Ben Morgan looks into the weekends 1-1 draw with Newcastle, with some of the positives and negatives from the encounter, with the same questions still needed answering by Jurgen Klopp.
Another week has come and gone, and as with the nature of this current Liverpool side, it feels as I am experiencing Déjà vu while writing this article. The past articles I have produced have been covering games such as Burnley, Sevilla, where the Reds have drawn, and failed to create chances while looking particularly vulnerable at the back. Fast forward a few weeks later and these are the same issues which are haunting this current squad. Even the ‘fab four’ could not finish of Newcastle. Chances were created and missed, and when called upon to defend, the Reds once again let a lead slip. We will start with the positives from the game though.
Positives were few and far between at the weekend. There was one major positive however, Phillipe Coutinho. The Brazilian produced another bit of magic at the weekend, with what has become a trademark Coutinho goal, picking the ball up, driving at the defence, and cutting in outside the box before blasting a shot into the goal. This one was special, though. It would have been expected that from the angle Coutinho was going for goal at, that he would be going for the far post, instead, the little magician went for the near post, completely wrong footing Rob Elliot between the Newcastle sticks. He has now scored 17 goals from outside the box in the premier league since his debut, all the way back in February 2013, that’s three more than any player since then. Since coming back into the team after the summers transfer speculation surrounding his future, Coutinho has once again been Liverpool’s best player, scoring against Spartak Moscow midweek, getting on the scoresheet this weekend, and against Leicester the week before, when he notched a spectacular assist when his brilliant crossed was converted by the equally brilliant Mo Salah, and then the Brazilian scored an exquisite free kick. If Liverpool to return to winning ways and get back to the form they need to be at if they want to be challenging domestically and in Europe, then one would think that Coutinho would be the one centre stage in this much needed revival.
Another positive has to be the reception for Newcastle Manager Rafa Bentiez. The Spaniard is held in high esteem amongst Reds Fan, and has a long standing affiliation with after winning the champions league with the club back in 2005, in that historic night in Istanbul. Both sets of fans cheered his name, in what seemed like a momentous occasion. Rafa still loves Liverpool, and has openly spoken about it, his family still live in Merseyside as well, and one would not go as far as saying that he could return to the club in the future.
1 win in 7 games in all competitions. That is the main negative to take from the weekend’s game. What is this down to though? When people think about this Liverpool side, under Jurgen Klopp, they think of the gergenpressing style of play, relentless attacking football, a high scoring team. This hasn’t been the case as of late and is a massive factor in that lone win in their past 7 games. The chance conversion rates show the lack of firepower the Reds have at the moment. Liverpool have created 101 chances this season so far, but have only converted 13 of them, meaning they have a extraordinarily low 13.1% completion rate. For all the flair in the side there is not an out and out goal scorer, something the Reds have been notoriously known for, for centuries, legends such as Ian Rush, Kenny Dalglish, Kevin Keegan, Robbie Fowler, more recently, Fernando Torres, and King Luis Suarez, all fantastic striker, clinical, and guaranteed to get 20+goals a season. There isn’t a player like that in this Liverpool side. It is a squad filled with vast talents and potential, but success requires goals, and a goal scorer. The fans and manager may have though that Daniel Sturridge could be the answer now he looks to be putting injury issues behind him. The striker notched over 20 goals in the league back in the 2013/14 season, alongside Luis Suarez, but has since only started 23 games for the Reds in the past 3 seasons, and has only scored a handful of goals in that time. Roberto Firmino is a very clever player, but isn’t a traditional number 9, and won’t guarantee 20 goals a season, the same can be said the rest of the Reds ‘Fab Four’. Should Jurgen Klopp consider putting in a monster bid for some of Europe’s elite?
The other negative which as mentioned previously, really gives me a strong case of Déjà vu, is the teams defending, or lack of. Newcastle’s goal was a complete contrast to Coutinho. Spaniard Joselu, the Newcastle Striker, found himself in acres of space after a wonderful forward ball from former red Jonjo Shelvey. Why was he in so much space? That’s because the two centre backs, Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip, were caught ball watching. They didn’t notice Joselu drift away and into a position where he could get 1 on 1 with Simon Mignolet. Credit to Joel Matip for tracking back, after Joselu took more time than he thought he had, but the defenders tackle subsequently rebounded off Joselu, and past the helpless Mignolet. He would have never got into that position though if the defence was communicating. The two centre backs were high up on the halfway line, which is far too high, especially with the full backs pressing as well. This is a constant issue for the Reds, and something which needs sorting, if not Klopp will be coming under all sorts of pressure from fans, pundits, and the team itself. That goal means it is now 11 goals conceded away from home for Liverpool already this season, the spotlight is certainly on Jurgen Klopp and his team to turn that around now.
What the Manager thought:
Jurgen Klopp chatted with Sky Sports after their game, here’s what he had to say; “As you can imagine it is not the nicest moment. We create and create and we made one mistake, a real mistake, and we got punished for it. I think the opponent made a lot more mistakes that were forced by us and did not get punished for it (alluding to the reds failure to convert chances). At the end the man of the match is from Newcastle and we have 80% possession or whatever it was. That’s the situation and that’s how the world looks on it and we just have to carry on. It’s what we do”. Clear frustration from the Liverpool Manager it seems, as his side keep making the same mistakes.
What next for Liverpool?
The international break represents a chance for Klopp to analyse the past 7 games and try to conjure up a plan to deal with the concerns and issues which are clearly evident in the team. After the international break though, Liverpool face a tough test, in the form of bitter rivals Manchester United, who, pains me to say, have had an excellent start to the season. The Reds will have to be at their best to stop United at Anfield, and will have to make sure they take their chances, or the consequences could be severe.