Liverpool 1 Wolves 2: Match Review | The Anfield Wrap

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FUNK; noun

  1. A strong musty smell of sweat or tobacco.
  2. A style of popular dance music of US black origin, ironically often requested to be played by white boys.
  3. What Liverpool Football Club have been well and truly stuck in since the start of 2017.

Yes, the week that made you want to stick fiery hot needles through your eyelids and dropkick the nearest dog decided it hadn’t quite done enough to ruin our lives.

Just eight days ago it didn’t seem all that bad. Very much in the title race, a decent if frustrating draw against Manchester United, a very scrappy win at Plymouth and three fairly easy looking home games on the horizon (sorry Southampton but I saw you play Spurs and Everton. That loss was entirely on us).

You may have realized by this point that I’m not Neil Atkinson. Taking inspiration from Jürgen Klopp, the lads at TAW Towers decided to rotate for the cup, keeping Neil fresh for the big one on Tuesday. So I stepped in, TAW’s answer to Ovie Ejaria and Ben Woodburn (just a fair bit older and with less promise), and like those lads, I watched on today while a load of senior Liverpool players made my job inexplicably more difficult.

I can’t imagine many people are going to read this, anyway. I would have thought you’d all be out trying to drink away one of the worst weeks in recent history, like I will be once I ping this to Josh. However, if you are a bit of a sadomasochist and have decided to read on, then here’s a review of one of the worst performances by a Liverpool team since Mr Hodgson finally pissed off.

Klopp said in his press conference yesterday that he wouldn’t make 10 changes and he was true to his word. He made nine.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 28, 2017: Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers plkayer shake hands before the FA Cup 4th Round match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

There was more than enough there to win, and not that many youngsters who you’d begrudge a place in the side. OK, I doubt Conor Randall will be much of a part of Liverpool’s future but Nathaniel Clyne was still injured and Klopp said he might not make Tuesday either, so Trent Alexander-Arnold needed to be rested for that, just in case.

So the game started and Liverpool needed to get an early goal. Something they were incapable of in their last two games, and so this time… ah shit Wolves have scored.

For a team that is atrocious at defending set-pieces we don’t half seem casual about conceding them. The ball in was good, and the lad who scored may have been offside (fancy that), but why on Earth is one of their centre backs, a principal threat from these situations, being marked by our striker and not one of Joe Gomez or Ragnar Klavan.?

Never mind, almost 90 minutes to put it right. It was curious that Lucas Leiva was playing centre mid. As far as I can remember he hasn’t played there all season, and with Kev Stewart on the bench I wasn’t sure if that was the correct call, though a lack of leaders on the pitch probably meant Klopp wanted to have him on there in whatever capacity he could. He wasn’t to know that Lucas would spend the entire first half giving them the ball.

Wolves fans are happy, singing away, of course nothing about their own team as ever. Some points for their own re-working of ‘Sign On’ though. You’ll never work again, rather than You’ll never get a job. Creative types they are in Wolverhampton. More like Wool-verhampton, am I right?

Anyway, we continue our efforts to be as self-destructive as possible from set-pieces. As happened on Wednesday one of our corners becomes a great chance for them to score within eight seconds, and a great last ditch tackle from Woodburn keeps the dangerous Helder Costa from scoring. We’ve shown already by this point that not only are we likely to concede from opposition corners, but also our own ones.

Something occurred to me as the half went on and we were about as penetrative as a wet flannel trying to tickle it’s way through a pile of bricks. Why has Gini Wijnaldum not been utilised in wide areas in recent weeks? We seem to have tried everything else to replace Sadio Mane, but not use a lad who played there very successfully last season for Newcastle. And it’s not as if he’s working wonders in the middle at the moment. He was as poor as anyone on the first half. He doesn’t seem willing to take the responsibility himself. Ejaria was taking more risks than Gini was.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 28, 2017: Liverpool's Oviemuno Ovie Ejaria in action against Wolverhampton Wanderers during the FA Cup 4th Round match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

In fact, Ejaria was arguably our brightest spark in the first half. He started to at least try to make things happen, won free-kicks, played through balls and didn’t shy away from the challenge. The problem was that Roberto Firmino and Divock Origi were both stood out wide every time he picked up the ball, so he had very little to aim at.

Their second came straight from a computer game. You know when you’re on FIFA and you lose the ball, all of your players freeze or fall over and they start to break. Everything that can go wrong does go wrong. A last ditch tackle from Alberto Moreno doesn’t work, an attempted interception from Gomez doesn’t work, and Loris Karius’s attempt at putting off the attacker doesn’t work. They score because nothing worked.

Liverpool an utter shambles, yet again. Two down and fully deserve to be. Should be three really but for Woodburn putting Costa off. Even in that attack there were only three Reds trying to do any defending and that was Randall, Ejaria and Woodburn. Not a senior player to be found, and that was the story of the first half.

Some boos at half-time, which you’d like to think is something they instantly regretted. No team ever got better because the fans booed them. I would say we are Liverpool, we’re supposed to be better than that kind of shithouse behaviour, but I’m just not sure it’s true any more.

Big Phil Coutinho and his undying love for the Reds on for the second half. We go to three at the back, which was certainly one in the eye for those who can’t say ‘Klopp’ without saying ‘stubborn’ these days.

It’s slightly more promising. Origi gets the run on Kortney Hause, forces a foul and a booking. I was hoping that lad would have a bad game so I could call him ‘Shit Hause’. It was the first time there’d been any space to run into and we’d made use of it. Shame it never really happened again.

Paul Lambert had unsurprisingly set up his team to do exactly what Swansea and Southampton did. Sit very deep, force Liverpool into crosses and long shots, and hit on the counter. Why not? It works apparently. I do take issue with this idea that teams have ‘figured Liverpool out’ though. It’s not as if Leicester, Hull and Watford all came to Anfield and were vanquished because they played too open. We were just much much better on those days and scored early goals.

About eight minutes into the second half the tempo finally rises. Coutinho is having an effect, forcing the issue and causing Wolves to become a bit more stretched across the pitch. It results in a couple of chances, balls into the box that could go anywhere, but of course when you’re in this run of form it can’t just go anywhere. It can only fall kindly for the opposition.

Daniel Sturridge replaces Firmino on the hour, which weakens us if anything. For the next 20 we create nothing at all. Sturridge has taken far too much unfair flak since Wednesday, but this is hardly a situation for him to be getting lost again.

The final change saw Emre Can replace Ejaria. Another who has been treated far too much like a scapegoat in a time when no-one is playing well.

Wolves start to pressure again and look for a third. It’s made much easier by a referee who has decided shirt pulling isn’t a foul against the home side, and a linesman who has forgotten he has a flag to raise when a lad’s offside.

Finally, with five minutes left, pretty much from nowhere, we score, and from a corner of all things. Coutinho whips in a great ball, which finally breaks kindly for a Red, Sturridge heads brilliantly back across and Origi slams it in. The crowd also do their first worthwhile thing of the match and decide to support the team for the last five.

Moments later, almost an identical scenario. Again the ball comes to Origi at the far stick but his shot is tamer this time and some random youngster who apparently was playing for Telford last season makes his first proper save of the game.

You can tell that Wolves are worried as they resort to kicking our lads up in the air. Lee Evans looked even more frantic than his comedy namesake as he tried to clear Moreno over the Centenary Stand.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 28, 2017: Probably the best... Liverpool's Alberto Moreno in action against Wolverhampton Wanderers during the FA Cup 4th Round match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

We get one final chance from a free-kick. There’s 55 seconds between it being awarded and Coutinho taking it, but they won’t be added on because time added on is a complete and utter farce. To sum the game up nicely, former Red Conor Coady is allowed to block it from about four yards away, and shortly after the whistle goes.

Out of the League Cup, out of the FA Cup, and if we don’t win on Tuesday out of the title race.

I tell you what, 2017 can fuck right off. Bring back the days of President-Elect Trump, celebrity deaths galore and the Reds being mustard.

Confidence is low. On the pitch, in the stands, everywhere. Believers are becoming doubters.

Credit to Wolves, but the way we’re playing we could have faced anyone at any level today and I’m pretty sure the same result would have occurred. As Plymouth showed, it doesn’t take much football ability to simply be organised, and it doesn’t take much organisation to flummox this Liverpool side at the moment.

Chelsea are the most organised of sides, so in theory Tuesday is an impossible ask. Then again, football innit?

So here’s the positive crescendo. I’m not ending this article like that. Let’s do the Scooby Doo ending. Ah, the Scooby Doo ending, that’s do-able (yes, that is a Wayne’s World reference).

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 28, 2017: Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum, Ben Woodburn, goalkeeper Loris Karius and Ragnar Klavan look dejected after losing 2-1 to Wolverhampton Wanderers during the FA Cup 4th Round match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

However shit you feel right now, just know this. We CAN beat Chelsea, and we CAN salvage our season. This is a funk, nothing more. We have not been ‘found out’, we’re just playing badly. Form will return, hopefully sooner rather than later.

We are also not ‘exhausted’. Klopp completely stole my opinion with his comments yesterday that this drop in form is nothing to do with being tired. It’s to do with playing poorly. The ‘tired’ excuse is, frankly, a tired excuse. The reason we’re not pressing as much is because we always have the ball. We’re not attacking any slower than we were, we’re just not being as brave or clever with our decisions or as deadly with our finishing.

It’s easy to say that it’ll all change when Sadio Mane returns, but it actually might. It looks like we won’t make a new signing, but (as the cliche goes) getting Mane back could be like a new signing. The boost that everyone needs to stop feeling sorry for themselves and kick on again.

With that in mind, I’m clocking off from Liverpool for now. For the next few hours I’m investing all my energy into supporting Cameroon, even if the knobheads did try to ruin Joel Matip’s season. They beat Senegal tonight and we might even get Sadio back for Tuesday.

Up the Indomitable Lions.

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