI.


Rock. Solid.

 

GK: Alisson Becker

RB: Trent Alexander Arnold

LB: Andy Robertson

CB: Sami Hyypia

CB: Virgil van Dijk

Liverpool Boleh’s All Time Best Midfielders

Liverpool Boleh’s All Time Best Forwards


Honorable mentions: Pepe Reina, John Arne Riise, Jamie Carragher, Steve Finnan, Lloris Mickey Mouse Karius