The most damning assessment of the state of this Liverpool team is that the Reds’ strongest available XI in today’s chaotic 2-2 FA Cup draw looked evenly matched with their opponents on the day, Premier League relegation-battling Wolves.
Slack defending and ineffective midfield play have been the common thread through Liverpool’s listless performances post-World Cup, with the same themes playing out at Anfield again today. A shocking error from Alisson Becker conceded the opener (although the keeper recovered admirably to help preserve the final score line). Darwin Nunez then equalized late in the first half from a delicious Trent Alexander-Arnold cross, with the striker reaching double figures for the campaign via a half-volleyed strike that was an order of magnitude more difficult than the seemingly dozens of chances he’s missed so far this season.
A reminder that Wolves made 9 changes from the team that drew with Aston Villa and that was Liverpool's strongest available side at present.— Anfield Watch (@AnfieldWatch) January 7, 2023
New signing Cody Gakpo started in attack, looking physically up to the challenge and not out of place, Adama Traore gave the Virgil Van Dijk-less defense fits all afternoon, rumored Liverpool target Mattheus Nunes athletically outclassed his opposing midfielders once he came on—oh, and the Reds somehow escaped with a draw after an objectively nonsensical VAR decision ruled out what should have been a late Wolves winner.
Overall, it was a topsy turvy game in a topsy turvy season for a Liverpool team currently without answers for the most basic of questions. Manager, Jurgen Klopp tried to look at the positives from a game in which his side at times looked very much in control of proceedings, especially after scoring twice either side of half-time to take a 2-1 lead:
“Good start, dominant start with really good football moments and then we conceded,” Klopp said speaking to the club website after the game about the Alisson howler for the opener.
“It should not happen but we all know how often Ali has saved our backsides.”
A solid start to the second half forced a Wolves error on a cross from Gakpo setting up a Salah goal. However, concerted pressure from the visitors culminated in an impressive Nunes run and a scuffed finish by Wolves striker Hwang Hee-chan to level the score at 2-2.
“Hwang walked into our box. That should not happen,” Klopp admitted.
“They had counter-attacks—but then we come back with a fantastic equalizer—we wanted to cause them more problems. We dominated again until they get a foot in the game.”
“They caused us massive problems,” he continued later speaking to ITV. “We kept the problems in the game. The equalizer was unlucky, but he should not be able to work into our box.”
The Liverpool boss however was impressed by Gakpo’s debut in a high-octane game following the completion of his initial £37m move from PSV.
“I liked how he grew into the game, the German said of Gakpo. “He was massively involved in our second goal, he’s a good footballer, he can keep the ball. Now he needs minutes.”
The draw means the two sides will play a replay at the Molineux in 10 days’ time, a fixture neither coach will have wanted amidst a crowded fixture list.