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.
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.
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.
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.
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