Anger, frustration and disbelief – just three words which capture mine and I am sure plenty of other Liverpool fans’ emotions following our humiliating defeat to Red Star Belgrade. As unacceptable of a result and performance Tuesday night’s display was, there was an air of inevitability about it. Let’s be honest we haven’t played well in the majority of our games this season. Only West Ham, PSG and Tottenham stand out as the exceptions which tell you things aren’t quite right.
With questions set to be asked, and rightly so, after three successive away defeats in the Champions League some kind of perspective is needed. Although they are professional footballers, players are still humans. I am sure they were aware performances hadn’t been as good as they should have been in recent weeks but it is very easy for a player to accept ‘things just aren’t quite clicking but we’ll be alright’.
In this sort of scenario, you would hope our manager would step in and demand fierce improvement… unfortunately from the outside looking in that doesn’t seem to have been the case. As a result, we find ourselves on the end of a totally embarrassing result in Europe. Do I think the Reds underestimated Red Star… slightly, but more concerning is the lack of ambition the players and coaching staff have shown over the last couple of games to set a benchmark for the rest of the season going forward. For me, this is the biggest contributing factor for Tuesday night’s result.
As difficult as it is to accept the dire and tepid performance we were forced to endure, if you know football and how footballers mindsets operate you can understand how a result like the one in Serbia comes about. It can be tolerated. But it can be tolerated just the once. The defeat to Red Star has to mark the turning point of our season otherwise it’ll be over before January. This season should rightfully be judged on how well we do in the Champions League and how we challenge Manchester City for the title. If performances don’t improve it will be a failure.
Do I think we’re that far off hitting top gear… no, not really? In a two-man midfield, Fabinho has shown very promising signs and he is the kind of player we need in our team for it to evolve onto the next level. The front three when aided by an attacking midfielder – well Shaqiri – has looked somewhere close to its dynamic and fluid best. It’s fine margins which for me will be dictated by the players and coaching staff’s mentality. They need to not only expect and demand more from themselves but find a way of building and developing effective patterns of play that for the majority of this season have been worryingly absent.
We can talk Daniel Sturridge and how he’s almost always ineffective in a 4-3-3, Adam Lallana and how without rhythm through regular game time he’s useless to the side and Jurgen Klopp’s inability to influence games effectively through substitutes. But to turn things around so we can achieve our lofty goals will require a collective improvement rather than a narrow focus on one particular aspect.
Jurgen Klopp has shown an impressive ability to continually evolve this Liverpool side and there is no reason why we should start doubting this again now. Having said this his resolution of issues must be made far more quickly than we’ve seen in the past should this season turn out to be a success for the Reds. Trust in Jurgen.