Sevilla 3 – Liverpool 3: Match Review and Analysis

The number four has a bit of significance for Liverpool at the moment. Since we conceded four at Wembley against Tottenham we’ve played four times and in one of those games we scored four goals. In the other three we scored three, adding that delightful bit more symmetry to the whole thing. That was before tonight, of course, but as well as our attack getting into the swing of things it’s also worth noting that our ‘terrible defence’ has seemingly sorted itself out as we’ve only conceded one in those four matches. Tonight was always going to be trickier, though, not least because our defensive solidity hasn’t travelled all that well so far this season.

We’ve only conceded one goal at Anfield in the Premier League, but we’ve shipped sixteen on our travels, eighteen in domestic competition if you include the two we conceded to Leicester City in the League Cup. Our Champions League campaign has actually been a bit different, even if not the mirror image. Four conceded at Anfield when you include the two from Hoffenheim in the qualification match, two on the road. Still, the last time Sevilla had lost at home prior to kick-off was when Juventus beat them 3-1 almost twelve months before. I won’t say they’d been in poor form heading into this game, but they’d lost three of their last five. It seemed like we were due for a cracker.

The Backroom Staff Have Done Their Research

Klopp

For as long as I can remember, Liverpool haven’t been very good at corners. I think it’s been a mix of us not having a decent corner taker and us not being able to defend them. That’s meant that the attackers don’t need to try very hard to score in training, but the opposite is true when we enter a competitive match. The fact that we scored from two corners in the first-half, therefore, was something of a shock to the system. That the two goals were practically carbon copies of each other tells you a lot about what’s been going on behind the scenes at Melwood for the past few days.

When you’ve got a load of boss players it can be easy to wonder what, exactly, the manger and his team are doing to make them click. It’s one of the great imponderables that football fans have to forever wonder about apart from the times that you can actively see a training ground move happen right in front of your eyes. It’s fair to say that we witnessed that tonight with those two goals from corners. Jürgen Klopp and his team have presumably seen something in the way Sevilla have been defending set-pieces to tell them that the Spaniards were vulnerable to a late man arriving at the back post. That’s exactly what we had, with both of them finding the back of the net.

Agendas Come Out On A Night Like Tonight

There’s a really bizarre thing happening with Liverpool fans at the moment. People have agendas that they’re desperate to be right, even to the point where they seem to be close to glad when we don’t win because they get to say ‘I told you so’. Twitter users will have seen it in a big way tonight with two players in particular: Alberto Moreno and Jordan Henderson. I’ll start by talking about the Spaniard, who had a really poor fifteen minutes in the second-half. Whatever people might think about him, the former Sevilla defender has had an excellent season prior to tonight. I’m not a big fan of his and would happily have seen him sold in the summer, but I’ve been really impressed with how he’s turned his Liverpool career around. It comes to something when Moreno, who use to be distracted by a bumblebee, is your most reliable defender.

Yet that’s what he’s been for the majority of the season, cutting out all of the nonsense that hindered his development in previous seasons. It’s the done thing to constantly criticise his positional play, but the manager doesn’t play him all season long if the player isn’t doing exactly what he’s been instructed to do. Would I prefer a left-back that stays closer to his central defenders? Absolutely I would, but I’m not the manager of Liverpool Football Club and it’s clear that the bloke in that position wants a lad who joins the attacks at every opportunity. To criticise the player for something that the manager is obviously asking him to do is just a bizarre approach to take. You should have a problem with the manager – and I do.

Klopp Deserves Criticism

I love Jürgen Klopp. I think he’s a brilliant manager and I’m convinced that we’re going to win things with him in charge. That doesn’t mean he’s above criticism, though. I said in my piece after the Southampton game on Saturday that the German has too much faith in certain players. I was talking then about Klopp’s decision to start Dejan Lovren, despite the fact that Croatian wasn’t in good form and always plays poorly against his former club. We got away with it against Saints, though Lovren did still have a couple of dodgy moments. Then Klopp goes and makes the same decision with Moreno against his former club. He’s played well all season but he let the emotion of the occasion get the better of him in the Europe League final playing his old side and he did the same tonight. Add in the recent birth of his son, just three days ago, and I’m not sure he should’ve been anywhere near the starting eleven.

Does the manager also deserve criticism for not changing the side sooner? I think that’s a tricky one to call. It’s easy in hindsight to say that he got it wrong because we conceded three second-half goals, but it must be very difficult to think that your team, that’s just dismantled a side that hasn’t lost at home in a year, can’t sort itself out. Perhaps he should’ve made the changes at 3-1, but he would’ve believed that the players could get back on the front foot. Had any one of Firmino, Coutinho, Mané or Salah taken their chances in the second-half then the manager would have been right in that belief. As it was they didn’t, Sevilla got the second and the third seemed almost tragically predictable. Down to the manager, or the fatalistic mentality of the players on the pitch?

Back To Agendas

I mentioned Jordan Henderson before and it’s intriguing to see how many people are still utterly desperate for the Liverpool captain to fail so they can say what a poor player he is. As soon as the full-time whistle went, people with agendas were quick to say he was terrible and what a pathetic leader he is, how the second-half collapse was basically all his fault. Or they were quick to Tweet that Gini Wijnaldum is ‘the invisible man’. Forget that Henderson played a blinding ball through to Firmino that the Brazilian should’ve scored from, or that WIjnaldum got an assist. They’re both terrible, apparently, and should be lambasted for the team’s collapse.

I have no problem with players being criticised, none whatsoever. But I do have a problem when that criticism is agenda driven and people pick out facts to tell a story. Plenty of people were tweeting that Henderson had a 55% pass completion ratio tonight and made no tackles. Fair enough, those are stats. How many tackles did Coutinho make? What about Wijnaldum? How good was Mané’s pass completion, or Mohamed Salah’s? Stats without context are pointless. You can win an argument with them but it’s a pyrrhic victory. Henderson might not be the best captain the club’s ever had, but those that criticise him never tell me who in this Liverpool side would make a better one, be more of a ‘leader’. If the second-half was a chance for another player to stake their claim to be our captain instead of him, who passed the audition?

We Didn’t Lose

It’s easy on a night like tonight for that sort of result to feel like a defeat. From 3-0 up to drawing 3-3 is painful to watch. Yet we didn’t actually lose, we remain unbeaten in Europe and it’s still in our hands to finish top of our Champions League group, with a poor Spartak Moscow side still to come to Anfield. You can throw the baby out with the bathwater if you want, but a result like tonight shouldn’t completely derail our current run of good form. The most important thing is that we learn from what’s happened, but whether we can or not remains to be seen. After all, as I mentioned before, we don’t seem to be getting any better at defending away from Anfield.

Speaking of Anfield, if that performance had occurred at our place, with the home side going 3-0 down before roaring back to get a draw, people would be saying it was an amazing comeback. If we had done to them what Sevilla did to us, everyone would be talking about the ‘power of Anfield on a European night’. As I’ve mentioned already, they haven’t lost at home for nearly a year, beating Real Madrid in that time. I’m fairly certain they’ve never lost a competitive match to an English side there. That doesn’t excuse our performance or the result, but there’s probably a reason they’re so successful at home. Bearing that in mind might make this bitter pill ever so slightly easier to swallow.

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