I, was happy once. Hard to believe that that was a mere two weeks ago, after our emphatic (and stress inducing!) win over Manchester City. Our loss to West Bromwich Albion has ended our 19-game unbeaten home run, with our previous home loss taking place in April last year to our former bogey opponents, Crystal Palace.
Last night’s defeat also marked our third consecutive fourth round exit (West Ham progressed to the fifth round after our replay in 2016 and Wolverhampton Wolves beat us 2-1 in 2017) from the FA Cup since Jürgen Klopp took over as Liverpool manager in October 2015. Klopp described his team selection for last night’s match as the strongest one that he could have picked and said;
It’s a big competition for us, we like it, so we always want to go through. I remember two years ago when we lost at West Ham [in the FA Cup], it felt like we had 500 games, so we needed to make more changes with the semi-final of the League Cup etc. So, we didn’t make many changes tonight, no need for that, we picked the strongest side we could have picked. I’m happy about the line-up but the performance is much more important and that’s what we have to make sure of now.
I disagree with the fact that the team selection was the strongest that Klopp could have picked. Having been subbed during the early part of the second half of our match against Manchester City due to feeling unwell, Emre Can should have been rested against Swansea to be fresh for the FA Cup. Our back four proved with their collective performance that they were nowhere close to the strongest option that Klopp could have gone with and in my view, Andy Robertson, Dejan Lovren, Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk should have started this match. Alberto Moreno’s fitness was still in question on Friday and the decision to start and then play him for the full 90 minutes was a mind boggling one. Trent looked fearful throughout most of the match especially during the first half and of course, Joel Matip was responsible for the opposition’s third goal.
After the match, Klopp had this to say;
In the decisive parts of the game around the goals it was poor. Bad defending. Bad defending most of the time means taking the wrong decision, but we scored a fantastic first goal. We go 1-0 up which is perfect in a game like this usually, but then it felt like it was a second later we conceded a goal. I think it was a minute, but if you take away the celebrations it was probably a second. Long ball but we win the first one, then open ball and we lose that challenge when we could have shot the ball somewhere, into the stand or whatever and then it’s done. We lose the second challenge as well and then the disaster starts, if you want, with the run of Rodriguez and a fantastic finish. Second goal, similar; Rodriguez alone in the box, which makes absolutely no sense. We lose him in midfield, they pass the ball to the side, we don’t feel the responsibility in this situation obviously and then he can score a second one. The third one was unbelievable because it’s really easy to defend, you only have to push up then Dawson is 100 per cent offside, but he wasn’t. When you saw his celebration, it looked like ‘what can I do? If they leave me alone then I have to use the chance.’ Missing the penalty, not sure, probably would have helped, but we missed it and then we tried in the second half of course. We changed the system three or four times today.
Let’s be honest, we have heard this all before. No matter how good we are going forward, at the end of the day the same thing keeps dogging us, season in, season out. Manager after manager. Individual errors and everyone’s favourite (note my sarcasm) our defensive flaws. Players can only be pushed so far but there are certain mistakes that will occur over and over regardless of the formation a team are playing. Certain players are simply not good enough and as harsh as that may sound, this is football and Liverpool are in the Premier League. If we struggle defensively, we cannot realistically hold any silverware aspirations.
The best teams are built from the back and whether Simon Mignolet or Loris Karius plays, Liverpool can’t get away from their goalkeeper problems. Every Premier League winning team has had the best goalkeeper of that season and until we properly invest in not only a new goalkeeper, but also a new goalkeeping coach (John Atcherberg has been the GK coach since June 2009), we will continue to bemoan the problem.
With January 31st looming ever closer, the concern among the Liverpool collective fan base is a valid one. If no new signings come in by then, regardless of gaining Van Dijk, our squad lacks a certain depth and may struggle in the Premier and Champions League if our recent two performances are anything to go by.
I sincerely hope that I’m wrong about this because if we don’t finish in fine form come end of this season, it’s only a matter of time before our beloved Bobby Firmino, Mo Salah and Sadio Mané are lured by certain football clubs with the defensive and real (silver) metal we have sadly been lacking in recent times.