Draws Kill Title Challenges

I was briefly toying with writing an article about Liverpool’s failure to learn from their mistakes of the past for this week’s article. Having sold Dejan Lovren to Zenit Saint Petersburg in the summer of 2020, the Reds didn’t buy a replacement centre-back and then suffered an injury crisis in the position that severely hampered our 2020-2021 campaign. When it became clear that the club had no intention of offering Gini Wijnaldum a new deal this summer, I was convinced that the powers that be at Anfield would have learned from their mistake and would bring in a central midfielder. Given that Wijnaldum was one of our most reliable midfielders in terms of availability, it seemed ludicrous to me that we would go into this Premier League season without a suitable replacement. Obviously we did and it now appears as if history is on the verge of repeating itself, with an injury crisis blooming around our midfield options that could result in our title challenge derailing.

The manager will almost certainly have looked at the emergence of Harvey Elliott and the ability of Curtis Jones and believed that we were well-stocked in the middle. Far be it for me to say that the manager was wrong, but when you consider just how many injuries have been suffered by Jordan Henderson, Naby Keïta and Thiago Alcantara during their careers, it was always going to be asking a lot of two young players. Obviously the Elliott injury couldn’t have been foreseen, but an injury to a midfielder or two could have been. When it was clear on Saturday that Curtis Jones wasn’t at his best and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was being extremely sloppy in his passing, the manager will have turned to his bench and seen that his only option was Tyler Morton. As impressive as he’s been, you don’t want to be throwing him into a game like Saturday’s. In the end, though, I decided that such an article would only embolden the FSGOUT weirdos, so I’m writing about draws instead.

Draws In Isolation Are Fine

In isolation, some draws are fine. The draw with Chelsea wasn’t too bad, all things considered, just as the draw with Manchester City was nothing to complain about. Even the weekend’s draw with Brighton & Hove Albion wasn’t a bad one, considering how well they played and the fact that they could have won on a different day. I could even make a case for the dropped points away to Brentford not being too bad considering how well they started the season, but it is the combination of all of the draws that is setting a worrying trend. As Sam McGuire pointed out on Twitter, over the past five years, only one team has drawn more than four matches and then won the title. We’re on four draws already for this season, so there is little margin for error if we’re hoping to lift the Premier League trophy come the end of the campaign. The idea of taking a draw is a noble one, but there is a world in which Liverpool finish this season unbeaten but miss out on the title.

The occasional draw is perfectly fine and, in some circumstances, not to be argued with. It was better that we drew with both City and Chelsea than lost either match, for example. There is also a scenario in which this does not turn into a season in which ninety points or more are needed to win the title, instead being much more inline with the sorts of title wins that we saw from Manchester United throughout the 1990s. The Red Devils drew twelve times in 1992-1993, eleven times the season after and 12 times again in 1996-1997, winning the title each time. Yet it does feel as if those days are gone and the ability to finish with double-figures of draws and still be champions is no longer a valid one. Chelsea are already starting to open up a gap between us and them that could be stretched further if we don’t get a win against West Ham this weekend, which will make it tougher to stay within touching distance of them for when we get to the business end of the season.

We’re Dropping Too Many Points From Winning Positions

Draws are frustrating things to cope with at the best of times, even though you can sometimes end up with one that feels more like a win. For Liverpool so far this season, the main annoyance many of us are feeling comes from the fact that we were winning in three-quarters of the games that we ended up drawing. We took the lead twice against Manchester City, twice letting them back in and failing to see out the win. That can be excused when you’re playing a team of Manchester City’s quality, but we also took the lead twice against Brentford but ended up with just a point. Add in the fact that we were 2-0 up against Brighton and you can start to see a pattern emerging of Liverpool failing to close out matches that they really should be winning. When that happens too often, it begins to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, if for no other reason than the opposition team believes that they can get a result from you even when they’re trailing.

Anyone that read my work regularly will know that I love Jürgen Klopp. I think he’s the best manager operating in the game right now, doing with Liverpool and the club’s meagre transfer budget what the likes of Pep Guardiola and Thomas Tuchel could never do. Even so, the German is not above criticism and we have to look at the fact that 50% of the matches in which we’ve led by two or more goals and not gone on to win the match have cone under his stewardship. Perhaps it suggests a mentality that fears losing too much. Had we lost our two matches with Brentford and Brighton but won our games against City and Chelsea, we’d be two point clear of the London club at the top of the table. It is certainly possible that our lack of midfield options is stopping us from keeping sides out as well as limiting our attacking prowess, but whatever the reason is we’re in danger of not losing many matches and yet still seeing the title slip out of our grasp.

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