OH, the Reds. Where do we start with that one?
What about the positives — shall we start with the positives? Did anyone see any positives?
I’ve got to say this one hurt, and much more than it should have done. On the face of it, it is one of them games — Liverpool turned up got done on the break twice, had all of the ball but couldn’t quite do enough to get back in the game. One of them, isn’t it? It happens to the best teams in the world, doesn’t it?
Well, yes, it does happen to the best teams in the world, occasionally, and no it isn’t just ‘ONE’ of them, unfortunately, and therein lies the rub.
The reason this loss hurt so much is that we have seen it before, so many times, almost like a film on ITV2. The Reds were woeful and yet no one player could really be blamed for the defeat. This was a systematic loss brought on by underlying issues within this Liverpool set up.
Pre Kloppo taking over, this type of game seemed like Brendan Rodgers’s last full season prototype — have all of the ball, do shite all with it, lose the match to a couple of clinical finishes and walk away scratching our heads, licking our wounds, and telling ourselves it won’t happen next time, we are too good for it to happen next time…oh look, it’s next time and it has happened again.
Since Kloppo took over as manager we have lost seven of the 17 away league games we have played. In five of those seven losses we had at least 60 per cent possession of the ball, had a total of 85 shots, 14 of which were on target, scored 0 goals and conceded 11.
In five of those seven losses we had the majority of the ball, did nothing with it and lost each of them games to teams beating us at our own tricks. The reason this one hurts so much is that the summer transfer business and pre-season was meant to knock this type of thing out of us.
The Arsenal game last week and the Barca one before it had us all purring at the thought of Klopp’s ruthless Reds running teams into the ground, filling the box with abandon and putting everyone to bed with a minimum of fuss.
Games like Saturday were meant to be a thing of the past and yet here we are having had the shittest weekend possible petrified that this was a sign of things to come.
- Burnley v Liverpool: The Match Review
- Burnley v Liverpool: Match Ratings
- Burnley v Liverpool: The Pink — Our Post-Match Reaction Show
There were some really worrying things on show on Saturday. The first was that I’m struggling to determine, even now some 48 hours later, exactly what our game plan was to break them down.
It was obvious before the match that we were going to be unable to counter-press and break in this game but what was the alternative plan? The only thing first half that we looked capable of doing was slightly overloading them on the left and freeing up Coutinho to cut inside and twat it into Yorkshire.
We have seen this tactic before, in fact in Rodgers’s final season it was the only tactic left. This is no way to succeed. In fact, it was one of the things Klopp stopped from happening in the first few games after he took over.
“Don’t shoot, recycle the ball, keep them moving, the chance will come.”
Why, at the first sign of trouble this year, did we revert to it? If this wasn’t the plan, then what was? In games of this nature, when big, horrible, hard-working brutes want to shut up shop and occasionally break, what is our approach going to be?
Our play on Saturday was too slow, too predictable and too easy to defend. At no point did Burnley look at all stretched. We didn’t create a clear-cut opportunity, not one, in the whole game.
My worry is that our business this year and our focus has been on improving what we were already really good at — the momentum-based, disruptive, transition-loving counter-pressing warriors who given half the chance will stop teams from playing, revel in the confusion they have created and score for fun while the opposition try to re-group.
But what of Middlesbrough, Hull, West Ham, Sunderland, Crystal Palace and West Brom away? What is our approach going to be there?
These teams won’t give you a chance to upset them as they won’t leave their own box, especially after Saturday’s result. We need a better solution than Coutinho whacking it first half and full backs lashing it into the box second half if we are going to improve in these types of games.
We need patience, and movement in abundance. Too often on Saturday we were trying the first-time ball, the impossible through ball, the ridiculous shot. We didn’t build any pressure because at the first opportunity we would try to find the killer ball as if we needed to score within the next 10 seconds. And if that wasn’t an option, then someone would shoot.
Conversely, we didn’t build any pressure because at times we were too happy to pass the ball really slowly sideways and backwards, acting as our own geyser at times. Burnley’s centre halves must have been laughing their cocks off.
I don’t care who you are as a defender, the one thing you don’t want is to have to stay switched on for 90 minutes — to be prodded and poked and moved around and played with until you are drawn into an inevitable mistake.
The nicest feeling in the world as a centre half is watching an over-hit through ball run through to your keeper, or watching a full-back line up a shot from 30 yards and shouting “let him have them all day”, “who do you think you are, you prick?” as the ball sails over the bar.
The Reds look at their best when they don’t have to engage their brains and think for themselves. The collective organisation and structure on show at Arsenal for that 20-minute spell showed that the summer’s work to master Plan A was a success.
The players instinctively knew each other’s position and ground Arsenal into submission.
What appeared to be lacking on Saturday was the individual and collective game intelligence — the trust and confidence to enforce any type of plan B to break down a packed defence.
Kloppo referred to the player’s decision-making in attack as one of the reasons we lost and it is difficult to argue against this.
Time and again we got the ball wide to James Milner — and subsequently Alberto Moreno — and crossed the ball into eight centre backs and no-one wearing day-glo in the box. At one point they had eight men behind the ball and we had 11 behind it — I know, it takes some doing that, doesn’t it?
I’m concerned that if we don’t improve our Plan B approach that this trend away from home — all the ball, a parked bus, unable to break teams down, getting beat — will continue. I’m hoping beyond hope that this trend is like most trends and is time sensitive and ultimately bullshit in hindsight.
Hope may well come in the form of Sadio Mane and Sheyi Ojo. The one thing lacking from the teams within this trend was pace and penetration. No-one on the pitch on Saturday was really able to beat their man from a standing start. The above two players are the only two in our squad who can genuinely do this and maybe when they are playing, or available from the bench, everything else falls into place.
Either way, given the time, Kloppo will box it. Of this I am assured. In the meantime, bring on Tottenham — they won’t sit back. Unleash plan A on Saturday afternoon and let’s tear them apart.