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Everything's the Worst: Below Zero

Liverpool are mired in the world of negative goal difference, but a top four finish is still within reach.

Liverpool v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Agwo emeghi nke o jiri buru agwo, umuaka achiri ya hie nku.

If a snake fails to show its venom, children will use it to tie firewood.

A well-known Igbo proverb is most apt for Liverpool's maladies against Premier League peasants. The word "peasant" is decidedly elitist, but it's the very failure to bully the weaker sides in the league that dares to leave Jürgen Klopp with nothing to show for the real progress made this season. What does a predator do when it sees a porcupine without its quills? Caution can be abandoned in approaching that particular rodentian mammal when it does not carry its expected threat.

You have to both display and utilise your capabilities or be treated as someone or something else. Baring fangs may not be necessary, but the Premier League can be as unforgiving as the animal kingdom. How many teams will be relegated to the Championship with points from Liverpool in their pockets? The lower the goal difference, the longer the winless run, and the greater the desperation have become the precursors for an upset. That should not be so against a team with grand desires.

Since Klopp took over on 8 October 2015, he has lost only one of 21 league games against Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Everton. It's a formidable record and one that cannot be dismissed as a lengthy spell of fortune. By the same token, Liverpool shouldn't concede four goals away to Norwich (2015/16) and Bournemouth (2016/17). So many points shouldn't be dropped to teams in morbid and maddening acts of charity.

Stoke City have only won one game in their last six in the Premier League and are on a run of three consecutive defeats. Only West Ham United are on a longer losing streak and are one of only three teams with worse form over the previous sextet of games. Incidentally, Stoke have the same negative goal difference as Bournemouth at minus 12. Going further, all of Liverpool's remaining opponents are below zero in terms of goal difference. Only seven teams in the league exist above zero, but unfortunately for Merseyside's finest, none remain to counter press into submission and 2017/18 is a long way away.

Despite struggling with such denizens, should there be so much criticism of Klopp and his players after the 2-2 draw with Bournemouth? Perhaps a 2-1 lead against Bournemouth was far too slender for Liverpool protect, but Klopp made the decision to bring on Joël Matip to protect a slender lead. Liverpool reacted well to an inexplicable mistake by the reliable Georginio Wijnaldum and a lack of concentration by reserve centre back Ragnar Klavan. We did recover from going one goal down early to leading until late in the game. We did have a couple of very good chances to snatch a late winner after Josh King's equaliser.

"It is not about thinking 'How can we play perfect football?' We need to get results, and the first thing I will think about is how we can defend (against) Bournemouth not how can we create 27 chances? If we are strong and perfectly organised in defence then Bournemouth cannot get confidence in the game." - Jürgen Klopp (Bournemotuh pre-match press conference)

TLO community member and resident financial guru, smooth sailing, pointed out that we "committed 11 fouls against Bournemouth, only 1 in our half of the field" in "a concerted effort to not conceded set pieces in dangerous positions" during the whole game. Combined with only 2 corners conceded and a defensive substitution designed to protect Liverpool's lead, Klopp is at least trying something different to see Liverpool over the line.

Liverpool generally played better against Bournemouth than they did against Burnley, deserved to win on the balance of play, and will probably rectify such mistakes at the Britannia Stadium. Liverpool will drop points before the season is over and could very well lose another game. West Bromwich Albion have won eight out of their last ten league games at the Hawthorns since losing 4-0 at home to Manchester City, so even if Liverpool beat Stoke, a tougher task lies ahead. Tony Pulis is the arch-proponent of physical and direct football that a small side will naturally flounder against.

Klopp will have to come up with a plan without Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Sadio Mané, and possibly Philippe Coutinho tomorrow. Liverpool could have been more active in January. Liverpool could have done more to cater for the absence of a player that many fans didn't rate in the first place. Liverpool's squad is thin even though injuries have made squad depth a far more complicated prospect than it should have been without European football.

Yes, Liverpool could have done better in many areas. Despite all the mistakes made this season, Liverpool sit in third in the league with seven games to go. Arsenal and Manchester United may have two games in hand, but they have to play each other in May. Liverpool falling short would need a return to the sobering travails of January and February, and to expect that to happen is to truly think everything's the worst.

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