Have Liverpool done a ‘Tottenham’?
Liverpool have done their best to suck the life out of my last two weekends as they played out dull 0-0 draws against Manchester United and Everton. As the same time as I was questioning how I choose to spend my weekends, Liverpool have spent it fretting as their once dominant lead in the Premier League title race has been eroded. This has led me and basically every sports section to ask, have they bottled the title?
For a start, Liverpool have become very stale to watch of late, they have now drawn a blank in consecutive away games, granted there was a healthy thumping of Watford in between but sometimes things happen randomly, and even Huddersfield won midweek, so clearly something weird was going on. Something that has been thrown around frequently in regard to Liverpool is that their midfield seems to lack the creativity that can unlock a sturdy defence as has been placed in front of them of late. The workhorses that tend to occupy Jürgen Klopp’s midfield three are perfectly good players, Fabinho has shown good defensive nous since arriving from AS Monaco, Henderson was key for England last summer, and who doesn’t love James Milner? But in games like Everton, they just aren’t enough to give the forward players the chances necessary to win the game.
This was certainly not helped by how Klopp approached the game. The German’s substitutions have been a topic of debate since the draw at Goodison Park, where he showed an almost Sarri-like stubbornness to stick to his preferred system. Whilst I would have gone for Shaqiri, on the face of it Adam Lallana was a reasonable change as Liverpool searched for a late winner, but the 2016 English Player of the Year was not sent into his normal midfield birth, he instead replaced Sadio Mane. Lallana proceeded to have a limited impact on the game as Everton’s defence went unbreeched.
This reluctance to show a lack of conviction may have been a part of what Iwilt under pressure. Recent events lead me to believe that he is hearing Anfield’s cry for a first Premier League title louder than anyone else. Klopp has been known for his general likability in front of the media and indulgence in some comical antics on the field. Of late, however, his interviews have been plagued by excuses and bizarre leaps in logic as to why Liverpool had not taken all 3 points. A personal favourite of these mental gymnastics was after the West Ham draw, having been the beneficiaries of an offside goal being allowed to stand, Klopp said that the referee had favoured West Ham in subsequent decisions to try and equalise things.see as another large reason for the Red’s decline in form, Jürgen Klopp seeming to
All of this seems very different to everything we have come to love about the German. As limited as their midfield can be at times, this has certainly not been helped by the drop off in form of their front three, the most significant of which seems to be Mohamed Salah. This can hardly be called a poor season for the Egyptian, currently sitting second on the Premier League scoring charts with 17, but things do not seem particularly sunny for him at present. He has only netted once in Liverpool’s last six Premier League matches. Salah was a joy to behold last season, breaking the Premier League single season goal scoring record with 32 goals, but I saw something change in Salah as that record loomed. What was so impressive about his goal scoring record, was that he operated selflessly with his teammates.
But as talk of a record started, Salah no longer looked to find his strike-partners when they found good positions and would instead go it alone. After a tough summer with Egypt, that teamwork does not seem to have found its previous levels, and now his goals are drying up, Salah does not have the impact he had last season. Overall, the title is far from over, but Liverpool have squandered a lead that sat at 7 points in early January. All is not lost, but their 29 year wait for a league title looks like it might have to wait a bit longer to end.