Different team. Same performance. Same result. Klopp’s side is in freefall and there are no signs of this slump stopping anytime soon.
Despite resting several players with the Champions League second leg against RB Leipzig in mind, the display was a carbon copy of pretty much every game played by this Liverpool team in the last three months. This team still can’t defend, they still can’t score and they keep losing by the odd goal. To put it simply, it’s very boring.
In the previous fixture against Chelsea, the Reds were completely outplayed and I had no problems with the overall outcome. In this fixture, Fulham – despite playing pretty well – we’re there for the taking, as several opportunities arose yet Liverpool’s player fail to take any. To be brutally honest, they didn’t really get close to changing that final score line.
The club find themselves now in a precarious position that is heavily reliant on a successful Champions League campaign. With the way the team are playing, this looks highly unlikely, and despite having a two-goal lead going into Wednesday night’s game, they look likely to exit the competition if they continue to play like this. The only shining light is that the “home” fixture is being played in Budapest – which after losing six home games in a row and no wins in there last eight on Merseyside – this looks like a blessing in disguise.
After an avalanche of changes to try and shake things up, a fringe Liverpool team took to the field to try and end the rotten home run they currently find themselves on. Unfortunately – and unsurprisingly – this side was unable to do this.
Fulham took control of the game from the first minute and dominated the opening period. The supreme confidence running through this side despite there lowly league position is remarkable, and should have been one up inside five minutes as Josh Maja missed a guilt edge chance from close range.
Liverpool where unable to capitalise on any attacks on their own – failing to trouble Areola even once – as chances where sporadic and loose. This poor first half was capped by the Reds conceding in the final minute before the interval.
After Robertson cleared a corner with his header, Salah was caught on the ball at the edge of the area by Mario Lemina. The Gabon international then proceeded to sweetly thrash home from just inside the area to give the Londoners a deserved lead.
It was the same old story that – by Klopp’s facial expression – he had seen far too much of this season. For fans around the world, many where sympathising with the German, as his players have continuously let him down with a sub-par displays that are truly not good enough.
A response was needed in the second-half and with Fulham’s record relatively poor at holding onto leads, there was a glimmer of hope for this out of form Liverpool team. However, the second period delivered the same as the first. A flat, lethargic display with players looking disinterested in the there and then. The number of players with there heads down and moaning is quite depressing to see. This needs to be fixed by the players themselves as their attitude is coming across quite poorly.
The introduction of substitutions affected very little, as they failed to manipulate the game in the Reds favour offensively, instead proving lacklustre until the final moments. In these closing minutes – with nothing else to lose – replacement Sadio Mané leapt to meet an Alexander-Arnold cross but – as is the Reds luck currently – his header struck the post and went wide.
At the final whistle it was a familiar feeling that hasn’t got any easier to digest upon each defeat at home. The Reds have a major problem and look desperately short in every department. There is absolutely no confidence in this team and I couldn’t tell you where the next win is coming from.
Getting poor results against relegation threatened teams is a trend that Liverpool have had for several years now. Over the last couple they have managed to convert them into wins, and in doing so challenged and won the Premier League title. Unfortunately, this season they are now losing these and the situation looks precarious beyond many fans’ worst imaginations.
Klopp made seven changes from the side defeated by Chelsea on Thursday. Sadio Mané, Thiago, Fabinho, Alexander-Arnold and Curtis Jones all dropped to the bench, whilst Ozan Kabak and Roberto Firmino both dropped out completely with injuries. In their places came Diogo Jota, Xherdan Shaqiri, Naby Keïta, Nathaniel Phillips, Rhys Williams, Neco Williams and James Milner.
Here are my winners and losers from the game:
Rhys WilliamsEmbed from Getty Images
The only player who could defend capably and who could walk off that pitch knowing he had performed to the best of his ability. He was excellent and played that calm and composed figure at the back that the Reds have lacked since the injury to Jordan Henderson.
He played everything very simple, knowing his role and what he needed to do to give his team the best chance of winning. His passes were short and accurate, making sure to offload to the players who were the playmakers in the team. Defensively, he was solid and reliable, making sure to win his one-on-one battle with Josh Maja throughout the game, which he did impressively.
After his difficult display against Manchester United in the FA Cup, he returned to the side with a new found confidence. The fact that he is only 20-years-old is a major acknowledgement that the Reds have some player on there hands if his development is done correctly. This might come in the form of a loan move next season in the Championship, but whilst the Reds have a short number of fit defenders, the youngster will need to continue to impress for Klopp’s side if they are to turn this bad run around.
Neco WilliamsEmbed from Getty Images
The young right back was given his opportunity to stake his claim in the team, after showing significant patience this season. With Trent Alexander-Arnold the clear number one at the club, the Welshman’s chances to play are few and far between. This really showed against Fulham as the intensity of Premier League football really got to him, as he struggled during his 75-minute display.
For the majority of the game, he was up against former Everton winger Ademola Lookman, and the on-loan RB Leipzig winger ran rings round Liverpool’s right back all afternoon. At no point did Neco Williams look comfortable as the pace and trickery from the winger had him struggling to do the basics and thus stopped him attacking.
When he eventually got forward during the second half, his crossing was nearly non existent as everything was either over hit it or hitting the first man. He did manage one good delivery into the area – which brilliantly found Diogo Jota – but the Portuguese star was denied by a sublime save by Areola. If ever an assist was needed for someone it was for the Welshman.
Williams is unfairly being compared to Trent every time he takes the field and people need to stop the consistent comparisons. The fact that, at this moment in time, the 19-year-old isn’t living up to what the Englishman is doing isn’t surprising. Trent is a one in a generation player, whilst Neco is still a teenager learning his craft. He will develop with experience and just needs the game time to build his confidence and that natural professional development.
After saying all that though, I don’t believe that he is going to get that consistent minutes at Liverpool. He is some way behind Trent, and bar injury to the 22-year-old, Williams won’t see much more than the League Cup and FA Cup ties. A loan spell elsewhere next season is an inevitability in the short term, but a long-term solution for his footballing career will need to be made soon.
Xherdan ShaqiriEmbed from Getty Images
The second, and final loser spot was a toss-up between Jota and the Swiss international. Both were extremely poor during the afternoon, but taking into consideration the Portuguese’s substantial amount of time away with injury, I have gone with Shaqiri.
Like Williams, Shaqiri’s appearances at Anfield have been few and far between over the years but this has been mainly down to injuries. This season is the first where he is seeing some kind of consistent game time, whether it be starting or coming off the bench. He has been mainly doing the latter, but against Fulham found himself starting, and therefore an opportunity to push his claim when so many attacking players have been so poor.
Unfortunately for the 29-year-old, he continued that out of form forward trend with a lacklustre showing himself over 75 minutes. The game just seemed to pass him by with every pass that he made intercepted or going way beyond it’s intended target. This didn’t improve when he was moved back into midfield and he continued to make the same simple mistakes to the detriment of the team.
He was mainly considered by many, as the one in the starting line up to produce the creativity needed to break Fulham down. Instead, his play was pretty negative and looked uncomfortable with actually taking any risks. This was disappointing in so many ways as his performances during this three-month spell – when featured – haven’t been too bad. However, he seemed lost and playing a role that brought him much success in his career thus far.
At the end of the season there will likely be a mass clear out of fringe players and Shaqiri is widely considered one of the players set to leave Anfield. With a handful of games left in the season, the winger doesn’t have much time to convince Klopp and co that he should remain on Merseyside for the foreseeable future.
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