Hull 2 – Liverpool 0: Match Review

The draw with Chelsea on Tuesday night as good as confirmed that we aren’t going to be able to win the title this time around. Even if we’d got three points it would have been hard. Instead we remained ten points behind them and needed to win against Hull just to stay that far behind, given the Blues won their London derby with Arsenal. The league may be beyond us but getting into the top four is vital if we want to sign the sort of players that can push us on in the summer.

We took Hull for a ride when they came to Anfield in the reverse fixture earlier in the season, so could we do it again at the KCOM Stadium? It was a different team we faced back then, of course. Even the Hull manager has changed and Marco Silva has done an impressive job of tightening up an extremely leaky defence. Having beaten and then drawn with Manchester United in their last two games, it was clear this wasn’t going to be a walkover for the Reds. So what were the main talking points?

Make Mistakes, Wash & Repeat

There are plenty of things that Jürgen Klopp can’t do much about. The form of the players is a clear issue and one I’ll come onto in a minute. There are also refereeing decisions that have gone against us that the manager can’t change. One of my biggest worries moving forward, though, is that the German doesn’t seem to be doing anything about the fact that we’re making the same old mistakes time and again.

I can understand why the manager went with the side he went with today. Given Dejan Lovren’s absence due to a knee injury the German probably thought he needed to put Emre Can in instead of Gini Wijnaldum because of the former’s strength and height. That the Dutchman didn’t come on suggests he may well have had a knock, too. Klopp must also have seen the number of goals we’ve scored when Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino all start together and figured it would be silly not to stick with what was a winning formula.

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The old adage of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ might well be a valid one, but if things are quite clearly broken it would be sensible to make some attempt at fixing them. Simon Mignolet, just like against Chelsea, showed why he isn’t good enough to be our goalkeeper. There’s precisely no defending him for the first goal. He’s weak, he’s indecisive and we are essentially a goal down before kick-off if his name is on the team sheet. Klopp needs to drop him and put Loris Karius in for the rest of the season so that the German is up to speed with English football for the start of next term.

He isn’t the only one, of course. Emre Can has his admirers and he produces good performances on occasion, but far too often games completely pass him by. There is zero point in him starting matches against sides that are obviously going to sit deep as he doesn’t have the speed of thought or body to move the ball quickly enough to cause those sort of sides problems. He is, for me, the sort of player who defines the difference between stats lovers and those who don’t care about numbers. Stats guys tend to love him, people who judge games without stats don’t.

Emre Can In The Centre Circle v Rubin Kazan

Lucas Leiva managed another stay of execution in January when it looked for all the world like he was off to Inter Milan. Plenty of Liverpool fans celebrated that because he’s been such a ‘loyal servant to the club’ and they want to see him get his testimonial. That’s fine, but he’s not good enough to be starting matches for the club and having in the squad means the manager will often be tempted to turn to him. If, as some journalists have reported, we haven’t signed defenders so as to not block Joe Gomez’s route into the first XI then why didn’t he start today alongside Joel Matip?

The manager has had numerous chances over the last month to do something about our horrendous form and has chosen to shy away from that. He has stuck rigidly to his system when its weaknesses have been exposed and has not rotated his players even when their form has dropped off a cliff. I am a firm believer that Jürgen Klopp is the best manager for Liverpool Football Club in the long-term, but that doesn’t mean that he’s immune from criticism. He should have looked to change things up on more than one occasion and perhaps then we wouldn’t look like we’re going to concede every time there’s a counterattack against us or a ball into our box.

Players Lacking Form

Just as the manager isn’t immune from criticism, so too the players need to take their share of the blame. Klopp put his best team on the pitch today and they weren’t good enough. As much as absences from the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Jordan Henderson and Joel Matip through injury and Sadio Mané because of the African Cup of Nations have hurt us and disrupted our rhythm, the fact that other players’ form has dropped off a cliff hasn’t helped. The manager’s decision to convert James Milner into a left-back was an inspired one, yet the truth is he’s been poor for some time now. Problematically the only man who could replace him is Alberto Moreno and he doesn’t have a brain.

Much like Simon Mignolet isn’t the only player who isn’t good enough to play for Liverpool past the end of this season, so James Milner isn’t the only one whose form has disappeared lately. Roberto Firmino may well point to trouble in his personal life as a reason for why hasn’t been at his best and that may well be entirely fair. After all, how many of us could perform at our best level after getting done for drink-driving and having our house burgled? Even so, the former is a problem of his own making and you can’t take your troubles onto the football pitch when your team-mates need you for inspiration.

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Philippe Coutinho’s injury won’t have helped him at all and it came at the worst possible time. The Brazilian was absolutely flying when he was ruled out for more than a month and he’s struggled to get back up to speed since his return. The problem with a player of his nature is that when he’s on form he’s absolutely unstoppable, but when he’s not he can stink the place out. His passes today were erratic if you’re trying to be polite, consistently awful if you’re just being honest. He’ll come good again, but right now he’s not the player he was three months ago and we’re suffering as a result.

Adam Lallana is another player whose form seems to have nosedived. The England midfielder was almost unstoppable in December, scoring goals for fun and being the creative genius we needed game after game. The manager’s decision to move him into the final third to cover for Mané’s absence was a poor one and he hasn’t been the same player since. If we are to have any hope of salvaging our season then we need him, as well as Coutinho and Firmino, to be back to their free-wheeling and high-scoring best as soon as possible.

Not Testing Weak Defences

In the second-leg of the EFL Cup against Southampton the Saints were without Virgil van Dijk. Instead they had to bring in an inexperience centre-back named Jack Stephens and pair him with Maya Yoshida in front of a goalkeeper in Fraser Forster that I think is bang average. The Reds had just three shots on target for the entire game. Southampton merely packed the centre of the park and pushed us out wide, encouraging us to sling crosses in that the dealt with with ease. Hull might well have watched them, because they did exactly the same thing today.

Eldin Jakupović may have been the Man of the Match in the Tigers’ game against Manchester United on Wednesday night, but he looked dodgy on numerous occasions today. He spilled the ball, flapped at crosses and looked as though he could have been put under some pressure. Michael Dawson, the Hull captain and defensive leader, had to be replaced when he injured himself in the warm-up and was replaced by Andrea Ranocchia who was making his first start for the club. Surely the Reds would put him under some pressure?

The stats say we had five shots on target but I can only remember one that asked anything of the goalkeeper and even that came from Jordan Henderson when we were already 2-0 down. They were let off the hook and given an easy ride because we decided to fling in 45 (FORTY-FIVE) crosses despite the fact that none of them led to us looking like we were going to score. It’s inexcusable that across 180 minutes against two teams with makeshift defences and poor goalkeepers we’ve failed to test them at all.

Since the end of December we have time and again produced nothing of any noteworthiness against lesser teams whilst simultaneously giving them chance after chance to score against us. This looked as though it might be a slight slump that we’d turned the corner of after the result against Chelsea. Now it looks like a full-blown crisis that our manager is going to have to use every ounce of his experience to drag us out of. Given he’s getting paid £7 million a year it’s entirely fair to say, “Over to you, Jürgen”.

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