Jamie Carragher’s Liverpool advice can help Newcastle United solve defensive puzzle

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Newcastle United's midfield looked lightweight against Luton Town on Saturday - as has been the case throughout the Premier League campaign

What a difference 12 months make. This time last year, Liverpool were reeling after being pumped 3-0 at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The Reds were 10th - one place behind where Newcastle United are now - and on course for their worst season under Jurgen Klopp. A midfield trio of Stefan Bajcetic, Naby Keita and Thiago Alcantara were torn to shreds and the future looked bleak.

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In reserve, Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Jordan Henderson had served the club well but a title charge or Champions League push were beyond their capabilities. It was time for a reboot.

Critics ripped into the defence, a plausible punch bag when goals are leaking. Just like goalkeepers, the backline gets it in the neck - often justifiably - when a team starts shipping goals.

But to former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher, the problem lay elsewhere - an observation which holds weight for Newcastle one year on. He said at the time: “A big problem is the midfield. Teams get the back four too easily. It’s so open and so unorganised.

“The midfield is not in the position midfield players should be in. Teams get at the back four early. People said the midfield would be a problem for Liverpool. Fabinho has been miles off the pace.

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“It is not an attitude problem. Jurgen Klopp’s thing was they were the hardest team to play against. Right now they look like the easiest team to play against. Sometimes they get lucky too.”

Fast forward to the present and Liverpool, with the same defence, boast the best record in the Premier League. A summer rebuild resulted in Klopp signing Alexis Mac Allister, Ryan Gravenberch, Wataru Endo and Dominik Szoboszlai to revamp his engine room.

Newcastle, by contrast, are looking like the Liverpool of old. When the Reds were thrashed 3-0 by Wolves, the Magpies were the division’s clean-sheet kings - and finished the campaign with the joint least number of goals conceded.

Many shellackings later and Eddie Howe must be scratching around wondering where his defence has gone. At Aston Villa on Tuesday, Newcastle equalled (33) last season’s tally for goals conceded - with 15 games still remaining.

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Dan Burn copped dog’s abuse for his dismal showing against Luton Town, with the Blyth-born defender run ragged by Chiedozie Ogbene out wide. There is a strong argument for Tino Livramento coming into the team but, in fairness to Burn, he had no help from those ahead of him.

The trio of Bruno Guimaraes, Sean Longstaff and Lewis Miley has been one forced upon Howe due to injuries but they have looked weak and defensively naive. It is perhaps no surprise that the Magpies have won just two of their seven Premier League games with those three in the starting line-up.

Fortunately for Newcastle, their midfield recharge, unlike Liverpool's, requires the treatment table to clear up and Sandro Tonali to return from suspension - not the £150million Klopp had to play with last summer. But the message is there to lay off the defence while also realising that football is a fast-moving sport and, in 12 months, Newcastle could be on top of the world again.

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