Right off the bat of a frustrating draw in the Merseyside Derby on Sunday, Liverpool were once again left wondering what could’ve been as West Brom produced a strong defensive performance to take a point from Anfield. In truth, The Reds weren’t really at it on the night, struggling to muster up any ingenuity in midfield.
Here are the observations from the match.
Klopp delivers starting lineup that everyone wanted but to no avail
The German’s starting eleven raised a number of eyebrows last time out, with Coutinho and Firmino taking up a role on the bench and Henderson returning to the starting eleven. Here though, Klopp re-united the Brazilian’s with Mane and Salah while opting for Emre Can and Gini Wijnaldum in a midfield pivot. That may have pleased the fans but it delivered no better luck than the much-criticised selection on Sunday.
Liverpool returned to their old habits, struggling to break down a dogged defence with no signs of the incisive movement that has seen them rack up 7-0 victories in weeks prior. This was never going to be an easy game for The Reds but the flat tone that transpired offered no indication that this team would’ve fared any better against Everton.
Liverpool fail to respond to Derby day frustrations
After failing to get three points at the weekend, many fans would’ve expected to see a response from Klopp’s boys. Yet, this was a game without any verve or guile nor the creative spark that we’ve come to demand from the newly named ‘Fab Four’. Philippe Coutinho wasn’t at the races, struggling to break down a resolute West Ham defence while Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane had a surprisingly quiet evening of their own with the Egyptian missing a great chance from Trent’s cross at the back post and Mane squandering his own attempt slicing wide from Firmino’s pass.
Despite having 69% of the ball, Liverpool mustered only two shots on goal*, emphasising the lack of cutting edge in their forward play. Of course, credit should be given to the visitors for shutting off the supply lines and closing down the space but this was a thoroughly drab performance from a starting eleven that had more than enough quality to put away The Baggies.
Refereeing decisions steal the headlines, again
Ah, here we are again.
Liverpool never seem to get their slice of luck. First, there was the penalty decision against Everton on Sunday when Dejan Lovren was deemed to have pushed Calvert Lewis to the ground, although later replays showed it was the striker who actually initiated the contact. That saw the away side level the scores up and leave a hugely frustrated tone around Anfield.
Such was the case here, too. Dominic Solanke almost provided the perfect substitute appearance for Klopp when he steered the ball into the net for the first time in front of the Kop only for the referee to rule it out for handball. It seemed a desperately hard decision on the striker, who couldn’t get his arm out the way following a deflection of the West Brom defender and one that invariably led to a second home draw on the trot.
If only Liverpool could get the kind of luck their rivals do.
Trent Alexander-Arnold the bright spark in an otherwise dull affair
Back in the starting eleven for Liverpool, Trent Alexander-Arnold showed his usual energy down the right-hand side to get forward and add some width to the attack. Delivering a series of really dangerous balls, the youngster was arguably the most threatening player in Red on Wednesday night. Seemed destined for an assist in the second-half but for his ball to narrowly miss the head of Mohamed Salah. Still, it was an energetic performance from Trent on a night that sorely lacked it.
* Stats via Liverpool Echo.