What started out as an optimistic match against Arsenal eventually devolved into a frustrating goalless affair. Liverpool were able to field a strong squad, including the return of Alisson Becker in goal and Joël Matip in defense alongside Virgil Van Dijk, and were even given a golden opportunity when Granit Xhaka did what he does and got a red card in the first half.
Manager Jürgen Klopp, though, took it all in (maybe disappointed) stride.
“First and foremost, I don’t think even you saw this for the first time in the history of football – things like this happen,” Klopp said in his post match press conference.
“Our situation - and I said it before and it’s not an excuse, it’s an explanation -[meant] for obvious reasons we had to change the line-up tonight. I really liked the way we started in the game, I saw absolutely everything we wanted to see in the beginning. Front-footed, lively, direct in the right moments, we switched it in the right moments. We started in the game like we wanted to start and then there was the red card and then we play against a low block.
“Against a low block with the most finely-tuned team is difficult and obviously we are not – then on top of that, we made a few wrong decisions, we felt too much rushed, it looked like all of sudden we felt under pressure, which doesn’t make sense but it looked for me a little bit like that. It is a typical situation.”
Thankfully, with the postponement of last week’s first leg match, there is another chance to score some goals and book a place in the Carabao Cup Final against (who else) Chelsea. That match, of course, could go any number of ways and Klopp isn’t even thinking about it at the moment.
“I have no idea what Arsenal will do when we face them, we will see that. It is not in my mind in the moment – my mind is already Brentford, so from Monday on you can ask me these thing of things about what we will do there,” the manager continued.
“As I said, we know we can play better and we know we have to play better and that’s what we will do, what we will work on, that’s clear. A lot of things I liked, but the general outcome was not good enough, that’s the truth of this game and we have to accept this for the moment and from here we go.”
Xhaka’s sending off presented a golden opportunity for Liverpool continue that front footed pressing they’d started the match with, but unfortunately were thwarted by their old enemy the low block tactics - which, to be fair, they should’ve seen coming when the opposition goes down to 10. The Reds panicked and were unable to find the mentality monsters of years past that would’ve found maybe one scrappy goal to get them through, and that was likely the source of the frustration for Klopp.
When asked if Liverpool “tried too hard” (which, what does that even mean in sporting terms?), the manager had this to say: “Yes, in moments, yes. After the red card, yes. As I said, it looked like we felt under pressure, that makes no sense but it’s human, that’s how we are. You go out there and you go for winning something special and then all of a sudden it feels like from now on, from this moment on, you only can lose.
“Again, it is difficult but if we have then a well-settled formation, fine-tuned patterns and all these kind of things [then] it’s still difficult but it’s a bit easier and tonight, on top of that, with a pretty new line-up we had to face that. That’s the situation. We were not creative enough, definitely. We did a lot of things not good enough. But again, in the end it’s 0-0, half-time. Let’s go.”
He’s right - the Reds have a whole other match to get to the final and plenty of time to rectify whatever mistakes were made Thursday evening. Sure it’ll be difficult without Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, but we’ve played more difficult matches without one or both of them before.