Ben Morgan looks into yesterday’s 1-1 draw with Burnley, with some of the positives and negatives from the encounter, with the same questions still needed answering by Jurgen Klopp.
It was supposed to be a brilliant birthday celebration for Liverpool, with the club reaching its 125th birthday, but it was not the party many had hoped for. Same old Liverpool was what many fans were thinking after Saturdays 1-1 draw against Burnley in the Premier League. The Reds were scintillating at times going forward, with the brilliant Mohammed Salah often troubling the Burnley backline. But the Reds were lacking that killer instinct in front of goal, and that killer ball to set up crucial chances. Then there was the defending. An area that it seems every game comes in for criticism came in yet again for some more. The Reds were sloppy against this strong Burnley side and were made to pay.
We will start with the positives. As mentioned before, Mo Salah was at his best again yesterday. The Egyptian International has been in terrific form for the Merseysiders since his summer move from Roma, and got on the score sheet again yesterday, with a fantastic finish to draw the Reds level. The goal was his fifth goal in all competitions since joining. It maybe could have been more for the Egyptian and for Liverpool, as Salah was denied a penalty when brought down by Ben Mee, a decision which could have gone the other way. With his fast start to life in his second spell in the Premier League, his first spell being an unsuccessful one with Chelsea, the pacey forward is showing no signs of slowing down yet. Another positive was to see Brazilian playmaker Phillipe Coutinho make his first start for the club this season. He was not at his best, firing shots over the bar and wide but his play was positive, and there were glimpses of him coming back into full fitness and to his best. Fans will be hoping for this to happen sooner rather than later. Daniel Sturridge also showed glimpses of getting back to his full fitness and best form. The striker has been plagued with injuries since the 2013-14 season, but had a few good chances yesterday, which he failed to take, but he looked sharp and will be hoping to get more opportunities with winger, Sadio Mane still out for another two games.
Before the International break, Anfield was a happy ground. The Reds sat 2nd in the table, behind Manchester United, with 2 wins and a draw from their opening 3 fixtures. Now they find themselves in 8th, behind Burnley (by goal difference) with another 2 games played and just the additional point to their tally. Things didn’t improve yesterday. Let’s start with the attacking. The Reds have been praised by many for their attacking prowess, and their ability to break down teams so easily. But, when teams come against Liverpool, like Burnley and sit deep inviting the Reds to keep possession, this is where the team so often come unstuck. They fail to create the killer chance, or finish crucial opportunities. This will end up costing the Reds massively. With the two Manchester teams scoring for fun, having players on both sides like Kevin de Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus for City, and Henrik Mkhitaryan, Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford for United, creating and scoring chances at a premium, this is what the Reds are missing, and will fall further behind the two Manchester clubs this season if they cannot create and finishes chances. Too often in previous games have we seen our players shoot from range instead of being patient and looking for that ball which unlocks the opposition. Yesterday was no exception. Coutinho often tried and failed to hit the target from range, Emre Can has been a culprit for this also. The Reds registered 35 shots yesterday, but of those 35 shots, only 9 were on target, this shows the real problem Liverpool have against these stubborn sides who are happy to come and sit deep at Anfield and against Liverpool.
Now the question everyone is asking. Why didn’t Liverpool sign another top centre back? The reds were linked with Southampton man Virgil Van Dijk throughout the summer, and had to apologise for an alleged illegal approach for the player. The reds never looked at any back up options though, and that could prove costly. While Joel Matip has been a good player for Liverpool over his first year at the club, his partner, Dejan Lovren mainly, has been far less convincing. The Croatian as signed from Southampton for £25 million back in 2014, and has failed to prove his critics wrong since his arrival. Ragnar Klavan, like Matip, joined last year, and has not been able to hold down a spot in the defence, and when he has played, often there is much nerves around the Anfield faithful. Yesterday it was Klavan partnering Matip. Both were clumsy in the area, as they failed to clear a cross that eventually fell to Scott Arfield, after some good pressure from Chris Wood, who finished well. If the Reds are going to challenge in competitions and the league, heavy investment is needed in the middle of that backline, whether that is Van Dijk, or another top centre back, the backline is crying out for a top class centre back to come in and take control of the Reds backline.
(This is Anfield)
What the Manager thought:
It is fair to say that manager Jurgen Klopp was less than impressed with his side’s performance, here is what the Liverpool gaffer said in his interview with Sky Sports; “I’m angry about the performance, In a lot of moments of this game you cannot play better football than we did today but we didn’t finish the situations with their goalkeeper making two outstanding saves. The quality is there and I saw a great attitude. I saw them running, I saw them playing and I saw them fighting, but I didn’t see them scoring and that’s a problem. The boys will take their chances in the future, there’s no doubt about it, but in this moment it doesn’t feel right. That’s the thing we have to accept but a draw is difficult to accept at the moment.”
What next for Liverpool?
Now though, Liverpool must quickly turn their attention to Tuesdays League cup clash with Leicester, at the King Power, where Leicester have a decent record against Liverpool in recent games. The Reds haven’t won a trophy since 2012, where Kenny Dalglish led his side to the League Cup final and a penalty win over Cardiff city. The fans are desperate to see trophies return to Anfield as are the players and Manager. They came close to winning the League Cup in 2016, where they eventually lost on penalties to Manchester City.
The fans will be expecting a response from the side, and having not won in their past three games in all competitions, the team will be desperate to prove their critics wrong.