I think today is about dispelling the myth that LFC are in a bad position. Yes, it is ultimately a big disappointment that we are out of a competition, where we could have been going to Wembley against our bitter rivals, and maybe that’s why it hurts so bad. But we played OK. We ARE in a dip and yes, we need to start winning again. But theirs little we can do in the situation we find ourselves.
The game itself is wrought with excellent statistics; 72% possession, 13 shots, 85% passing accuracy, 10 key passes, 16 crosses and an 85% tackle success rate. If we look at the bigger picture, we played good. We played exceptionally under defensive pressure and passed our way out with ease, coupled with an impressive display by Karius, and the return of Matip, our defence looked stronger. Not strong, but at least better. The only real time we looked shaky, was when we pushed our wing backs forward during the latter stages, looking for the goal and ultimately being hit on the counter.
There are still issues though. Alexander (TAA) doesn’t yet look strong enough and gets caught out due to his inexperience, but he’s young, and I did see an improvement versus the United game. Another issue is with Joel Matip and arguably Lovren as well. Probably due to their physique, they come unstuck against fast players and this problem lies when they commit themselves too soon and the attacker skips away, something which was evident for Joel. On the other hand though, Matip pushes our back line onto half way a lot quicker with his enormous strides mentality to step into space.
Further up the pitch there seems to be a contentious issue with Emre Can and Jordan Henderson. As seen in his piece after the game, Jamie Carragher doesn’t like the two playing together and believes it cannot work. I have to disagree with him. In my eyes, they can work, but not how they are this season. In Klopp’s very early games, Emre sat in the midfield and dictated the play. He looked like the only player fully embracing Jurgen’s new style and it looked like he sat in well. He would turn with his back to goal in his own half and burst forward switching our play into attacking in the final third, they were that good. If this Can played with Henderson (who should be dealing with his own poor performances) and with roaming Coutinho then they would be fine, and for me, it seems the change in Emre’s play is down to Jurgen’s ask of him.
As I have said before, Jurgen Klopp is a world class manager and I want him to be here for the next 20 years. But I won’t pander to him when I believe he has been in the wrong and hopefully Jurgen won’t allow his ego, (as all fantastic managers have), to cloud his judgement. He talks about learning and progressing, so I believe this is his first test. His substitutions were far too late, even though as said before, we were playing well. Another option was needed and it came out of time. In the first half I saw space in an attacking area down both flanks. I will subversively agree with Jamie, that both Can and Henderson didn’t need to play this game, which would have opened up a spot for Origi or Moreno on the left wing, which was something the game was crying out for.
In the end, we didn’t score, and that’s what the biggest downfall from tonight’s game was. I’m starting to get tired of complaining when Sturridge is in the middle and Firmino is inevitably pushed out wide (after scoring two very good goals against Swansea), we are so much worse when this happens. Daniel’s record might be impeccable but he is detrimental to, what I can only describe as, the flow of the team. He missed vital chances and his running is now non-existent.
Although he wasn’t helped by the miss firing Philippe Coutinho, who is still slightly out of form. Phil sat deep and wasn’t as effective in the final third, however he did get on the ball more than the last game, he just couldn’t utilise his creativity. I do see Coutinho where he was tonight, but with the creative freedom and allowance to move forward more often, to be able to run the game like he can.
I think my final point has to be about the looming (or current) struggles, which are appearing as a result of our intense style, and in turn how the players will cope sustaining such high levels of demand until the end of the season. I agree that it will be an issue and I agree our levels have dropped, and part of this is due to the lack of a winter break for the players to replenish, something which Klopp may have to deal with for next seasons preparation.
However, first and foremost, we need all elements of the team to be on song for us to be able to compete competitively. Elements such as concentration, a winning mentality, players playing in key positions and all players playing without niggles or knocks. I truly believe that these play a far more weighted impact on our teams performance than a dip in fitness, so I will again disagree with the journalists that this is the current problem, nor will it be our main problem too come.