Liverpool 2 – 1 Leicester – PL Post-Mortem
With maximum points garnered from the reds two last games, the Premier League restart has at least brought that positive with it. In essence, all Liverpool fans would have taken that outcome by any means possible, but the underlying fact is that this team is scrambling to overcome its internal issues and it could soon catch up to them.
With our Brazilian enforcer, Fabinho, absent due to personal reasons, it once again brought our threadbare midfield issues to the fore. I had predicted Jordan Henderson would need to drop to the bench (for this home game), with his international exploits quickly followed by a solid shift against Aston Villa last week. The skipper has often laboured at the best of times, though when you start adding fatigue to his delicate mix, it often sees a painful performance unfold. There are certain games where we have been able to mask the captain’s deficiencies, though this game was only a glaring example of how much he has regressed.
Leicester arrived as a team struggling to find either rhythm or sustained form, with their squad also hampered by varying injuries. This is a side that should have been dismantled by a superior opponent, yet the opening few minutes saw every Liverpool fear realised, as the visitors took a lead that did not even cause surprise. The fact we almost expect to fall behind to most opponents is both unacceptable and disappointing, with a continuing gaping hole being exploited (within our midfield) whenever the Foxes attacked. An inability to get certain players into good starting positions is frustrating, but to then fail in stopping a very basic attacking incision is infuriating. Jurgen Klopp has of course been hamstrung by the limitations in his squad, whilst the on-pitch culpability cannot be put upon him. Our number 14 had a howler last night and this trend simply has to be addressed.
To continue to see an elite team hampered by over the hill players or kids not yet ready for the fight, is causing a melee of uncertainty within this side. Every piece of silverware (under Jurgen) has been built upon cast iron control and boundless intensity, yet there is no proof that that exists any longer. What we witnessed at Anfield on Friday night was a talented team unable to bring the required fight, whilst relying on freak moments to secure three points. Luck is what has seen our side prevail and in most sporting contests, luck will only ever get you so far.
The negatives were there for all to see, with a repetition of some of the weak performances we became accustomed to before the World Cup. Julian Ward and FSG have a real opportunity to react in this January transfer window, with reinforcements an absolute must in midfield. We know the names and the targets we would all love to see, though it is probably a coin toss as to whether the much-needed steps are actually taken. Without delving too much into that commonly stated agenda, Moisés Caicedo would bring everything we do often lack; therefore, I hope we are able to make a south coast raid in the coming days.
The positives on the night were being able to see Trent Alexander Arnold show with quality, with an offensive and defensive show of class. His on-ball awareness and urgency were decisive in our equaliser, whilst some of his defensive work across the game was superb. Thiago Alcantara was once again let down by his middle men compatriots, with a single man crusade often required from that area of the pitch. His world class ability is being wasted, and instead of relying on him so heavily, we should be giving him the support that would allow him a license to truly control a game.
Darwin continued his trend of playing very well, without scoring. Defensive groups are continually looking terrified when our Uruguayan is in full flight, with his pace causing untold problems. Our new starting striker is already adored by our fan base, though we are still waiting for that clinical edge to emerge. With Cody Gakpo primed for a new year introduction, perhaps we will have to simply overwhelm our foes, especially with our inability to collect too many clean sheets.
I refuse to get too discouraged by a game we have won, yet I fear we are still papering over some significant cracks. We must go to Brentford on January 2nd, in the knowledge that these games simply must be won. With Ivan Toney missing, we should be able to overcome, though that is no certainty. Our league position and points tally are slowly increasing, therefore hopefully we can look at these games as the stuttering before the storm, where we can start to really blow teams away.