Watford 3 Liverpool 3: Defensive Woes A Familiar Tale But Will Fresh Faces Fix All?

WATFORD, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 12, 2017: Liverpool's Dejan Lovren appeals after Watford score an injury time equalising goal to level the score 3-3 during the FA Premier League match between Watford and Liverpool at Vicarage Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

LIVERPOOL kicked off the campaign with a new look at both ends of the pitch, but while some faces may have changed, much has stayed the same as The Reds turned in a Jekyll and Hyde performance symptomatic of problems that have dogged them for seasons.

Poor at defending set pieces? Check.

Poor decision making when faced with one-v-one defensive situations? Check.

No real defensive cohesion? Check.

Inability to hang on to a lead? Check.

Liverpool started the game with a back four of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren and Alberto Moreno, a lineup that lasted eight minutes before binning any thought of keeping a clean sheet.

First game of the season, first corner conceded, first goal conceded.

Liverpool, that.

The manager talks about a preference for coaching and improving players and the importance of pre season, but you have to wonder exactly what has been done over the summer to address such an obvious and recurring flaw.

It’s no secret that Liverpool have been in the market for a high-profile, dominant centre half, but to think that signing one player, regardless of the fee, would be a magic bullet to cure all is misplaced.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 19, 2016: Liverpool's Sadio Mane in action against Southampton's Virgil Van Dijk during the FA Premier League match at St. Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It is the responsibility of the entire team to defend set pieces, and while a new face might bring much needed leadership and a calmer head, it isn’t as simple as throwing money at a problem to fix it.

Once again Liverpool showed that when they are on the back foot they lack the maturity to see a game out, and constantly and unnecessarily put themselves in harm’s way.

What’s even more frustrating is that the team visibly tightened up at the business end of last season, so how has that learning been undone? What has changed?

Can it even be fixed on the training pitch, it’s entirely plausible that in practice they look impenetrable or is it in the makeup of the entire squad and if that is the case, why is it still a problem when it is so bloody obvious?

But as much as Liverpool showed their propensity to make a mess of the simple, they go and compound the frustration by displaying their infuriating potential.

When Liverpool have nothing to lose they are irresistible, they have an assurance and a quality that will frighten the life out of any team in the league, on the front foot The Reds have an assurance and calmness that can unpick the tightest of defences even when they aren’t firing on all cylinders, but once again, having come from behind to put themselves in the ascendancy they again lacked the nerve, discipline and toughness to see it out.

No goal Liverpool concede ever comes as a surprise and rarely are they a result of great play, the simplicity of the majority of goals they concede is again indicative of the lack of leadership under pressure, the self doubt and sense of inevitability is palpable and, ultimately, too often self fulfilling.

WATFORD, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 12, 2017: Watford's Stefano Okaka scores the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Watford and Liverpool at Vicarage Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

That the issues this Liverpool side have are so obvious should be a blessing, but if that’s the case, why does it never change?

Set pieces aside, a masochistic desire to gift simple chances is again symbolic of the wider problem and the lack of leadership and discipline when defending.

Twice Liverpool were lucky not to concede from their own mistakes, the goalkeeper first rolling a simple ball straight to the opposition who, possibly through surprise at being gifted possession, didn’t make the most of it.

Simon Mignolet was lucky again later in the game, contriving with Lovren, who was bullied by a Sunday league player all day, to make a mess of a simple ball over the top, with Mignolet, having called for Lovren to let him take control, punched the ball into the back of the Croatian defender.

Regardless of whether the issues are mental or technical, time and time again it is the same suspects at the scene of the crime and it makes a mockery of claims from the manager that he is happy with his options in defence.

The Reds may have escaped with a draw today despite those mistakes, but they could have so easily started the season with three points.

Liverpool showed today that they have the talent and ability to compete at the top, they also showed the fragility and lack of leadership to show why they might not.

Jürgen Klopp’s Reds need to toughen up and quick, or today’s performance might yet again be the story of Liverpool’s season.

READ: Watford 3 Liverpool 3: The Final Whistle

READ: Watford 3 Liverpool 3: Match Ratings

READ: Watford 3 Liverpool 3: Match Review

LISTEN: Watford 3 Liverpool 3: The Post-Match Show

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  1. At what stage is it appropriate to criticise Klopp for his inability to set us up to defend set pieces after nearly 2yrs in charge?

    This isn’t just a personnel issue!

  2. Have been away for the summer as I can’t keep up with the meaningless bullshit from the media about transfers.

    I thought Klopp was smart and observant about the poor defending especially from set pieces. Seems like VVD is not the only solution here. He has until August 31 to bring in two or three players to help with the defense and their impressions of traffic cones.

    Poor substitute choice in bringing on Gomez. Gomez isn’t bad but why throw him in when it looked like were trying to hang on instead of putting the game to bed?

    Too much hype over Salah being the savior type. He is there to help and I think he did okay considering first EPL game for the Reds against a physical side. So no pressure as him being the savior.

    Mane offered much. Firmino did okay. Not sure about Can or Gini. These guys are not consistent. At least Lovren is (with his poor defending).

    Could have done with a creative play maker. Oh wait we are selling ours soon. As for Coutinho going to Barca etc, Coutinho should ask himself where was Fucking Barca when he was warming the bench at Inter?

    Klopp continues to have faith in Lovren, Moreno and Milner. I hope his stubbornness will not be his undoing at LFC. I don’t think he is astute as some managers with substitutions. Very poor.

    So not sure about Hoffenheim this week as it is the same old Liverpool. You cannot expect the attack to outscore the defense.

    Some soothing news. Chelsea lose to Burnley 3-2, with Cahill and Absolute Fabregas getting sent off. Still Chelsea nearly equalized and would have the opposite effect if they had all their men in unlike LFC.

  3. Scousemark

    Why do we persist with zonal marking? A shambels at the back yet again

  4. I love a bit of fancy dannery but: Emre tries a daft backheeled pass to Moreno which leads to a throw-in which leads to their second goal. And Joe giving that free-kick away was of a theme with what had gone before. It wasn’t the first time. These little errors would be fine in a game of tight margins were it not for the precipitative effect they often have: the throw-in concession leads to the lunge which leads to the confusion which leads to the goal. Etc etc. In that regard it could well be a mental thing, and for that it needs leaders on the field to shore it up. What we wouldn’t give for a prime time Carra tearing strips off all round him now.

    • RoadWarrior

      Did Watford’s third goal come directly from the free kick Gomez gave away? Admittedly it was the start of a passage of play that led to a goal, but quite frankly if Gini clears that corner, there’s no issue here.

      I know that it was a poor decision from him to give that foul away but the fact is as a fan base we’ve become resigned to wearing brown pants and hiding behind the sofa whenever a team gets a dead ball situation against us. I understand that individual errors and stupid fouls are irritating and can be costly- but we’re not the only team in the league to give free kicks away. I’m sure I’m not alone that whenever an opposition team gets a corner a sense of doom envelops me. This is simply not right.

      Klopp has even addressed this himself before and for a time our record at defending set pieces, particularly corners, did improve. You’re going to concede corners throughout 90 minutes. You’re going to give away free kicks. Until we learn to defend them properly and cohesively, we’re always going to have to score more than two goals to win matches. That is a more realistic solution than attempting to play football without giving away free kicks and corners.

  5. Troutbeck_Red

    Ruthless: As a club we lack this from boardroom via transfers to both boxes.
    Today at times we were bullied and I never felt we fought for the right to play
    Subs: We take off our outlets and invited pressure it’s much easier to close out games if the ball is in the opponents half.

  6. The state of our squad to others this weekend particularly defense and midfield – a low net spend this summer is simply unforgivable

    Must add players of required quality

  7. Gomez was a mistake in hindsight. We’ve had many different center back combinations but the one common denominator is Mignolet. A great goal keeper commands the box. Mignolet does not. I think Karius was a mistake I digged deep into his stats and he has the same weaknesses as Mignolet. I’d like to see Danny Ward he looks solid.

    • PoorScouserTomo

      Ward is great prospect but is glued to his line.Tbh Mig could do fuck all about them too goals today.Dead unlucky for last one

  8. Look everybody calm down. In my opinion you are much to critical and negative. Also this is a new season and new lads in the back four like Trent-Arnold and Moreno.
    Against a much stronger team like Bayern we kept a clean sheet. The third goal was offside. It will get better and improve. This is football you cannot always win (Look at Chelsea). The season is not decided on the first fixture. Give our team support and a little trust and be a little patient. This sounds too much like Arsenal Fan TV.

    • Moreno is not a new lad in the back 4.
      This is his 4th season with us.

    • Hi Mike, I have calmed down today, but still left with the “same old Liverpool” feeling as if we never had a different manager who knows the preexisting deficiencies of this squad like the defense.

      Coutinho saga aside, and I don’t take the Bayern game too seriously as they didn’t either, like Barcelona preseason, we are still struggling to have squad depth and seem to put all eggs in one basket re transfers as if there aren’t any other players good enough to play for LFC. I mean we are a club with history etc, but we are no longer the club like Barca, RM, Bayern, United, et all, just a club with a past history. So Jurgen needs to be a bit more flexible and get players who may not be VVD or Keita and cost less so he can deepen his squad. What happens if these two wee bought and got injured or were not up to par as our hopes are about them? We seem so sure these two are the game and season changers?

      Yes only one game for Chelsea too but they implode one season and win the league the next. They do it on a whim.

      I wish we take the game to Hoffenheim and remind Coutinho that he isn’t all that great. I never thought he was that great and was slated for it. He plays inconsistently and may end up on the bench like at Inter. His ungrateful approach is what hurts unlike Torres who I absolutely loved and thought he needed to leave for the better given the conditions then.

      Anyways i hope in my heart we get players that Klopp can work with even if they are not VVD or Keita but enough to be part of the team dynamics and improve the defense and midfield as we still carry a threat in attack.

  9. We will tighten up, perhaps not enough but it will improve. As will Chelsea and Arsenal who also conceded three this weekend from woeful defending.

  10. Plus I don’t get this idea that if you defend poorly, which we undoubtedly did , you deserve to have two off-side goals given against you. You have a right to decent refereeing .

    • Fred Oldfield

      Yes, agreed. No-one seems to think that the officials made mistakes. the discussion could easily be turned into one about video refs and ‘we wiz robbed’ – cows were. Or was their equaliser not a mile offside?

  11. Stevie G ™

    I must say when I saw the headline for this article it looked to me like an apology for the lack of signings. And I am sorry to say my opinion was confirmed when I read your line thus:-
    “..and while a new face might bring much needed leadership and a calmer head, it isn’t as simple as throwing money at a problem to fix it.”
    Sorry, Andy, but it is that simple. Buy better players, and keep buying better players, and never stop buying better players. It is that simple.

  12. gerard Maguire

    The defenders are getting more panicky than ever due to poor performances and ever increasing criticism.Hire two good defensive coaches and give the defenders technical know how and confidence.

  13. If I was Coutinho I would want to leave too. I’m sure he thought Liverpool would strengthen, but they signed one starter to a thread bare squad. Why wouldn’t he see Barca and think I want to win something?

  14. Kinell Klopp was a defender aswell, wont win anything playing like that….the seven dwarves would score off a corner against us…..shite

  15. Just watched United rip apart West Ham. Granted it was West Ham, but all the players look like they actually practiced real training in preseason and applied it well, playing like they have intent.

    With the City game Pep’s investment in the defense showed in their game.

    Both played against teams that didn’t have much going for them just like Watford. Unlike Liverpool and Klopp who continue to hurt themselves with poor defensive tactics and lack of quality personnel.

    Are there not enough players that aren’t in the range of 60,70,80 million to do the job defensively?

    If Klopp is such a great manager then can he not purchase 2-3 at 25-40 million each and bring them up to speed on things?

    Why the all eggs in one basket deal with VVD, Keita, etc? What if these guys turn out to be duds like Lovren or injured like Lallana or Sturridge?

    Klopp’s interviews gives me the impression that the owners call the shots on player sales irrespective of the club’s needs or Klopp’s needs to build on a successful season. Not surprised that he may turn out to be a 7 million pound yes man with great charisma.

    So I have no confidence really and it’s not just one game, but the fact that I got the “same old Liverpool” feeling watching us throw it away.

    The attack did its job and bailed us out 3 times. It’s stupid to think we can win every time in this manner.

    For once I found Carragher to be on the money with his assessment of Klopp’s tactics and VVD purchase.

    VVD will not solve the situation and neither will abandoning zonal marking etc. I think Klopp has to get everyone in the team to understand their jobs and apply themselves, but I don’t know if he has the kind of players who can make a major difference and understand this.

    The title seems like it will be between United, City and Arsenal if Chelsea implodes as they did not too far back. These teams, their owners and their managers give the impression that they are showing greater ambition.

    Everton and Spurs could carry the rear, while Liverpool may flatter to deceive.

    I hope I will be proven wrong by LFC and Klopp.

    • It seems that what Klopp is implies about FSG having total control of transfers/purse strings is true BECAUSE IT IS TRUE.

      It’s not like Klopp has billions lying around and is paying players out of his own pocket. It is not Klopp’s that FSG don’t want to spend any real money or don’t have any clue how in crisis the squad is.
      Same shit, different season. When you tie Watford 3-3, you’re in a certified shitshow.
      Maybe this will shake something loose at FSG or they actually get a negotiator who can close

      • You’re right Andrew. Klopp doesn’t have control over the budget.

        Edwards so far has proved nothing then, with latest being Can’s contract issues and FSG keep him around for what I don’t know. If he cannot sort out inhouse contractual agreements then this whole money ball approach is going crash sooner than later.

        It looks like the rumors of Chelsea linked to VVD will come true soon to add salt to Jurgen’s wounds.

        And is it me or does Klopp look like he has aged another 10 years? Wenger looked perpetually worried but at least their lot seemed to scrape a win.

        Pep and Maureen both looked like they had a great rest and positive outlook about them, even looked like they went out and bought new outfits. Not that you can disguise a snake in the grass but you have to wonder if they have turned a corner? Listening to the Scum fans at OT against West Ham it sure sounded eerily familiar to the days when they dominated.

        It feels like all that hard work and positivity and motivation at the end of last season has been undone in about 4-5 days into this season.

        We really need to beat Hoffenheim and seal the CL spot. We need players coming in VVD or not. I don’t give a toss about Coutinho anymore, but Jurgen and maybe Edwards need leverage, or Klopp will walk himself back to Germany next summer. Would anyone blame him then?

  16. John Stefan

    This summer fsg have a clear message to lfc fans. Expect nothing – we want ur cash that’s all.

  17. We have mediocre defenders and a DM that can’t tackle. So yes, better defenders would make us defend better.

  18. We did what we always do. When leading by one goal we always contrive to give the opponents precisely what they need to put us under the kind of pressure we cannot withstand. Richarlison was going nowhere yet Gomez pulled him back in a very dangerous area. The resultant free-kick led indirectly to their equaliser. This is the kind of thing that we absolutely must cut out. Concede fouls by all means, but not when the ball gets into our final third.

    The first half was an abomination from Lovren. Why try to physically compete with someone like Okaka? Let him bring the ball down and tackle him on the ground. He was never going to run in behind so just let him have the ball. Remember Rafa’s tactics for dealing with players like Carew? Let him bring it down and have Xabi there to take it off him on the deck.

    There was no element of surprise for their equaliser. None at all. I knew it was coming. That inswinging delivery is something we just cannot handle yet we persistently give away fouls in areas where it can be a problem. When was the last time we were ahead going into the final stages of the game and actually didn’t concede a corner or a dangerous free-kick? It happens in every game.

    On the positive side, we remain sublime going forward. There’s now a sense that we’ll always score. That’s not something I’ve felt for a long time. With a bit more sharpness, which you hope will come as the season develops, we’d have buried Watford during that fifteen minute period which we had our foot on their throat and would not be discussing our defensive frailties so often.

  19. If an offside goal is rightly disallowed, we would be looking at the statistic that no one came from behind to win more than us last season. Rather than mental fragility, we’d be talking about our mental resilience. It stings, but we are (mostly) adults and need to take the long view. In no situation do we leave without a new first team CB and at least a strong loanee in midfield.

  20. Andy Thomas

    Re-watch the Okaka goal, I dare you, again and again. Pause, rewind, pause, rewind.

    – Matip doesn’t jump, he doesn’t leave the ground at the near post when Kaboul challenges him.
    – Henderson palms off a man at the last second to Trent.
    – Okaka begins as Lovren’s man, just walks past him into another ‘zone’, nobody reacts
    – Trent lets their #3 run behind him to the far post, so if the ball got across the area he’d have been on his own to tap it in.
    – Mignolet stays on his line

    What is happening here? It’s almost 2 years into Klopp’s tenure and we’re still talking about an inability to deal with a corner on the most basic level, that of being competetive. We don’t even make a good fist of looking like we could stop it. When so many players get things wrong, it’s a managerial problem, not a player mistake.

    Klopp has signed only 9 players in his time here, and 2 of them were goalkeepers, and we’re still going round in circles about Mignolet. He obviously recognised an issue at GK, but it’s changed nothing.

    Our midfield has a horrible identity crisis. And yes, maybe it was concentrated due to the injuries to Lallana and Coutinho, but it doesn’t explain what’s happening entirely.

    At one point, about 25 mins maybe, Salah has the ball on the right, basically on the halfway line. He looks inside to make a pass and there’s (literally) nobody there. Reminder: Salah is on the HALFWAY LINE.
    Henderson was 15 yards too deep, and hiding behind a Watford player, so there was no pass on there. Can and WIjnaldum were 25 yards up the field in-line with Firmino and Mane, making a 4 man forward line. Over the course of the next 30 seconds they made their way back into frame.

    Where should you be when your full back (not wing back, but full back) is taking up a default position of 10 yards into the opposition half, but your defensive mid (Henderson) is sat between the CB’s 10 yards inside his own half? And what do you do about closing down space in the opposition half when Mane and Salah have drifted inside, meaning you have to get pulled out to the Watford full backs to close them down and leave a huge hole in the middle of the park? The ‘system’ says you have to close the opposition down, but your head says ‘there’s a massive hole in the middle of park if I do this’.

    For me, that’s bigger than the absence of Lallana or Coutinho, it’s just lads not knowing what to do and when, or doing the wrong things to service ‘a system’ that is being exploited by a canny manager.

    Silva was getting diagonals hit behind our full backs time after time because our system had them pushed up so high. Our midfield were being made to run, and run, and run, and run. Watford knew that there would be times when, if they stretched us, our midfielders would stop running for things every now and then to take a breather.

    • Great breakdown of the game Andy, but for me you can just sum up like this stat I read on another site:

      Klopp’s reign as manager: 22 months, 100 games and almost three transfer windows = no major changes in defense or tactical improvement.

      Another major problem I think is the DoF Edwards. Even during Rogers’s days he still produced poor results.

      Perhaps Edwards, and while we’re at it, the defensive coach and goalkeeping coach can be replaced?

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