Here we are, yet again. For all their attacking prowess and verve, Liverpool’s abysmal record against teams in the bottom half of the Premier League table never looked like changing against Bournemouth.
An early mistake from Georginio Wijnaldum was indicative of the Reds’ start, with the team wasteful and wayward in possession. Goals either side of half-time from Philippe Coutinho and Divock Origi seemed to have clawed Liverpool back into the driving seat and on their way to another precious three points in their hunt for Champions League football, only for a needless defensive error to cost them dearly in the closing stages.
It wasn’t a vintage Liverpool performance by any means, nor was it expected to be with Sadio Mane joining Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson on the sidelines. Lacking in pace, the Reds found it hard to unlock a resolute Bournemouth defence, who were more than happy to sit back once they’d got the all-important first goal.
Philippe Coutinho was the man to step up and restore parity before half-time with a wonderfully worked move with his international compatriot Roberto Firmino getting him through on goal. The Reds then came out swinging in the second half and it didn’t take long for Divock Origi to put them in front. Georginio Wijnaldum worked some space brilliantly on the left hand side before crossing the ball to the Belgian, who was left with an easy headed finish.
However, it was Bournemouth who had the final say in proceedings, with Josh King on hand to capitalise following a defensive howler from Ragnar Klavan. The Estonian defender, who was drafted in due to an injury concern to Joel Matip, got the ball caught in his feet and failed to clear his lines, leaving King to turn sharply and guide the ball into the far corner. Same old Liverpool, hey?
Even the most optimistic of Liverpool fans will know that the result sees Liverpool thrown away another glorious opportunity to cement their top-four spot. With Manchester City losing to league leaders Chelsea, the Reds had a chance to pull away and give themselves greater hope for a return to Europe. A drop in points now sees Arsenal in with a chance of closing the gap, should they win both their games in hand. Here are the observations from the draw.
Same old frailties for the Reds
Liverpool and defensive issues seem to be a match made in heaven in recent years – an inseparable pair. When Joel Matip came on for Coutinho in the second half and Liverpool regressed inwardly in their own rendition of a ‘park the bus’ approach, the mood around Anfield seemed to be one of almost doomed expectation. It was almost inevitable that Bournemouth were going to find an equaliser out of nothing, with the side inviting more and more pressure on themselves despite their defensive frailties.
Two shots on target for Bournemouth was all it took for them to score twice and gain a point at Anfield. Ragnar Klavan’s howler in the final ten minutes of the game won’t have pleased Jurgen Klopp, nor the entire fanbase, and it emphasises the increasing need for a new centre-half to come in during the summer. Matip’s injury prior to kick-off reflects the lack of dependency on the first-choice partnership of Lovren and Matip, with both players suffering their fair share of injury problems this campaign. A new, authoritative defender is a must for Liverpool in the summer, at all costs.
Divock Origi can fill the void left by Mane
Divock Origi is set to be the main beneficiary of Sadio Mane’s injury and if reports of the Senegalese international’s season being over are true, the Belgian forward could have a huge role to play in what remains of Liverpool’s season.
Origi, unlike most of the players at the club, has the pace to stretch opposition defences and give some added movement to an otherwise static forward line. By no means is he of the quality that Mane has shown this season, but if the last two games are anything to go off, he could give Liverpool a boost heading into the final few games – especially with Stoke and West Brom next on the horizon.
Questionable tactics from Klopp
2-1 ahead but far from in control, the decision to take Coutinho off early in the second half was a strange one. Perhaps he picked up a knock, with the midfielder heading straight down the tunnel after making way, isn’t entirely clear, but the man who replaced him did come as a surprise.
Joel Matip’s introduction saw Liverpool revert into a much more defensive shape, and with their defensive struggles widely known at this stage in the season, the invitation to let Bournemouth mount pressure on them seemed, and proved to be, counter-productive.
Marko Grujic and Daniel Sturridge would have been perfectly viable options from the bench and ensured the Reds retained their attacking momentum into the final stages of the game. There was always a sense a third goal would be needed for the game to be killed off, but by not bringing on a more forward thinking player than Matip, it was almost as if Liverpool believed the game was done.
In fairness to Klopp, however, if he’d have brought on Sturridge and gone for the third goal, only for us to concede on the counter attack, I’d be sat here attaching equal blame for said decision. There’s no winning with us football fans, but eyebrows must have been raised as to why Matip was the one to come on.
Coutinho putting bad form behind him
Since suffering an injury against Sunderland in January, Philippe Coutinho has found it hard to re-find his best form. A purring start to the season was capped off by two delightful goals against Arsenal, with the Brazilian set for his best campaign since arriving at Anfield. However, his momentum was checked at a crucial stage for both him and the club and since returning, he’s been a peripheral figure all too often.
There’s plenty to suggest that may just be over now, though. Scoring a delightful goal at the weekend against Everton, Coutinho reminded everyone around Anfield of what he is capable of, and a goal on the cusp of half time clawed Liverpool back into the tie against the Cherries. The goal sees Coutinho join Juninho as the Brazilian with the most goals in the Premier League – on 29.
With those around him suffering injuries upon injuries, Coutinho’s importance to Liverpool is greater now more than ever. If they are to get over the line and bring Champions League nights back to Anfield, rest assured, he’ll have a major part to play in it.