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Lijnders: [Liverpool Have] Anxiety in the Final Third

First team developmental coach Pepijn Lijnders discusses Liverpool's performance after they dropped two points against Sunderland on Saturday.

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I've been told that Liverpool played a football game on Saturday. I wouldn't know, personally, because I've already begun the process of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-ing my brain of this entire league campaign. But the show must go on, and it's my job to bring you the post-match quotes, so here we go.

Jürgen Klopp, who missed the game due to appendicitis, surely felt more than stomach pains in the last ten minutes of Saturday's game against Sunderland, which, from what I can gather, saw Liverpool lose their two goal lead to draw the game. In his stead, first team developmental coach Pepijn Lijnders handled the post-match interview.

Lijnders remained positive about the majority of Liverpool's performance, saying:

"Normally the scoreboard doesn’t lie. Today, it did, in my opinion. For 82 minutes, we played really well and we became better throughout the game, especially after our goal.

"You felt we needed a goal to make the combinations quicker and to move the ball clear into the final third. We were good and we dominated the game, could always find the free player and moved the ball from left to right, to open them up and create spaces between the lines."

Liverpool did have an enormous amount of possession in this game, and after Roberto Firmino converted the first goal, they attacked doggedly until they got their second, from the foot of Adam Lallana. It was after that, however, when the game went off the rails.

"Normally, if you score early then the game gets easier. In the last 10 minutes we dropped off too much and let them play longer balls.

"With those longer balls, they are closer to our goal and that’s why the free-kick [for Sunderland’s first goal] is in that position instead of 20 yards higher up the pitch.

"We felt that we were in control of the game and you see that one moment changes everything. There are still eight to 10 minutes where you have to be calm and play, keep moving the ball into the final third, so when you lose it you can counter-press and stay higher up the pitch."

It's unfortunate that Liverpool have been letting these game-changing moments steal more and more points from them this season. It seems that teams have begun to identify Liverpool's kryptonite: shots on target. Manage one, and a team's back in the game. Two or more? Well then, they're flying. The amount of times that Liverpool have allowed teams to fight their way back simply by aiming the ball between the two posts is appalling and clearly something that needs to be fixed immediately. Or so I've been told, anyway.

Lijnders, on the other hand, pinpointed another problem as the culprit: the players' composure in the final third. He spoke candidly about the subject when he said:

"We dominated in the opponents’ half and the way we were able after each loss of possession to win the ball back in a short period, then again find a free player and keep the ball for longer periods," said the coach.

"If you want to point at something, the amount of moments we get in between the lines and in the final third, we have to stay calmer and use our skill more to outplay opponents, to risk and to play the through pass. If you talk about anxiety, probably for me it’s not in the last 10 minutes, it is in the final third.

"Overall, if you look at it from a performance point of view and how we analyse different lines, sectors etcetera, it was OK – the problem was the game wasn’t 82 minutes, it was 95."

Disorganization in the back plus lack of product in the front does not a top four team make. There are serious issues that need to be sorted out over the summer break. But in the here and now, there's still five more games to play in February alone.

The good news is that Liverpool will be getting a big boost in the their attack with the reintroduction of Philippe Coutinho, Divock Origi, and Daniel Sturridge. Sturridge made the bench in this game, though he didn't make it onto the pitch. Just that injection of class may be enough to start sorting out some of the the team's problems up front.

In the back it's a different story, one that only got worse when Dejan Lovren went off injured early in the first half. Regarding the center-back, Lijnders explained, "Lovren felt cramp two or three times in the same position. [It was] very light so it was just a precaution to come off because it was in the same spot."

With Martin Skrtel set to miss out on another 2-3 weeks of games and now, potentially, Lovren injured again as well, things may get tough for Klopp over the coming games. With any luck (something Liverpool haven't had for a while now when it comes to injuries), the precautionary measure will have been enough, and Lovren will be fit for selection soon.

Though Liverpool's bid for top four is all but over, they're still very much alive in their other three competitions, and February will be important for their continued survival in all of them. Liverpool need to get their groove back, basically. They need to pull a full reverse-Arsenal and put together some wins over the rest of this month so that maybe some good will have come out of this season.

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