One step forward, three steps back. That’s what it feels like at the moment.
After the impressive performance on Tuesday night against RB Leipzig, Liverpool flattered to deceive four days later with a display reminiscent of what has been the norm over the past two months, which will have fans once again with their heads in their hands.
It feels like Groundhog Day every time Liverpool take the field – besides the European display in midweek – as they continue to repeat the same mistakes, whilst looking timid in front of goal. The lack of any intensity or ruthlessness in such a monumental fixture is extremely worrying, and now has Klopp desperately searching for answers as the top four starts to drift away from his side.
As Everton took the lead after three minutes, at no point did the Reds look like they would find an answer, as a mixture of great defending and luck, had the points destined to be going back to Goodison Park. Everton where excellent and resolute, and whilst they didn’t have to do anything extraordinary, they fully deserved the victory.
To say that Ancelotti’s side deserved to win hurts a lot, but it is true. The Reds are a shadow of the team that has been outstanding over the last three seasons, as they wonder where the next Premier League victory is going to come from.
The next fixture – away to bottom of league Sheffield United – now looks an extremely difficult prospect for Klopp’s confidence shot team. Now with Jordan Henderson expected to be out for a month with a suspected groin injury, the Reds season is hanging by a thread and they must win a series of games over the next month or find themselves playing Thursday night football next season. Even then, this isn’t a given considering the dire form that they find themselves in.
To the game itself – after the much-needed confidence boost of Tuesday night – Liverpool went into the Merseyside derby with revenge on their minds. After injuries to van Dijk and Thiago in the reverse fixture earlier in the season, fans were asking for a response and to extend the barren record that Everton had at Anfield.
From the kick-off, things started to unravel immediately. After early misplaced headers from Thiago and Kabak, James Rodriguez brought the ball down brilliantly before slotting the ball through to Richarlison, who swiftly stroked the ball home beyond Alisson to give the Blues the lead.
Throughout the remainder of the game Liverpool dominated possession but failed to produce any clear-cut chances. Opportunities did fall to Salah, Mané and Firmino throughout the 90 minutes, but each failed to end with goals as a combination of tight angles, slightly over hit crosses and superb defending denied the forwards of anything significant.
What could hamper the Reds now for the next few weeks is not having their influential skipper Jordan Henderson available to them. After pulling his groin on the 30-minute mark, the club captain looked distraught as he left the pitch, with Klopp sarcastically smiling as his side suffered another significant injury, which could further hamper their season.
With seemingly no luck to call upon, the Reds misery would be further compounded in the last 10 minutes, as Everton killed the contest with a second goal. An atrocious decision by Chris Kavanagh to award Everton a penalty – despite being strongly advised to change his decision by the VAR referee – was subsequently slotted home by Gylfi Sigurdsson to give the blue side of Merseyside a reason to cheer for the first time in 11 years.
At the final whistle, the look of embarrassment on all of the Liverpool players faces said it all. They know performances and results aren’t good enough, all whilst the realisation of where they currently find themselves in the Premier League hit them badly. The situation has now developed into a fully fledged crisis that only Klopp can fix.
The German’s players have let him down over the last two months, with each individual playing well below their expected skill level for a prolonged period of time. It is now his job to get this side back up off the canvas, and return them to the powerhouse that they have been for the 40 months prior to Christmas 2020.
Liverpool’s head coach kept the same team that defeated RB Leipzig in the Champions League on Tuesday evening.
Here are my winners and losers from the game:
WinnersEmbed from Getty Images
After having this column full in midweek with no losers, it is a full role reversal after this game.
This performance was so one dimensional, with each player struggling to influence the game positively, as the Everton tactics and shape from Ancelotti nullified the Reds players strengths, whilst further exploiting the Reds, now well known, weakness of being able to be caught on the break.
Despite these strengths being taken away from them, the Reds still controlled the vast majority of the game and silly mistakes have proved costly over the 90 minutes once again. This will infuriate Klopp, as you imagine the players would have wanted to react swiftly to the high-profile errors of previous weeks. Instead, they have gone into there shells; unable to play any expansive football at all.
Liverpool have now been beaten by Burnley, Brighton, Manchester City and Everton at Anfield. Three of the four having committed to the sit back and counter game plan, whilst West Brom started this trend just after Christmas after negotiating a draw on Merseyside despite being at the foot of the table. With managers around the league now knowing it works, Klopp and the players need to react and work upon a new game plan to get around this.
Like I touched upon earlier, this Liverpool team currently has zero confidence. They look out on there feet every time they currently play, looking completely uninterested at their slide in form. A major effort is now needed from Klopp and his coaching staff to get this previously efficient machine rolling again, hopefully onward and upward towards the top four again.
Sadio ManéEmbed from Getty Images
The Senegalese internationals poor form continued with another disappointing display. The winger has found it difficult in the last two months to do the things that has made him into one of the world’s best players. He has tried everything in his portfolio, but everything seems to end in losing possession for his team.
Seamus Coleman was excellent all game and really kept the pressure on the Liverpool forward and forced him into constant mistakes. Even when Mané got past the Irishman, he got the ball stuck under his feet when looking ahead and then was subsequently tackled. This piece of play perfectly summarises the wingers play over the past few weeks, tries extremely hard but in the end disappoints with a messy piece of play.
He had his chances in the second half but found that the ball was just narrowly out of his grasp to connect properly. The ball just isn’t rolling for him at the moment and that is just how football goes. The fact that he is one of Liverpool’s most instrumental players just further highlights his struggles at present.
Form is temporary, class is permanent. His form has been really disappointing for a couple of months but he is a world class forward and he will eventually return to the greatness he has consistently shown since signing for Liverpool. We thought his goal against Leipzig would kick start his resurgence but unfortunately it didn’t. Hopefully the next game against Sheffield United can provide that much needed spark for him.
Roberto FirminoEmbed from Getty Images
A game to forget for the Brazilian, who had the best chances for the Reds but skewed them wide of the mark or had them blocked after taking too many touches. The frustration in his own demeanour grows, as he contributes heavily on the defensive side of the ball, but his goals are not coming at the other end, as his strikes have dried up since the Crystal Palace game.
After his terrific showing in the Champions League, it was a shock to see him fall back into the negative play that he has displayed during the poor Reds run. He looked short on confidence and when you haven’t scored for nearly two months you can fully understand. His intersecting passes were also erratic as he attempted to force through passes, hitting an Everton player at every attempt, even when they weren’t there.
Firmino’s form and performance is one of the few players whose game is directly affected by the players around him. With Mané and Salah scoring this would usually suggest that Liverpool’s number nine has had a great game, as he will have contributed to his fellow forwards strikes in some way. However, when they are not scoring – much like Mané – it is clear as day that he is having a poor game.
The striker – just like the team – needs a break of some kind. The ball to luckily fall to him at the edge of the area and it to take a couple of deflections into the net. He is very much a confidence-based player and with one goal his fortunes could change like that. Fingers crossed a moment like this can be produced against Sheffield United next matchday.
Ozan KabakEmbed from Getty Images
This was a shocker for the Schalke loanee. After the man of the match performance in midweek, the difficulties of the English game came back to bite him again. A week after the disaster against Leicester, his inability to deal and adapt to the weather had him running all over the place, as Richarlison got the better of him all evening.
After being given the vote of confidence as the Reds main defender now with all the injuries, it was disappointing to see him not learn from his mistakes at the King Power and fail to adapt to the easier sides of the English game. The header for the first goal comes to mind, as he struggled to get any distance on his clearance, which subsequently ended with the ball in Alisson’s net ten seconds later.
His change in centre back partner after the Henderson injury will not have helped him at all. He looked unsure on how to go about his business for the remainder of the game as Phillips attacked everything, a role that Kabak had held in this side prior to the skipper’s injury. Having to be the more reserved centre half looked uncomfortable for him, which will be something to work on before the next game.
He is a young man and at the start of his Liverpool career. He has come onboard at a time where the club is seriously struggling domestically, and like all the other players his performances have been analysed to the minute detail every time they now play. If he can harness the performance he showed against Leipzig and then make the necessary adjustments to the English game, he could be highly successful in this team as he has all the attributes to do so.
Don’t miss a thing
Get new content delivered directly to your inbox. It’s free!