By the end of it, Saturday’s 5-0 scoreline looked a monumental defeat for Liverpool, and by any measure it wasn’t a pleasant afternoon for the Reds when they visited Manchester City. As a result, some have wondered since if Jürgen Klopp didn’t make a mistake leaving Philippe Coutinho out.
With the midfielder fit to make two 30 minute appearances over the international break for Brazil, he was clearly ready to play even if he probably wasn’t ready to go 90 minutes. Klopp, though, doesn’t see Coutinho’s absence as playing a role in the outcome—the real issues were finishing and red cards.
“If you want to blame me for the decision then no problem,” Klopp said when asked about his choice to leave Coutinho out of the squad on the weekend. “We’ve scored a lot of goals already so far in this season and the players on the pitch have played the kinds of passes Phil can play.
“The passes to release [Mohamed] Salah in the area, they were all played by somebody. You can’t play them better than that. But the final decision wasn’t good enough to score. That’s what we have to learn. Yes, we can be really good, but if you don’t finish the situations you create you have a problem.”
On Saturday, it was not finishing their chances that game Liverpool the problem, as they had the run of play and the game’s best chance to score in the early going when Salah was sent clear. His attempt to finish, though, was telegraphed—too obvious—and stopped by the goalkeeper.
If it had been a goal, a Liverpool side looking dominant early would have quickly been up a goal. And if then Nicolas Otamendi had seen the second yellow he likely deserved when he clattered cleats and knees and ankles into Sadio Mané’s chest, City would have been the ones down to ten men.
Instead, Liverpool missed the game’s best early chance and, not too long afterwards, City took their first best chance. Instead, the referee showed inconsistency officiating Otamendi leniently and, not too long afterwards, sent Mané off for a high boot on City goalkeeper Ederson.
The 5-0, when everything was said and done, was a fair reflection of City’s dominamce against a side down to ten for much of the game, but Liverpool’s problem wasn’t Coutinho—and with a goal and call going differently in the early going, it could easily have been them easing to a 5-0 victory.