Of all the former Liverpool players-turned-pundits, Jamie Carragher is far and away the best. He’s smart and insightful, and generally good at explaining the nuances of the game.
However, sometimes punditry boils down to saying the obvious things. Because sometimes the obvious things are so clearly the things that need to be discussed.
Last night was a night for obvious punditry. Atletico Madrid set out to play defensively. They got a fluky early goal. They spent the next 90 minutes frustrating and defending. An play in three acts. As simple as it gets, really.
So, in this case, we can excuse Carra for saying the obvious things.
“Well it was a really frustrating night for Liverpool,” Carragher said post-match on Viaplay. “We knew how Atletico would play, Jurgen Klopp knew.
“But the big thing you don’t want to do in games like this is concede the first goal – and so very early from a set-piece. Sometimes it happens, little bit of luck and it rebounds and they go 1-0 up.
“Liverpool didn’t get too frustrated but they couldn’t create anything, they don’t have real creativity, certainly in midfield. That’s always been a problem.”
He is nominally right that the midfield at times—and last night was no exception—lacks creativity. Normally, the main creative threats are coming from fullbacks Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, leaving the midfield trio to work their socks off and do all the pressing. But both fullbacks had a frustrating night, and the inclusion (or substitution) of a Naby Keita probably would have been helpful in retrospect.
However, Klopp’s hand was forced at halftime as he felt (correctly, in my opinion) that one of his subs needed to be Divock Origi for Sadio Mane, in order to keep all 11 men on the pitch, and the tie alive over two legs.
Although an away goal would have been massive, Carragher also saw the importance of keeping it to just 1-0 and getting things back to Anfield with the tie in the balance.
“I think tonight you have to say Atletico defended really well and the important thing for Liverpool was not to lose their discipline, and get a red card or go down to 10 men, and to make sure the game stayed at 1-0 and not 2-0.
“At 1-0 I still think Liverpool have a great opportunity of going through. If it had gone 2-0 I think Liverpool would have been nearly out.
“So at 1-0 Atletico deserved it, they had the better chances, but Liverpool will be a lot better at Anfield.”
Liverpool will be better at Anfield. Whether Klopp decides on a more creative midfield, or decides to have another go with the more workman-like midfield (with the Anfield crowd behind them and probably a better ref) is something to ponder over the coming weeks.