It’s fair to say that Liverpool didn’t play very well, and for a long time on Sunday afternoon it seemed as though Jürgen Klopp’s Reds had reverted to their worst 2022-23 form. In the end, though, the almighty power of narrative chose a different headlining story by way of Luis Diaz, who in the midst of his own personal crisis came off the bench to salvage a point for Liverpool.
Dissecting the Narrative
Two narratives went to war on Sunday. The first: Liverpool are back, baby!
Just as people were starting to talk about Klopp 2.0 hitting its stride and putting the worst parts of 2022-23 in the rearview for good, the Reds were straight back to dropping a turd on the road against a side scraping along near the bottom of the Premier League table and who hadn’t caused the slightest bother to any of the other presumed title challengers they’d faced this season.
So. Liverpool might be back. Just not in the way anyone meant it over the past week. Or maybe it’s just a weird one-off. We’ll be hoping it’s that but, we can’t lie, that was one hell of an unpleasant throwback to the worst of last season. Or at least it was for a while.
Because, there was another, even more powerful narrative waiting in the wings: The heroics of Lucho Diaz.
The star Colombian winger’s parents were kidnapped a week ago. His father remains missing—though with negotiations for his release ongoing and moods said to be positive. He hasn’t played the past two games because of it. Against Luton, he told Klopp he wanted to be involved.
And involved he was, as he came off the bench late, asked to save Liverpool and doing just that by scoring the goal to level the match after the Reds looked to have thrown away all three points. It might have only earned the, a draw, but goodness what a moment.
Winners and Losers
Leaving out the narrative absurdity of Daiz’ leveller, the clear bright spot for Liverpool was Harvey Elliott. Jürgen Klopp sent out the big guns in the Reds’ rebuilt midfield to start the day, and Dominmik Szoboszlai, Alexis Mac Allister, and Ryan Gravenberch all looked some flavour of downright poor to—in the case of Gravenberch—just barely passable. Elliott off the bench, though, made an instant impact and for a time seemed the substitute that would tilt the game in Liverpool’s favour.
Darwin Nuñez’ Finishing
We love Darwin. We do. And our instant reaction to his absolutely diabolical miss of a chance ruled offside but which replays showed was well on and would have been ruled as such by VAR (assuming VAR didn’t fuck up) was to start chanting Nuñez Nuñez Nuñez.
But goodness what a miss it was at a time when the game was nil-nil and it would have put the Reds ahead—and possibly taken the life out of Luton. While we’re focusing on Darwin here, Mo Salah’s miss that turned into a pass that Darwin failed to convert was nearly as bad. We have faith in both, but in a game of mostly bad moments for the Reds their double act of failure in front of goal stands out.
Along with the clear positive impact made by Elliott off the bench, it’s perhaps worth highlighting that he was introduced alongside Kostas Tsimikas, who took over for Joe Gomez at left back. It would by unfair to put all the blame for Liverpool’s struggles until then on Gomez, but his mostly anonymous day as a right-footed mostly centre half asked to provide balance and creativity on the left flank—and that Liverpool suddenly looked a heck of a lot better when he came off—speaks, just maybe, to a failed experiment by Klopp and his coaching staff.
What Happens Next
With Tottenham set to play Chelsea on Monday with Arsenal stumbling against Newcastle, there’s a decent chance the Reds end the matchweek no worse than they started it. And maybe even a little better. Games in Europe against Toulouse and then Brentford are up next—and with them the chance to prove today was a bad one-off.