With everything going right for the Reds before they even kicked a ball, they were given the opportunity to take their place at the top of the Premier League if they beat lowly Fulham. That’s as positive as the afternoon got…
Not only did they not achieve that, they arguably put in the joint worst performance of the season in the process.
It was a depressing display by Liverpool who looked lethargic, with so many bad decisions, passes and movements made throughout the 90 minutes. It had shades of the performance at Villa Park earlier in the season. Fulham on the other hand where excellent, pressuring the Reds into mistakes and taking advantage of anything loose.
The side from London deservedly took the lead but could have easily been two or three up by half-time if it wasn’t for the fine saves produced from Reds goalkeeper, Alisson Becker. Even after the interval, Klopp’s side failed to significantly improve as they continued to make the same mistakes.
Even when Salah converted the penalty, Liverpool did not look like they would grab a winner as they misplaced every pass in the final third and continued to lose every tackle against their opposition.
Fans will be concerned by the inconsistency in performances, as great displays against Leicester and Wolves have been followed by woeful performances against Brighton and Fulham. They weren’t dropping points in these games last season.
To further compound the Reds dreadful afternoon was the quadruple dose of injury news, that at this point is no longer surprising. Before the match kicked off, Klopp confirmed that Diogo Jota would be “out for six to eight weeks” with a knee injury suffered against FC Midtjylland, Kostas Tsimikas would be out for “one and a half to two months” with a knee injury himself, whilst Naby Keïta was struggling with a “fitness issue”.
During the game itself, Joël Matip suffered a back injury that saw him substituted at half time, with Jordan Henderson filling in at centre back alongside Fabinho. With an injury list as long as his arm, Klopp will be desperately looking for significant reinforcements in January with so many of his star names now on the treatment table.
The German made two changes from the side who defeated Wolves last Sunday, Kelleher dropped to the bench after his trio of stunning displays, with Alisson returning between the sticks. Trent Alexander-Arnold also returned to the starting line-up, after his 90 minutes in Denmark on Wednesday, with Neco Williams returning to the side-lines.
Here are my winners and losers from the game:
AlissonEmbed from Getty Images
Simply put, Liverpool would have been three or four down at half time without him. He made several excellent saves, that in hindsight, now look extremely valuable. He was the main reason the Reds walked away with a point and one of two players who can walk away with their head held high.
Even when everything was crumbling around him the Brazilian stayed calm and composed. His distribution was once again perfect, always picking the right pass to his colleagues. His awareness as always was on point, as the sweeper keeper was called into action a couple of times outside his area.
His saves will clearly go down as his major positive from this game. Every stop he made would be classed as hard and a wonder save if it was any other goalkeeper. He made them look like regulation denials. After making each save, he would always push it away from danger so his colleagues could regroup and defend the next phase.
With Fulham’s goal he couldn’t do anything about it. The strike from Reid was pure and accurately placed in the corner giving him no chance. This shouldn’t blemish his performance at all as it was a special display. He continues to show why Liverpool parted with the amount of money they paid for him and why he is imperative to this side.
Curtis JonesEmbed from Getty Images
The teenager put in a mature performance that was reminiscent of a man who was playing alongside him. When all the other nine outfield players were struggling, he was driving force pushing them forwards, trying to provide some kind of intensity in their play.
With Wijnaldum really struggling alongside him, he was covering twice as much ground in the first half to stop the Fulham counter attacks, whilst providing back up to Alexander-Arnold who was suffering up against Lookman. His boss clearly appreciated this part of his game as Klopp gave him the thumbs up and applauded his efforts after another recovery run, the only time we didn’t see the boss screaming at his team.
In the second half he was the main source of danger to Fulham with driving runs through the middle. His first effort saw him earn the free kick that led to the Liverpool penalty a couple of minutes later. His other dynamic run saw him carry the ball from his own half all the way to the penalty spot, breezing past a number of Fulham players in the process, before Areola denied him a goal of the season contender.
He has matured so much this season. With Liverpool missing Thiago, Keïta, Milner and Oxlade-Chamberlain for major chunks of the campaign so far, he has stepped up massively and put in performances when they are most needed. He has been extremely impressive and Klopp must look after his new academy star so he doesn’t suffer burnout during the Christmas period.
Gini WijnaldumEmbed from Getty Images
After his stunning performance last week against Wolves this was quite the dip in form at Craven Cottage. He was appalling with the game passing him bye with minimal contribution to it. He looked really tired, which clearly effected his decision making with every pass that he made was backwards, even when players were available in front of him.
Physically he did not win a single contested ball, with Anguissa winning there head-to-head quite comfortably all afternoon. Even when he challenged Lookman in the final five minutes, he tried tackling him four times and lost every single one. It was the complete opposite to the last domestic game in which he won everything.
The preference would be to bench the Dutch international to give him some rest. The number of games he has played is insane and fans shouldn’t really be surprised in the dip in form. Unfortunately, due to the current injury situation, Wijnaldum will not have the chance to recharge as he is desperately needed. With a key top of the table clash against high flying Tottenham up next, he cannot afford to perform like this again.
Trent Alexander-ArnoldEmbed from Getty Images
He had a shocker.
Ademola Lookman ripped him to shreds throughout the first half with Curtis Jones having to double team the winger to stop the service he was providing. Even then sometimes this wasn’t enough.
Defensively he looked well off the pace and the major weak link in the back four. Even Robinson the left back was finding joy up against him with Trent unable to get out to him in time. The half time whistle saved the English international from the pressure for 15 minutes whilst he established a new plan of action.
When he returned from the interval, the Reds dominated possession and thus the right back didn’t have to defend as much. However, offensively he looked shaky with his deliveries into the box having a major off night. Even when he managed to get to the by-line, with an easy pull back to Firmino on, he managed to bury it straight into Areola’s palms. Klopp pulled him off after 70 minutes as he was clearly hanging, with his cardio still not back to 100pc.
We need to look at the bigger picture though. This was only his second game back after over a month away with injury. He is working his way back to full fitness and needs to be given the game time to do that. We know what he is capable of and if he starts to get going again, the rest of the Premier League will be in severe trouble. Hopefully he can return to form on Wednesday evening against Spurs.
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