How do you beat the title favourites one week and lose to the bottom team in the table the next? It’s something Liverpool fans have been asking themselves in the wake of Monday’s loss to Swansea, and it’s something ex-Red and current Sky pundit Jamie Carragher has been trying to come to grips with, too.
For many, the sale of Philippe Coutinho and the lack of attacking options on hand for Jürgen Klopp given the club have yet to replace the talented Brazilian is the easy answer, but Monday wasn’t the first time Liverpool have failed to do the job against a bottom-half side—and in those other games, they still had Coutinho.
”Manchester City have got far more quality than Swansea, but it’s a different proposition playing a team like them,” said Carragher. “Man City is an end-to-end game with both teams going for it, so you have the chance to counter-attack and the chance to press, which are two of Liverpool’s biggest strengths.
“But as we saw on Monday, those strengths don’t come into play at all against a team like Swansea. It becomes more about breaking them down. A lot of people will look at the game and say they missed Coutinho. Of course that is a factor but let’s not forget that he started those games with Burnley, Newcastle, and West Brom.”
Even with Coutinho, Liverpool often struggled against teams that park the bus. Whether it’s against the clubs fighting to avoid relegation or Jose Mourinho when he shows up with regressive tactics and one of the game’s most expensive squads, Liverpool haven’t dealt well with deep and well organised.
Swansea, as disappointing as it was, really wasn’t anything new. And while it may be easier said than done, Carragher’s answer is speed—Klopp and the squad, he thinks, need to focus on moving the ball more quickly side to side and when probing the channels against stubborn defensive units.
“It was a problem last season as well,” he added. “So it’s not just down to Coutinho. I feel that the passing can be a little lethargic when the opposition get players behind the ball. If they moved it quicker, they might be able to exploit spaces when people do get out of position.”
Whether they can manage to do that, of course, is another question—as one imagines it’s not been lost on Klopp that his side can at times look a little lethargic against sides that pack ten behind the ball and clog the penalty area. With West Brom up on Saturday, though, we may get an answer in short order.