Liverpool should have identified an alternative to Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk after it became clear that the Dutchman was not going to leave the St Mary's Stadium for Anfield, according to former Newcastle United goalkeeper Shay Given.

Van Dijk, 26, was intent on moving to Merseyside during the summer and submitted a transfer request in an attempt to push through a deal.

Southampton, who used to be rather open to selling players to Liverpool, did not bow to Van Dijk's demands, instead deciding to reject the Holland international's transfer request and keep him from the clutches of the Reds, who failed to bolster their defensive ranks despite desparately needing to do so.

Given, who has not officially retired from professional football but is currently without a club, thinks a club like Liverpool should have strengthened their shoddy backline regardless of Van Dijk's availability and believes the current crop at Anfield need to take more responsibility during defensive situations.

"You would have liked to have thought a club the size of Liverpool would have had a Plan B," Given told Sky Sports. "Obviously Van Dijk, on the last day, it became clear it wasn't going to happen.

"You think a club of that size, when they can't get him there's a Plan B. There should be another centre-back in Europe or in world football that they can get to the club.

"It's clear the goals they've been conceding from this season and last season. Even Jurgen Klopp is saying he's sick of seeing the same goals conceded week in, week out.

Players have to step up and be a bit more dominant. It always seems to be: 'someone else is going to head it, or someone else is going to clear it.' No one ever seems to take control of the situation."

Liverpool's defensive woes were magnified once again on Tuesday (19 September) when they slumped to a 2-0 defeat by Leicester City in the third round of the Carabao Cup. The result continued a rather poor run of form for the Reds, who are now winless in their last four matches.

Almost all of Liverpool's defenders have come in for criticism during the rather disappointing spell, but former Reds forward Dean Saunders has expressed his sympathy for under-fire centre-back Dejan Lovren, who he believes is being sold short by Alberto Moreno.

"I feel sorry for [Dejan] Lovren," Saunders told talkSPORT. "I don't think they get that much protection either. You've got to look at [Alberto] Moreno playing like a left winger.

"If I was Lovren I'd have him by the throat, saying: 'you're making me look like a mug. You're leaving a big gap along the side of me and I'm not the quickest in the world. And I have world class players running at me every week.'"

Jurgen Klopp
Getty Images