Underperforming against supposedly weaker opposition is not a new phenomenon to Liverpool fans. In fact, it seems to have become part of the club's DNA at this point, and in the past five seasons the Reds have collected fewer points, conceded more goals and failed to score more often against the bottom half of the table than any of the current top six. It's a damning stat, but one that at least indicates that the problem may not lie with manager Jürgen Klopp, but rather something more abstract and seemingly endemic to the mentality at the club.
Set piece defending is another seemingly infinite source for despair, and while fans of every club will claim their team concede too often from set pieces, Liverpool's decades-long struggle to deal with high balls into their box is well-established, and gives every team with a pair of six footers belief that they can snatch something away from the Reds at any time. The vulnerability to the counter-attack seems to have been exacerbated by Klopp's aggressive counter-pressing style, but has been a recurring feature to some extent since at least the late nineties.
Backup central defender Ragnar Klavan, however, doesn't see much of a problem with the way the Reds set up defensively.
“In a game we don't feel we are vulnerable in these [defensive] situations. We have a good formation,” the Estonian international told The Independent.
“It was really disappointing to lose those points against Bournemouth, but I think we have done better [at set-pieces] and it was just a second-ball situation when we were not there."
Not sure how else to break this to you, Ragnar, but second balls are a crucial part of set pieces, and five defenders standing in a line six yards out while watching the opposition pounce on a loose ball following the initial duel isn't strong set piece defending. Thankfully, Klavan has at least as much faith in the squad's team spirit and its ability to carry them into the Champions League as he does in their defending.
“There are going to be some really tough games for us, it could be more physical, but we are one team, we always stick together in good times and bad times," the former Augburg man continued.
“This is also the reason I believe we can finish in the top four because of the team spirit.
“We know we have had bad luck this season with injuries and stuff but we keep on fighting with the team spirit.
“It wasn't good (against Bournemouth) but there are plenty of games left and we have to keep on fighting and believing."
Yep. Fight. Belief. Team spirit. And pretty please, just a teensy bit of focus on the importance of getting to the second ball. Signed, arrhythmic Liverpool hearts everywhere.