West Bromwich Albion 1 – Liverpool 1: Match Report And Analysis

This game was so dead and rubbery it may as well have been a ball bouncing around a mortuary. Not to over-state things, but for Liverpool Football Club this season has long been Europa League or bust, so all eyes were firmly fixed on Wednesday night with both Jürgen Klopp’s team selection and the performance of the players in Red.

For the West Brom players things weren’t much different. Tony Pulis has made an art of finishing somewhere between 11th and 14th ever since he got his Stoke team promoted to the top-flight all those years ago. Presuming, that is, that your idea of art is some monkey throwing their own faeces at a wall.

Firstly, A Thanks

One of my best mates is an Aston Villa fan, so when I studied in Birmingham I had to pick a team to have a mild affection for and, sadly, I opted for the Villa. That means I’ve never been a fan of the Baggies, even though they were very welcoming when I went to some football commentary experience at The Hawthorns in 2005. They’ve had even less appeal since they employed the poor man’s Jose Mourinho as their manager; a man so attached to his hat he really should have a sponsorship deal by now.

It has to be said, though, that the club’s gesture before the match for the victims of the Hillsborough disaster and the families and their supporters was a class act. Given that some clubs have decided to remain silent in the aftermath of the recent inquest verdicts, those that have made such terrific statements of support should be thanked wholeheartedly.

Liverpool fans and anyone who has taken even slightly more than a passing interest in the truth behind Hillsborough have long known the truth. It is genuinely terrific, however, to see clubs across the country lend their support and their voice to prise those that deserve the freedom of the city of Liverpool ten times over. To West Brom I say, thank you.

Goalkeeping Problems

Let’s be honest, Adam Bogdan is never going to play for Liverpool Football Club again. Whatever happens next season you get the sense that the manager would rather bring José Enrique back and ask him to pull on the goalie gloves than select the Hungarian even once more.

So in many ways it’s cruel to slate a ‘keeper who is clearly not going to at Anfield for much longer. And yet. And yet.

Pretty much the only reason that West Brom didn’t score more was that they didn’t hit more shots on target. Literally anything hit at Adam Bogdan’s goal would have ended up in the back of the net as surely as if he’d kicked the thing in there himself. It seemed as though he was only on the pitch to remind us just how much better than him Simon Mignolet is, and Simon Mignolet is bloody dreadful.

Adam Bogdan. Rubbish.

Adam Bogdan. Rubbish.

There’s no question that Klopp knows he’s got a problem. The Reds have been linked with enough goalkeepers for it to be clear that Mignolet will almost certainly not be the club’s first choice shot-stopper next term. Yet with Bogdan looking dreadful today, Brad Jones being less than impressive during his spell in in between the sticks and Mignolet being, well, Mignolet, Klopp must also question what’s going on behind the scenes.

If only there was one specific person who was mostly in charge of the way the goalkeepers train, act and set-up. If only there was, oh I don’t know, say a goalkeeping coach who could be easily improved upon by bringing in a trained baboon in his place.

There are rumours that Liverpool’s German boss is bringing in new fitness coaches and new nutritionists to help improve the performance of the squad. It therefore seems utterly mind-boggling that he wouldn’t also attempt to improve on the goalkeeping coach who has overseen the worst goals-conceded column in recent memory over the past few years. Mignolet is a mid-table goalkeeper, Bogdan is a League One goalkeeper and the man pulling the strings shouldn’t be allowed through the gates of Melwood next season.

Points Totals And Places Reached

There are two ways at looking at this season. The first is to say that we finished eighth in a genuinely terrible league. The second is to say that we changed our manager midway through the season and still reached two cup finals, one of them involving an arduous European campaign.

Shankly Statue

Shankly Statue

Which version of the last nine months or so you believe is the right one will probably depend on whether or not you’re a glass half-full or a glass half-empty kind of person. Whatever you decide on, though, there can be no question that our league form simply has to improve next time out.

For all of the fuss about the superb season that Mauricio Pochettino has enjoyed at White Hart Lane, Spurs have actually finished with less points than they did under the ‘disastrous’ management of Andre Villas Boas. That Spurs were the main challengers for the title alongside Leicester until the wheels so spectacularly fell off their wagon at Stamford Bridge a fortnight ago should tell you everything you need to know about just how poor this Premier League season has been.

Even ignoring the fact that a Leicester City team containing Wes Morgan and Robert Nuth managed to win the title, the fact that we finished below one of the worst Manchester United teams since last season’s terrible Manchester United team should shame everyone at Anfield. To link the two topics I’ve written about so far together here, the Red Devils would be lucky to be mid-table if they didn’t have David De Gea in goal. What a difference a world-class ‘keeper can make to your season.

Vlad1988 / shutterstock.com

Vlad1988 / shutterstock.com

On the one hand, finishing eighth is pretty disgraceful for a club of Liverpool’s stature. On the other hand, we notched up the same amount of points in 2003-2004 and finished fourth, so the points total is arguably more relevant than the final position we got to in the table. There can also be no real criticism of Klopp over our final tally. The man has been using a squad that is, frankly, not fit for purpose and he’s often made it look like more than the sum of its parts.

On top of that he’s taken us to two cup finals and given us some absolutely brilliant days, all without a pre-season, which is reportedly crucial to his way of working, and without signing a single player on a permanent basis. It goes without saying that another season of mediocrity in the league will not be tolerated, but right now he’s allowing everyone to love their football again, has united the club’s fractured support behind him and could yet add a trophy to the cabinet before he’s really had a chance to unpack his boxes.

It also has to be acknowledged that we’re now in a win-win situation. Victory in the Europa League on Wednesday night will put us in the Champions League group stages, defeat will mean we have no European football to worry about next year and can instead concentrate on the big one. The last time we had nothing but domestic concerns to worry about we can within a moment of winning our first Premier League title. Next time out we could go one step further.

Everyone wants Liverpool to win all of the time, so of course there’s disappointment that we didn’t get the three points at the Hawthorns. All our eggs are in a Europa basket now, though, so bring on your Sevilla and your St.Jakob Park. The Reds are coming over the hill…

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