Liverpool failed to fully capitalise on Manchester City’s defeat against Newcastle as they were forced to settle for a point against Leicester City on Wednesday night. Sadio Mane gave the Jürgen Klopp’s side the perfect start but Harry Maguire’s equaliser meant the Reds increased their lead over City by one point, not the three that was hoped.
Missed opportunity but still one point gained…
As momentum and hope was building, especially after City’s shock defeat on Tuesday, Liverpool fans probably forgot one very important thing – we never do things the easy way, and going seven points clear would be doing just that. It’s a really weird situation and supporters will be left scratching their heads as to how to feel about it.
Offered the chance the increase the lead over City this midweek, and we would have snapped your hand off. Yet the way events have unravelled have left a strange feeling, and what’s even weirder is that if City and Liverpool both would have won then fans would be waking up happy come Thursday morning, but in reality some fans are waking up unhappy despite the gap increasing.
Looking at the draw, Leicester need to be given huge credit for what was a fantastic performance by the Foxes, particularly by their midfield and fullbacks, and given the number of chances they had and how average Liverpool were, a point should be considered a good result. Forget the battle with City for a moment, that was a game that the Reds easily could have lost and was the type of game that City have lost this season.
Some mention must go to how absolutely terrible referee Martin Atkinson was, but in truth Klopp’s team probably didn’t deserve to come away with three points – the performance certainly didn’t warrant that at least. Credit and positivity must be taken though from the fact that it has taken 17 matches for Liverpool to eventually drop points against a non ‘top six’ side, and that at the end of the day the lead over City has got bigger.
Injuries taking toll on performances…
Given all the wins this season, Liverpool have coped fairly well with any injury setbacks thrown their way, but in recent matches performances have stalled and finally against Leicester neither the performance or winning result was there, and injuries certainly played a part. Jordan Henderson filled in fairly well at right-back, but the Reds miss Trent Alexander-Arnold so much down that right-hand side and Klopp will be praying the fullback might be available for Monday’s trip to West Ham.
Joe Gomez was excellent alongside Virgil Van Dijk in the first half of the campaign, and while Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren are capable of good performances, they certainly don’t bring the calmness and ability that Gomez does. Fans were sweating over the fitness of Fabinho in the build-up to the match and unfortunately the Brazilian was only available to make the bench. Fabinho has become integral to this Liverpool side in the last few months and to only have him able to play the last 20 minutes or so was unfortunate. If Alexander-Arnold, Gomez and Fabinho would have been fit to start the game, you would have backed the Reds to win.
The Keita debate…
Dejan Lovren and Jordan Henderson have been the two players at the forefront of the individuals who divide the fanbase, but it seems a new frontrunner is emerging in Naby Keita. The absences of those mentioned above meant Klopp basically has a toss-up between Keita and Rafa Camacho as to who would start, and in the end experience won out. With Henderson at right-back, fans were finally able to see Keita play in a double pivot, and the reaction was one of he was one of our best players, he had a decent game, or he was terrible.
Personally, Keita looked much more comfortable as a central midfielder and improved as the game went on. He offered a million times more than Xherdan Shaqiri or Mohamed Salah and should have been involved in a potentially game-winning moment when he was denied a clear penalty. In fact, the one-two and run Keita made there was exactly that fans want to see. Wijnaldum is someone whose best bits often come off the ball, whereas Keita is a player whose best moments will come with it, hence he is in the spotlight so much more.
It really is a mystery as to why fans still haven’t learnt from the cases of Andy Robertson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, with both players looking poor in the first half of their first season at Anfield before springing into life in the second half. Keita’s start to life at Liverpool has been far more promising than Oxlade-Chamberlain’s first few months were. Keita’s price-tag and hype around his time in the Bundesliga had led to huge expectation, which is understandable, but Keita is showing positive signs and deserves patience from fans, whose current impatience could prevent the midfielder from following in the footsteps of Robertson and Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Klopp must find way to rejuvenate below-par Reds…
It is fair to say that 2019 is yet to see a quality, well-rounded performance from Liverpool. 2018 ended with a terrific thrashing of Arsenal, but ever since the loss versus City, Klopp’s team hasn’t looked the same. Injuries have played a part, and consequently the defensive steel seems to have been lost while the attack hasn’t consistently operated at full capacity.
A fan joked yesterday that only one of our attackers is allowed to play well in a match at the moment, and it does seem that way, Palace win apart. Keeping the wins ticking over is the most important factor, but it feels as if Liverpool really need to go up the gears if they want to ensure they win the title this season. The break in Dubai seems to have done little, and Klopp, be it through training or a change in tactics, needs to get more from his players, especially in tricky games like away to West Ham.
One possible solution could be a return to 4-3-3, as with Shaqiri currently looking more potent as an impact substitute, Salah still not fully convincing as a striker and a few other factors, the system change could be beneficial. City have their next three games in the short space of eight days, and against Arsenal, Everton and Chelsea where dropped points could well be possible. Thus Liverpool need to ensure they return to winning ways as well as form.