After 1369 days and 68 games, Liverpool’s unbeaten league record at Anfield is over.
The 69th game proved that step too far as they slumped to a shocking defeat against a much unfavoured Burnley. It is another concerning result for Klopp, who has seen his side relinquish top spot after Christmas Day and go five games without a goal, leaving them scrabbling for a top four spot.
This result means the next month will now make or break the Reds season. With Manchester City and United starting to form a gap between themselves and Klopp’s side, and with the rest of the Premier League tightly contested, focus could turn towards the FA Cup and Champions League as more viable options for trophies this season.
With the way the defending champions are playing, a top four finish isn’t a given and the bare minimum that the players must achieve. This is something many fans didn’t expect to come into this season’s thoughts, but with the team devoid of belief and lacking any spark or attacking threat, this will now be at the forefront of their minds.
The evening started with mixed news, as Joël Matip eased the defensive fears as he returned to the starting line-up alongside Fabinho. Unfortunately, captain Jordan Henderson suffered a minor groin issue in the build-up and would sit out this game in favour for the FA Cup tie on Sunday.
Even with the injury issues and bad form that had engulfed Liverpool in recent weeks, many thought they would easily have enough to defeat struggling Burnley. With Klopp opting to rotate to freshen up his side, the Reds started well taking the front foot and asserting themselves early on, pressuring Dyche’s side in the early exchanges.
However, this was the best Liverpool would play as after the 15-minute mark they would return to the fragile football that has scuppered their season over the last month. Poor final third passing and crosses not beating the first man were consistent barriers to any efforts being manufactured. Despite this, Origi was given a golden chance to send the Reds in ahead at the break.
After the ball found its way back to Ben Mee, his miss kick back to Nick Pope would be pounced upon by the Belgian who rapidly closed in on the Burnley goal. This golden opportunity however would be spurned, as the forward rattled the crossbar with his strike leaving the frame shaking as the players went in for halftime.
This miss would prove extremely costly, as Liverpool continued to fail in the Clarets third of the pitch. Even the introduction of Salah and Firmino failed to improve the situation as the ball rattled around the Burnley area before being thumped away. This lack of a ruthless finisher, most evidently Diogo Jota, came back to haunt them with ten minutes to go.
After finding themselves in the Liverpool box for only the third time on the evening, the ball broke to Ashely Barnes who beat the onrushing Alisson Becker to the ball before being brought down. The Brazilian was unable to make amends for his foul, as Barnes picked himself off the deck to convert past the Reds number one to the delight of Dyche and his backroom staff.
It was a damaging strike which has left Klopp’s side searching for answers. What has gone so horribly wrong since Christmas Day to see this side fall completely out of form in front of goal?
When the final whistle went, attention swiftly moved to Sunday with an in-form Manchester United up next at Old Trafford in the FA Cup. Clearly, there isn’t much confidence in the side at this moment to suggest that they can go there and advance. Personally, I believe a game like Sunday is one which can kick start these players again. Klopp won’t tolerate this going on any longer and will demand goals from his forwards, in a competition which has slowly become more and more important in recent weeks.
The German made three changes from the Premier League goalless draw against Manchester United. Jordan Henderson (groin), Roberto Firmino and Mohammed Salah dropped out, with Joël Matip, Divock Origi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain given opportunities to impress.
Here are my winners and losers from the game:
WinnersEmbed from Getty Images
A couple of players had moments, but with a display as poor as what we saw after the first 15 minutes, no-one could warrant being in this column.
The lack of any urgency in the play will be a massive worry for many onlookers. Players looked tired and without a plan B, which is something that has been evident in previous performances against West Brom (H), Newcastle (A), Southampton (A) and Manchester United (H).
The lack of fans is affecting many teams in the league, but more so Klopp’s side. The encouragement that the Reds needed at several moments just wasn’t there from the Anfield faithful and it showed.
One result however could make all the difference. Even just one goal could be game changing in Liverpool’s form. Hopefully, the major fixture up next can be the start of the Reds return to strength and the return of players to the winner’s column.
Trent Alexander-ArnoldEmbed from Getty Images
Since his return from injury against FC Midtjylland, he has lacked something in every game. In recent weeks this has been his work going forwards, which has been beyond poor. His own struggles have run exactly in parallel with the team’s shocking run. I believe this is no coincidence, considering he is the chief creator in the side.
It was a nightmare performance that saw him attempt 18 crosses without a single one meeting its intended target, whilst his long-range passing – which is normally a reliable staple of his game – was frenetic, only coming off a couple of times.
After impressing defensively against Manchester United, he was at fault for much of Burnley’s attacking success. When the Clarets did manage to break into the Reds final third opportunities came through the 22-year-old switching off. This included the Ashley Barnes volley which was brilliantly saved by Alisson and the Chris Wood’s effort in the first half. His performance was summed up in the end by his pass in the last minute to Robertson, which was blasted behind the left-back for a throwing.
He is in the worst form of his Liverpool career and must be mindful that Neco Williams will be pushing for a run in the team. Something needs to happen for the English right-back sooner rather than later, for the sake of his own starting berth and the team’s fortunes. I am hopeful that he will return stronger than ever.
Divock OrigiEmbed from Getty Images
This could have been the last game we see the Belgian in a Liverpool shirt. He once again rarely troubled the opposition but when his big moment came, he faltered getting it all wrong.
The former Lille forward, had the game in the palm of his hands on the stroke of half time. As someone who has pulled the Reds back from the abyss before against Borussia Dortmund, Newcastle, Everton and Barcelona, Nick Pope and Burnley should have been a walk in the park for him. Instead, as his strike thumped against the bar, he compounded an already desperate situation for the team and now himself.
It is fair to say that the 25-year-old has had one of the most up and down careers at a single club you can imagine. However, I do not see the forward coming back from this latest poor display. With Minamino left on the bench in favour of Origi, many fans are likely to call for the Japanese international to start whenever the front three are to be rotated. Even then the former RB Salzburg man could find a starting berth with the lack of form and goals currently on offer. In regards to Origi, I will be surprised if we see him in a matchday squad again under Klopp.
Liverpool FCEmbed from Getty Images
It is the first time during his tenure as Reds manager that Klopp has faced any kind of crisis at the club. His consigned look as Ashley Barnes stroked his penalty past Alisson was an image that spoke a thousand words. He looks utterly bemused, and clueless as to why his side is struggling so much.
Last night after the game, he held his hands up as he reiterated to every media outlet “it didn’t happen tonight but, in this case, it was my fault.” This signal of defence from the manager is the first time we have seen this in nearly four years, and something that I hope we don’t have to see again for a long time.
It is clear that Liverpool has a massive problem against the teams down at the rear of the Premier League table, with only one win against the bottom six this season. Teams have figured out an effective method to get a result against Klopp’s side, recognising that there isn’t a plan b currently available to them. Therefore, they sit back, stay in the game and break in the final moments to nick a goal, which the Reds are evidently susceptible to.
Klopp also showed his frustrations after the game regarding the transfer market in January, with the lack of signings now visibly frustrating him. In response to be questioned about dealings before the end of the month, the German said “These decisions are not mine. I cannot decide if we do something in the market or not.”
Some fresh impetus is needed. They are calling out for a new centre half so Fabinho can go back into midfield, whilst a new forward wouldn’t go amiss. However, the return of Diogo Jota at the start of February could be that new signing feeling that they are looking for to reinvigorate their season.
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