The visit of a resurgent Chelsea to Anfield was the ideal catalyst for the Reds to show what they are capable of and end their recent hoodoo at home. Instead, Thomas Tuchel’s side put in an extremely impressive display which exacerbated the issues that his compatriot Jurgen Klopp seems unable to address.
Liverpool Mentality Dropping as Failure to Qualify for Europe Looms
High Line Exploited
Attempting to stick to the style of football which has brought them such great success over the past two seasons, Liverpool refused to deviate from holding a high line against Chelsea.
In starting Timo Werner, who was close to joining Liverpool last summer, Tuchel anticipated how the home side’s centre-backs would line up. Playing Jorginho and N’Golo Kanté in the engine room, Chelsea hatched a plan to exploit the large amounts of space in behind their opponents’ back four.
A warning klaxon boomed around the empty ground when Jorginho’s pinpoint ball over the top sent Werner through, with Alisson caught in no man’s land as the ball was scrambled home. The controversial chalking off of the goal by VAR turned out to be inconsequential in the end but it gave Liverpool a lifeline.
Rather than dropping into deeper positions and neutralise Werner’s pace, Fabinho and his centre-back partner Ozan Kabak continued to hover around the halfway line.
The game’s only goal came from another defensive lapse as Fabinho failed to cover the space vacated by the advancing Trent Alexander-Arnold, allowing Mason Mount to cut inside unchallenged and whip a wonderful strike into the far corner after he was picked out by another direct ball over the defence.
The signing of Kabak as a recognised central defender was supposed to stop this kind of miscommunications from occurring. However, the Turkish international has not looked comfortable in the slightest since arriving from Schalke, highlighting the lack of stability at the back for Klopp.
Despite Liverpool’s dreadful run of form which has seen them go winless at home for the fifth match in a row, the first reigning English champions to suffer such an unwanted fate, it would also be unfair on Kabak and Fabinho to blame the Liverpool defence as the sole reason for their demise and potential failure to qualify for Europe.
A loss of the attacking Liverpool production is also very much to blame, especially if they fail in their pursuit of Europe.
Front Three Not Doing Liverpool Any Favours in Pursuit of Europe
After being offered a reprieve by VAR, the Reds once again failed to capitalise in front of goal, notably when Sadio Mané was unable to get the ball out of his feet with a clear chance to shoot.
Firing blank again on Thursday night means Liverpool have now failed to score with their last 99 shots (excluding penalties and own goals) at Anfield in the Premier League, per Opta.
In a team loaded with attackers, such as Mané, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, that statistic makes for grim reading. Seeing his number appear on the substitutes board, Salah cut a frustrated figure when he was replaced by a returning Diogo Jota.
Over the course of 11 Premier League games in 2021, Klopp’s usually dependable trio have scored just six goals between them. Mané and Firmino have netted just one each in the league so far this year, whilst Salah has found the net four times himself.
The Egyptian has so far failed to equal his tally for the month of December alone, scoring five goals. The Reds were undefeated throughout that month, finding the net 15 times. It is no coincidence then, that as the goals have gradually dried up from the front three, the Merseyside club have found points more and more difficult to pick up.
Jota’s aforementioned introduction is a flash of light amidst a deep, dark pit of gloom for Liverpool supporters. He had a tremendous impact upon signing from Wolverhampton Wanderers, but his progress was derailed by a nasty knee injury. Jota’s absence has demonstrated why the Reds miss his dynamism in the final third- struggling to create chances without the presence of the Portuguese international.
Just a solitary shot on target shows that a previously terrifying attacking trident may be beginning to lose its way, no doubt frustrated and, judging by the look on Salah’s face as he departed the field, fed up with the current run of results.
The injury gods may have cursed Liverpool to a cruel destiny, yet their rotten luck when it comes to treatment room diagnoses is not singularly to blame for their spectacular fall down the Premier League table.
Core issues such as communication, chance creation and goalscoring need urgent addressing or else, instead of conquering Europe, Liverpool will become spectators, confined to watching the action from their screens.
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