HAVING made eight changes from the Liverpool side that against Burnley at the weekend, Jürgen Klopp gave his supporting cast a chance to put themselves forward for a leading role.
However, as has been typical of Liverpool of late, The Reds once again flattered to deceive.
Liverpool started the game well and seem to have a plan to expose the Leicester back four, Andy Robertson in particular taking advantage of the space on the left allowed by Phil Coutinho’s movement, but having failed to make anything of the number of chances afforded to them in the first half, the creeping doubt that accompanies this side when they’ve been wasteful set in the moment half time arrived.
It’s too easy to pin the second half on one change, and saving Coutinho’s legs for the weekend made, and still does make, perfect sense and does not excuse what followed, Liverpool should have enough in their locker to see off a poor Leicester side.
The energetic profligacy of the first period could not have been more different from what was a listless, leaderless second, a 45 minutes devoid of ideas and inspiration.
It’s a shame that Dom Solanke and Robertson’s encouraging first-half forays will be forgotten, both dragged down the dirge of second half, but in the final analysis they are probably, alongside Danny Ward, the only members of the “second” squad who have enhanced their credentials on the night.
Of all the anticipated changes, the Welsh goalkeeper was the one that had more eyes on him than most and can be happy with his performance, Ward could do nothing about the goals he conceded, cleared his lines well, looked unflustered, made a really smart save low to his left when the game was effectively over and did something Liverpool fans haven’t seen since Pepe Reina was good by attacking a set piece and taking the ball over the top of opposition attackers and his own defenders on the edge of his own area.
That’s where the positives end…
The much-celebrated Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, given his first start in a Liverpool shirt, showed very little of the pace and drive expected of him and looked sloppy in the central-midfield area he craves to play in and wasteful when further up the field.
Marko Grujic endured a similar night, the 21-year-old has an elegance about him but on tonight’s display can only play in the direction he’s facing, is a walking yellow card and is nowhere near fast enough to play in this Liverpool side long term.
And while the mind may be willing and the desire undeniable, John Flanagan’s injuries again told their own story on his return to the side tonight and he again looked a million miles from the player that smashed his way into the best Liverpool side of the last 10 years.
But to stick all of the blame tonight on the second stringers would be to absolve the senior members of tonight’s team of responsibility.
Both Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson in particular had nights to forget, the latter showing nothing like the form of last season, the dynamism that defined his better performances was again missing, as was the maturity and leadership required to steady the ship at the first sign of stormy water.
That Liverpool only seem to have one gear, stall badly and blow themselves out when they aren’t a full throttle is massive cause for alarm, the ability for sides to shift up and down when the need to “keep and contain” is paramount to any team with designs on trophies.
It is that lack of nous, more than a lack of talent, that’s the most worrying trait within this squad and one that cannot wait until January to be corrected.
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