Swansea 3 – Liverpool 1: Match Report & Analysis

What was that? What was the starting XI? What was the entire performance? I’m honestly none the wiser after watching an hour and a half’s football and reading Twitter. It was a game that came in between a rock and a hard place for Jürgen Klopp and his players and, frankly, we should all just be glad it’s over.

Failed Additions & Broken Shop Windows

It’s entirely possible that the Liverpool manager knew what his starting line-up for Thursday night was going to look like before today, but even if he didn’t nobody in Red asked any questions of the German. None of the younger players put any pressure on the lads who start regularly, with only Danny Ward coming out of the game with any real credit and he conceded three goals.

There’s an extent to which I feel bad for Ward. The young goalkeeper must have thought he’d have a chance of deposing the frankly abysmal Simon Mignolet when Jürgen Klopp recalled him from Aberdeen. Instead he’s played just two games and he’s had a makeshift team in front of him for both.

mooinblack / shutterstock.com

mooinblack / shutterstock.com

Today was worse than that as it wasn’t just a makeshift defence that Ward had to deal with, it was a defence containing Martin Skrtel. In the second half it was a Skrtel and Lucas combination that has conceded 375 goals in their last two appearances. More of that later, though.

Daniel Sturridge has been the subject of much focus of late, with Klopp’s decision not to bring him on at any point against Villarreal in the week leading to much criticism and questions being asked of the relationship between the pair. There’s no doubt that it’s all a bit concerning, but if today was Sturridge’s chance to show the boss how wrong he was to drop him then it’s a chance he blew.

Those that ritualistically defend Sturridge no matter what will quite rightly point to the team he had around him and ask what else he was supposed to do. It was a midfield devoid of invention and intelligence, with no one performing well or giving Klopp anything other than a reminder of how much deadwood this squad still contains.

The weather helped nobody, of course, with the rain pouring down for a good few hours before kick off and the ball slipping and sliding all over the pitch at speed for the duration of the game. Yet too many of Liverpool’s players failed to do even the basics right for the entirety of the match. Pedro Chirivella has looked a good young prospect, but he really needs to learn to complete a simple pass if he wants to stake a claim for a regular starting berth, for example.

I’m convinced that Sheyi Ojo will be an excellent player for Liverpool in the future. That said, could do with re-watching today’s game and having a chat with Divock Origi about how the Belgian went about bulking up recently. Ojo is a quick, intelligent player but he’s still young enough and slight enough to be knocked off the ball with relative ease.

almonfoto / shutterstock.com

almonfoto / shutterstock.com

Not for the first time, though, Liverpool’s youngsters were let down by the more experienced players on the pitch. Jordon Ibe might be younger in years than some of his teammates today but he’s had more playing time than pretty much all of them put together. Much like on Thursday night when he came on at half-time, however, he added nothing to the team.

Philippe Coutinho, too, looked like he wanted to be anywhere else. He’s been off the boil for some time now, with even his goal against Manchester United coming off the back of a pretty poor first half-performance. If the manager hoped to give him some time to stretch his legs, get some form back and click with Sturridge before Thursday then the plan didn’t work.

Skrtel’s Swan Song

Speaking of plans not quite working, what will hopefully be Martin Skrtel’s last game in a Liverpool shirt didn’t end as he would have liked. There’s a chance he could yet make an appearance before the end of the season, especially at Anfield, but if Liverpool fail to win on Thursday night then there’ll be no need for Klopp to rest players for the last couple of games.

He may well have earned the right to wear the armband, but he no longer has the right to wear the shirt. He looks like a relic from another time when he lines up for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, unable to press, not knowing how to close down and generally causing trouble for everyone who has to line-up alongside him.

Martin Skrtel

Martin Skrtel

I did some maths on Skrtel’s Liverpool career and here’s how his time was spent in percentage terms:

  • Pulling someone’s shirt at a corner: 44%
  • Getting booked for a stupid tackle: 38%
  • Giving away a penalty: 9%
  • Keeping a clean sheet: 4%
  • Scoring a goal: 3%
  • Making intelligent decisions: 2%

For so long during his spell on Merseyside Martin Skrtel has been the least of our problems. The major issue is that he’s also rarely been the answer to any question that has been asked of the team. Some players, such as Lucas, have been caught up by that old enemy ‘time’ as their Liverpool career comes to a close. Skrtel just hasn’t been good enough for a long period and it’s time for us all to say, “thanks for the memories, but goodbye”.

He’s been a ‘good servant’ to the club, as the saying goes, but Klopp needs to build a team for the future and there’s no place in that for the Slovakian. With Joel Matip arriving in the summer and Joe Gomez returning from injury at the same time, next season will see a much changed Liverpool defence even when Klopp looks to rotate the team.

Attacking The defence

Much as those that don’t want to criticise Sturridge might ask what was going on behind him and where the support for him was, so too the few fans that still like Skrtel might point to the rest of the defence and ask what the hell they were up to. Skrtel wasn’t great, but he was hardly the only one at the back to be lacking in ideas and concentration.

Since the start of the 2014-2015 season only four teams have conceded three or more goals over ten times. Sunderland have done it exactly ten times up until now, with Aston Villa and Newcastle conceding over three goals thirteen times. Liverpool have now done it eleven times. Not exactly auspicious company to be keeping.

More than a few people have suggested that Brad Smith should have been starting more regularly than Alberto Moreno. I can’t deny that, a few months ago, I would have liked to have seen the Australian get a few more matches under his belt in place of the Spaniard who can best be described as ‘erratic’. Today we saw just why Klopp has stuck to his guns with his startling XI.

mooinblack / shutterstock.com

mooinblack / shutterstock.com

Dejan Lovren has looked like a man reborn under Klopp, with the Croatian being consistently very good for the past few months. Whether it was because he was having to play with Skrtel again or because he’s tired after a huge number of games in his legs recently it’s difficult to say, but today he was back to looking like the shaky defender we remember of old.

Ultimately, of course, today’s result doesn’t matter. In fact, despite the fun we’ve had in the Europa League this season, most Liverpool fans will feel that we’ll stand more chance of making an assault on the Premier League if we don’t end up in Europe’s second string competition for our next campaign. Defeats are never easy to take but if we miss out on the Europa League placings and fail to win the competition this time around, will anyone really mind?

This defence won’t be lining up against Villarreal on Thursday night and something will have to go wrong in a big way for them to play together again next season. With that in mind it’s a game, and a performance, that has shown Jürgen Klopp just how much work he still has to do.

It’s worth bearing in mind, too, that Swansea, though technically safe, needed to win today to guarantee their Premier League survival. Combine that with a Liverpool team that had nothing to play for and a bigger game to think about, is it any wonder that the Swans produced a better display than the Reds? It wasn’t good enough, but we’ve got bigger fish to fry.

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