Sevilla 3 – 3 Liverpool. If you did not watch the game and just saw the scoreline, you would instantly think, “What a game,” but the truth of the matter is that Liverpool threw it away. This is now something Liverpool are almost becoming famous for.
This chaotic game had absolutely everything but it has once again exposed the problems that Liverpool have defensively. Sadly though, these problems are not something new and haven’t appeared overnight. This is something that has been evident for the best part of 4 to 5 seasons now.
Liverpool started at a blistering pace going 3-0 up after 30 minutes and in truth looked completely in control, Roberto Firmino with two and a Sadio Mané goal left Sevilla with a mountain to climb. At 3-0, Liverpool should have looked to control this game, but instead Sevilla got at them and exposed Liverpool’s defensive frailties, particularly at left back where Alberto Moreno was once again culpable. Jordan Henderson’s night will be one to forget, with just a 55% pass completion, no tackles or aerial duels won, and one booking. Hopefully, Gareth Southgate wasn’t watching.
The inability to not just see out games while leading, but also to defend as a unit has become a source of irritation for many Liverpool fans; you only have to look back to the first day of the season when they conceded a scrappy late goal from a free kick against Watford, or the fact they let Newcastle back into the game shortly after Coutinho had put the team ahead a few weeks’ back. They have also taken hammerings this season. Away at Manchester City they shipped 5 goals – granted they had a man sent off at 1-0 but they never really looked in control – and when they visited Wembley to play Tottenham, defensively Liverpool were shambolic. Dejan Lovren lasted around half an hour that day before being hauled off.
This will not come as a major shock to anyone though, as this has become a recurring theme and it is something that will hamper Liverpool ability to win trophies. The blame must be laid at one man’s feet: Jürgen Klopp.
Klopp is seen as universally loved by the media and by the large majority of Liverpool fans but his stubbornness and unwillingness to seriously address the issues at hand, are down to him. Why have no serious questions been asked of him and his methods? If this, for instance, was Mourinho at Manchester United it would be seen as a crisis. If it was Wenger at Arsenal it would be seen as someone who has lost control.
Since taking over in October 2015, has Klopp progressed with Liverpool, but has he elevated them to the next level? The simple answer is no. They may have reached two cup finals, but ultimately, no one really cares who was runner-up. Since Klopp has taken over there have been several key areas of the team that have needed serious improvement, and those several areas still today need improving.
Klopp does not know who his best keeper is, he tends to rotate between the two but in all honesty, Mignolet and Karius have not really outperformed the other and have susceptible to mistakes. Liverpool has also needed a left back since Klopp took charge, as Alberto Moreno has proven that he can not be trusted and that his concentration and decision-making are not at the required level. This has been backed up by Klopp converting Milner to a left back and Milner played there pretty much all last season.
Ragnar Klavan and Joel Matip were brought in to strengthen the central defensive area. Klavan is too slow and inconsistent, while Matip’s performance level has been way below expectations this season, and he has struggled with some minor injuries, not to mention being cup-tied for a tournament he played no part in.
The final area of concern is not doubt in central midfield. Emre Can is not seen as the first choice and could end up leaving in the summer; Jordan Henderson doesn’t really offer anything to the team that no other average central midfielder does in the Premier League and there is no dynamism to his game. Henderson doesn’t really have an identity like Gerrard. He is not a box to box midfielder, not a deep-lying playmaker and on the basis of the Sevilla performance, he is certainly not a ball winning midfielder.
Arguably you may mention some other areas that could have been strengthened and this is not down to Liverpool having no money to spend; a return to the Champions League and increased TV revenues to coincide with being one of the world’s most well know clubs and having massive revenue streams from markets across the world show this.
Klopp did purchase Andrew Robertson from Hull, who certainly seems capable but is not ready to nail down the position as his own just yet. There was also the Virgil Van Dijk debacle which once failed. Liverpool abandoned trying to sign any other center half. Mo Salah has also been brought in from Roma and could possibly be the signing of the season, but with deadline day upon us in August, rather than strengthen where needed, Klopp chose to spend £40 million on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, yet another attacking player who has mainly been used from the bench this season. Deadline day is frantic and inflated prices make it difficult to complete deals, but that was the position Klopp and the transfer committee had put the club in.
As good as Liverpool are going forward, and at times can score for fun, it’s at the back where the real problems lie and Klopp cant ignore that forever. If he does it will be a long time before Liverpool win anything again. As much as Liverpool fans won’t like it, Sir Alex Ferguson was right. “Attack wins you games, defense wins you titles”