Leicester City 2 – Liverpool 0: Match Review And Analysis

Were Liverpool on the verge of a rut heading into this game? Was this bordering on ‘must win’ territory, so early in the season? It would certainly appear so, if you believe some of the more reactionary people on both social and mainstream media. Never mind that we’ve lost just two games under Jürgen Klopp since February, one which was as a result of a red card against one of the best and most expensively assembled teams in Europe. All eyes were on Liverpool’s defence and whether or not they’d be able to keep a clean sheet for only the third time this season. No win in three heading into this game meant that there was certainly pressure, whether the manager liked it or not.

Unfortunately for the team, we have some of the most reactionary fans in the football world. A win tonight would have meant that we’re definitely winning the competition, whilst the loss means we’re not going to win anything and are out of all competitions in September. It’s depressing, but it’s the way it is. I’m on holiday at the moment and when you have to write two thousand plus words after a match it’s difficult enough, especially when the wider Liverpool world wants nothing but screaming, shouting and venting. If that’s what you’re hoping for then I’ll tell you up front that there’s no point reading this piece. I don’t do reactionary. I don’t do toys out of the pram. I try my hardest to do reasoned consideration of the way the match went. If we’re all being honest, it started quite well…

Liverpool Dominated But Failed To Score. Again.

There are two ways of looking at Liverpool’s current situation. The first is to assume that it’s a sign of a club lacking in ruthlessness, with chances going begging time and again regardless of the opposition and who is on the pitch in red. The other is that things can’t continue like this and that we’re bound to start putting chances away sooner or later. Right now we appear incapable of taking our chances and whoever we’re playing seem to score all of theirs. Something’s got to give. I genuinely don’t believe that we’ll continue to be so wasteful, nor that the opposition will manage to maintain their deadliness in front of goal. For that reason, I’m choosing to look on the positive side of life.

For the first forty-five minutes the Reds looked brilliant. Leicester weren’t in the game and we were creating chance after chance. It’s easy to dismiss how good we looked if you forget that we made eight changes from the weekend. The players looked as though they’ve been playing together all season, which isn’t always the case when there’s a shuffling of the deck. In fact, I’d even go so far as to suggest that they clicked better than the team that went up against Burnley. Part of that was down to Philippe Coutinho slowly finding his feet. The Brazilian looked rusty against Burnley, finding his feet after recovering from his ‘back injury’. Tonight he looked more like the player who controlled games last season, even if he still hit a few too many wild shots from distance.

Coutinho & Klopp On The Side Of The Kop

There’s no question that his departure at half-time, combined with the arrival of Shinji Okazaki part of the way through the second-half, changed the way the game was going. The Foxes suddenly began to take the game to us and ask questions of our defence and we lacked the ability to turn the tide without the Little Magician pulling the strings. If there’s any doubt about whether the club was right to refuse to sell him this summer then let it now be put to bed – he’s too important to how we play to be allowed to leave. If his gradual return to prominence was one bright spark from this evening then the play of Andy Robertson must surely be seen as another. The left-back, who we brought in from Hull City in the summer, was genuinely excellent in the first forty-five minutes.

The Scot was starting his second game in a row but this time, unlike against Burnley, players were actually passing the ball to him. Just as well, too, given the fact that he was whipping in brilliant ball after brilliant ball. Sadly not enough players in the frontline were willing to take a gamble, so too many chances went begging. If the team as a whole played as though they’d gelled well together then the attack sadly didn’t. Everything was close to clicking, but not quite happening. That, like the defence, is a sign of a group of people who haven’t been playing together very often. Players need to develop relationships, they need to understand each other’s movements. With all of his chopping and changing, Klopp isn’t giving them a chance to at the moment.

Is Sorting Out The Defence An Easy Task?

The reality is that we’ve been conceding the same goal over and over all season long. It doesn’t matter who’s in goal, it doesn’t matter who’s in defence and it doesn’t matter who the opposition is. That would suggest that the problem is systematic rather than down to personnel. This, rather than a refusal to sign a centre-back, is where the manager needs to be held accountable. Leicester didn’t score today because our defenders aren’t good enough, they scored because the system we play allowed them to get into a goal-scoring opportunity far too easily. That’s something that the manager needs to have a serious look at and figure out what he can do about it. Jordan Henderson is being asked to do so much more than a standard defensive midfielder, so the fact that he’s out of form is making the situation so much worse.

CHEN-WEI-SENG / Bigstock.com

The problem we’ve got is that that isn’t Emre Can’s natural position either, nor James Milner’s nor is it where Gini Wijnaldum would like to play. So we’ve got no players who know how to protect the defence properly and a manager who doesn’t want to buy one. We can all sit and wring our hands and complain about the defence, but unless the manager chooses to do something radical then we’re going to see the team continue to concede soft goals ad infinitum. We’re not helped by the fact that we’ve got three goalkeepers and none of them are good enough to dig their defence out of a whole every now and then. When a Liverpool goalkeeper saves the first shot on target we should parade them around the city in an open top bus.

Jürgen Klopp told reporters after the game that he’s ‘sick of conceding goals like this’, but he’s pretty much the only person with the power to stop it from happening. If he, like the supporters, is putting all of his eggs into a Virgil van Dijk shaped basket then I’m afraid that he’s destined to be disappointed. The Dutchman can no more stop these sorts of defensive situations from developing than the manager can control the decisions of a referee. Football teams concede goals, that’s just a fact of life. We will concede more before the season is out. The problem right now is that everyone who watches football believes that Liverpool’s defence is full of errors, so every time we concede we go looking for them. Until the manager does something drastic I’m rather afraid our defence will be a talking point indefinitely.

The League Cup Doesn’t Matter

I know, I know, ‘Liverpool Football Club exists to win trophies’. We’ve all heard that old chestnut time and again. I’d love to be as upset as other people are about tonight’s result, but I just can’t be. The League Cup, or whatever the hell it’s called nowadays, really doesn’t matter. Prior to kick-off every man and his dog selected their team for the trip to the King Power Stadium and I don’t remember seeing any of them containing Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah or even Philippe Coutinho. There was an acceptance that this was the perfect game for the fringe players to get a chance to perform, so why are some fans insistent after the fact that we should all explode with anger?

Owing to the fact that we’re in the Champions League we have a huge number of games to play this season and the League Cup has taken a lot out of us in the past. This is the first time we haven’t made it to the semi-final since the 2013-2014 season, which probably tells you quite a lot about how much the players have to give when progress in the competition begins to take its toll. So yes, I’d love the Reds to have won tonight and I’d have been delighted if they’d made it all the way to the final and eventually lifted the trophy. But we’ve got much fish to fry this season and I’m not as disappointed as some that this is one competition that we now longer have to worry about or pick a team for.

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