Three minutes of magic from Sadio Mane meant three vital points for Liverpool after a horror January. And the vibe seemed to be positive at Anfield Road after the final whistle. A superb display from the Reds and another huge performance from Liverpool against a big team. Once again, the question is: How can you beat Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City but fail to win against Burnley, Hull or Bournemouth?
- Lack of focus
Liverpool seems to be invincible against the big names in Premier League. They’ve played eight games against the teams from Top 6. They lost only eight points after four wins and four draws and the goal difference is 12-7. Long story short, the Reds would be champions if the league had only Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and the two Manchester-based rivals. Klopp’s players can easily focus against the top dogs as they like big challenges and teams with quality in both offense and defense. We have seen how Liverpool recovered from 0-1 down against Arsenal, leading 4-1 at one point because the Gunners love to play all-in and this generates goals and blockbusters.
Against teams like Tottenham and Manchester City, Klopp’sdefensee faced the threat of standing in front of top-class players like Aguero, Kane, Alli, De Bruyne, Son or Silva. But Liverpool loves to conquer enemy territories in total war when both teams offer quality and no “buses are parked” illegally on the pitch. Also, what I have noticed in these games is the importance of the momentum. At Emirates, at Stamford Bridge and against Tottenham at Anfield, Liverpool scored more twice within less than 20 minutes. Those moments of pure football have been instrumental in the final outcome of the games as the opponents lost every time after the Blitzkrieg from Coutinho&Co.
- No sledgehammer to move the bus
Liverpool fell short against two newly-promoted teams, Burnley and Hull and lost against Bournemouth or Swansea, two relegation contenders. It is very interesting how after the 4-3 victory from the first game of the season against Arsenal, they looked terrible against Burnley and lost 2-0. The story repeated all throughout the season as the title hopes were torn to pieces by Llorente, Wilson, Cook, N’diaye or Ake. One thing is for sure: they don’t like teams who use the patented Mourinho tactic of parking the bus.
Jurgen Klopp said after a 2-0 win against Sunderland that “this has been the most defensive team I have ever played against” as his players put the ball in the back of the net very late in the game, after the 70th minute. As a matter of fact, this is why Liverpool is so bad against the so-called “small teams”. They face a wall and they miss golden chances. As a result, they get frustrated easily and they concede goals at the first defensive error. In the game against Bournemouth it was 3-1 for the Reds in the 73rd minute and could have been even worse for Eddie Howe. Then, after frustration mounted, simple errors by the defenders and the keeper Karius made the comeback possible.
It seems they can’t perform in front of a passive team who loves scoring on the counterattack. Against Hull, the report of goal attempts was 22-7 for Liverpool, with a 5-4 dominance of shots on target. The loss against Swansea at Anfield showed how important is the frustration caused by their mistakes: 74%-26% possession, 16-6 goal attempts, 5-3 shots on goal. Final score: 2-3 for Swansea, 100% shots on goal conversion.
- Defensive frailty – nightmare for Mignolet and Karius
Even if they can align a first “eleven” with Mane, Coutinho, Sturridge, Lallana or Firmino, there is no secret that the defense is very weak. They conceived 7 goals in 8 matches against the Top6 opponents and 23 goals in the 17 games versus the rest of Premier League. The ratio against the big clubs is 0.875 whereas against Hull & Co the ratio is quite big: 1.352 goals received per game. Lovren, Matip, Clyne, Klavan or Milner seem weak and fragile every time they face an English football club from mid-table or relegation zone.
This issue has been the cause for the loss of the biggest trophies in the recent years: Premier League in 2014 and Europa League in 2016. The way Liverpool defends is not a recipe for success as the domestic league title is won mostly by beating the small teams. Three years ago, they felt short at Crystal Palace after the amazing comeback of the Londoners from 0-3 in the 80th minute to 3-3. Last year, the story seemed identical: Jurgen Klopp played perfectly against big clubs, taking four points from Chelsea, six from Manchester City and drawing twice against Tottenham. Once again, they lost to Southampton, Swansea, Newcastle and Watford, conceding 11 goals in those 4 games.
So, what’s next for Liverpool?
AWAY – Leicester
HOME – Arsenal
HOME – Burnley
AWAY – Manchester City
Four interesting games, if they will follow the trend we might see Burnley taking point/points from Anfield and Guardiola and Wenger being defeated by the “heavy metal football” of Klopp. Consistency is the key if Liverpool wants to finish in the Top 4
Congratulations to Sadio on winning player of the month for February, 100% deserved he was missed when he was away playing in the African Nations and when he came back it helped massively. Well done @sadiomaneofficiel 🍾🍾🏆🎉🎉 #liverpoolfc #ynwa #liverpool #lfc #sadiomane #mane #wijnaldum #reds #anfield #anfieldroad #coyr #origi #adamlallana #eng #coutinho #firmino #henderson #lallana #sturridge #weareliverpool #klopplfc #poetryinmotion #redmen #stevengerrard #gerrard #football #footballer