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The problem with Liverpool’s attack
What’s eating Liverpool’s fabled front three? With so much attention being given to Liverpool’s injuries in defence and TAA’s problems at right back the focus in gradually coming to the front three, I am not the first to realise this but let me offer a perspective.
One of two things have happened in my opinion.
First case for the prosecution: Liverpool and in particular their front three have been found out. There is an argument to be made that most of Liverpool’s players and in particular their fabled front three have been over-hyped…I know not something a pool fan would readily admit but has to be considered as a possibility. Why would this be?
Klopp has been adamant from the outset how he wants his team to set up to press the opposition into making mistakes deep in their own territory. For a while teams could not cope with this and fell into the traps set by Klopp’s teams of pressers repeatedly. This led to the ball being turned over in broken play with lots of room for the fabled front three to operate in and flourish. They passed the ball through a disorganised defence usually and scored a huge amount of goals as a result.
Their relative profligacy in front of goal went unnoticed when they scored so many in particular Salah and Firmino.
Now this year things have changed. Firstly teams have started to figure us out and do not under any circumstances try to pass the ball short in their own half of the field. Their is little or nothing for the press to press anymore, leading to few if any turnovers in most games and lots of sterile domination with 8-9 players behind the ball defending waiting to counter. The pressure exerted by the team as a whole is greatly reduced due to the absence of the regular CBs and the press is lighter and easier to escape, in essence opposition teams can breathe again.
In this environment the job of the front three has become much tougher, they must create alone or between themselves in tight spaces with defenders on their backs and be clinical when the half chance presents itself, they are failing to do either of these things at present. So in essence the abilities of the front three although considerable were magnified by the genius of Klopp’s system. Maybe Salah isnt the new Messi, maybe Bobby is a very hard working players with great game intelligence but a lack of end product.
The other option to the above is that something is wrong in the chemistry of the three players together. Since Mane stormed off last year following Salah’s failure to play him in, to Firmino ignoring obvious passes in favour of personal glory at the weekend to Salah complaining of how he is being treated in the media by Liverpool and batting his eyelashes at Barca and Real.
There is a feeling of some of the front three feeling aggrieved and starting to believe their own hype perhaps. If this is the case, and we cannot ever know for sure from outside then Klopp needs to nip this in the bud and remove whoever is the rotten apple in the basket. for my money this could be Salah. He of all three always seemed most motivated by personal glory and recent media comments attest to this.
Selling Salah could be Liverpools countinho part 2. If he were to go to one of the Spanish giants for in excess of 100mil, this could be used to but a reliable right sided centre back to partner VVD and/or another forward who is good at kicking the windy thing in the boxy thing, Haaland would be the dream signing for me here.
Either way things are not right at the pool and something needs to change.
Either that or its just january when all three of these players usually have a slump in form and in three months time when they are banging in the goals again I’ll look a right ninny, happy either way.
Issues at the back
The narrative forming around Liverpool’s “troubles” is naïve. They say we’re missing Jota and a ruthlessness in attack rather than Van Dijk and other defenders. This is borne out of the view that because we’re not conceding too much, it hasn’t hit us too hard defensively but that misses the domino effect of the great Dutchman missing at the back.
So let’s start in the defence. We had our 3 first choice defenders missing. That’s a big problem but our solution is causing us bigger problems. Our first choice midfield would usually be Fabinho, Henderson and Wijnaldum. So as well as missing Van Dijk and Gomez, we are now effectively missing Henderson and Fabinho – they cannot do the same job in defence that they do in midfield. That’s 4 first team players out right in the spine of the team.
And the problem that gives us is in how quickly we win the ball back AND recycle it forwards when the opposition is still in an attacking mindset or at least an “oh poo, we’ve just lost the ball as I was moving forward out of position, where should I be….” mindset. Our forwards have been able to take advantage of that transition a lot in the last few years but now they are not getting the ball back as quickly or as high up the pitch meaning the opposition has more time and space to recover their shape.
Throw in a bit of a loss of form, from an admittedly very high level, for both Trent and Bobby in particular and it’s not hard to see why Liverpool are suddenly finding it difficult to get over the line. Although we won a ridiculous amount last year, don’t forget how many times that win was by one goal, often late on and accompanied with a comment such as “they didn’t play to their best but they got the win in the end”.
So to my view, before we even talk about how much we are missing Jota, we’ve got 4 of our best players missing every game and 2 of the remaining 7 in a poor run of form. We’re also missing Van Dijk’s organisation and presence. I always watch the matches without fake crowd noise (seriously, why do you need this?) and he is always talking, shouting, driving the rest of the team in a way that no-one else does. It’s going to very difficult to win it from here but imagine how good this one would be if we could!
Adam LFC York (by the way, it’s January, we often have a blip in January……… honest)
…Following up on Rich (AFC) about Liverpool’s “injury crisis,” I would feel more sympathy toward them if I hadn’t just spent all of last season listening to how stupid City was for only going into a season with 3 CBS on the roster and suffering from the same injuries. Laporte (2nd best CB in to Van Dyke) suffered a freak knee injury at the beginning of the season, which could never have been planned for. It left City relying on an talented but injury prone John Stones (Joe Gomez) and an erratic and injury prone Otamendi (Matip, also better). City also were forced to move their world class holding midfielder fielder Fernandinho to defense and rely on promising academy players to fill in. City even had the Sane injury to deal with (just like Jota), and although he was likely to have been sold if not for the injury, City would have used the money to purchase a replacement.
The only difference this year to last year is that this year there is not all conquering side running away with the league, so Liverpool are still right in the title race. Injuries happen, and their is no way to plan for your world class CB suffering a freak season ending injury. It is also incredibly hypocritical to criticize a team for spending too much money and then turning around and criticize them for not spending 60 million for a back up. If anything, this should make us appreciate just how f@cling good City and Liverpool were the last 3 seasons, and how much has to go right to reach those levels.
One thing to note from the recent team selections for Liverpool is that due to their injury problems, they’re a substantially smaller/ weaker side than last season. If you take yesterday’s game against Manchester United, with Henderson and Fabinho playing at centre halves, you’re effectively swapping Van Dijk and Gomez/ Matip with Thiago and Shaqiri from their regular starting side from last season. This causes problems on set pieces at both ends of the pitch.
Liverpool currently have scored 6 goals from set pieces, the 8th best in the league. Liverpool’s goals per game from set pieces at 0.33 this season compared with 0.45 goals per game from last season. Also, if you check the defensive issues, it’s possibly a worse situation. Liverpool conceded 7 goals from set pieces last year or 0.18 goals per game. This season, the figure is 6 in 18 games or 0.33 goals per game.
Liverpool have a league leading 121 corners this season, at 6.7 per game. Last season they won 257 corners in 38 games which amazingly is also 6.7 corners per game, so the difference doesn’t seem to be in the numbers of corners earned, just in their ability to score from them!
While Liverpool’s goal scoring problems are not solely down to set pieces, it is obvious that teams are happy enough to sit deep and even give away set pieces with little fear of conceding from them.
Morgan (So, basically I’m saying Van Dijk is good in the air?) – Dublin
Everyone keeps saying that Gomez is injury-prone, but that doesn’t really seem fair.
He did his cruciates – that happens and is unlucky, but it can and does happen to anyone.
He had his ankle badly broken against Burnley and needed a while to come back from it. It wasn’t helped by the initial prognosis being 6 weeks before it was decided he needed surgery (and missed out on the World Cup, which would explain why so many people think he is injury prone)
He played in 43 games last season – it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that he would be able to do that same again.
I don’t have a problem with our transfer policy, but I think our midfield loses a lot of control with Fabinho sitting so deep.
The front three look knackered (MM, that’s probably why they look like they’ve never played together) – would love to see Divock tried through the middle if only to see what happens.
Hope all are well and looking after themselves and others as best they can.
Ever since United started gaining on Liverpool a month ago, their fans have been nothing short of embarrassing. From labelling United as the favourites (so ridiculous even we don’t believe this), to making every excuse under the sun and turning their team into plucky underdogs. The fact of the matter is, as Champions, you don’t get sympathy. You’ve spent 30 years trying to win the league, OWN THAT SH*T.
Yet if the reaction from Liverpool fans is anything to go by, they’re criticising us for not winning at Anfield, where no one has won for FOUR YEARS. Did anyone realistically think that was going to change yesterday? A Liverpool team that had the easiest Xmas schedule (playing every 4-5 days as opposed to United’s 3), and then a further two weeks off (Villa’s youth team doesn’t count) before the biggest game of the season. United meanwhile, have been playing every few days from the start of the season, having in the last week come through a semi-final against City and a gruelling game away to Burnley. Bruno and Rashford could barely walk towards the end.
In a season with no defining moments, it’s not a surprise that yesterday taught us nothing new whatsoever. Whereas the game wasn’t exactly boring, both teams were pretty cagey and looked happy to settle for a point. The annoying thing is that this was built up to be the most competitive derby in 10 years, and nobody took the initiative. United are still a ways away from winning the league, more than anything we need a proper defensive midfielder that can break the press and carry the ball out of midfield. Admittedly, McTominay and Fred had their moments yesterday, but neither is good enough for a team that wants to win big trophies (especially Fred). It’s also worth remembering, just like Liverpool, our attackers haven’t been firing this season either with only Bruno and Rashford really getting the goals.
This brings me nicely onto Bruno, and the nonsensical questions around what he does apart from scoring and assisting (those unimportant things). These questions quite clearly come from those who don’t watch or understand football (probably the kind of people that believe Covid is hoax). Even though he had a poor game yesterday (no doubt due to being f*cking exhausted) Bruno is the brain of the team. If you watch him, you see him everywhere, always making himself available to receive the ball, always directing his teammates into space, telling them where to move, who to press, what run to make. It’s similar to what Henderson does at Liverpool, which is why it’s so noticeable when either is missing from the team. United are not a team with high footballing IQ, so they need someone with an understanding of the game to direct them on the pitch (especially since Ole refuses to play Donny).
I probably need to talk about the half time whistle, which to be fair was a bit strange, but the ref quite clearly blew before he knew what was happening. Why’s everyone so convinced Mane would have scored anyway? They had a whole other 45 mins and could barely get a shot on target at home. Also worth mentioning how many cynical fouls Thiago made, and I don’t think he even got booked. What a classy player though, made Fred look like a fool a few times, which isn’t that difficult if we’re being fair.
Overall I think we should’ve won considering the chances, but we’ve come a long way in a year. On current form City look favourites, but anyone that wins a few games on the bounce could run away with it. It’s just enjoyable being in the picture again.
IP (What a performance from Luke Shaw)
…Alex from South London’s mail reads like a man cutting loose and letting some pretty horrible tension out of his system. Unfortunately, the raw human emotion of thinking his kids might have COVID has led him to pretty ludicrously oppositional stances.
First off, he talks like these games have not always been, for the most part, cagey, tactical affairs. And he also talks like Liverpool no longer carry huge threats simply because they are missing a couple of centre-backs. Fabinho, as has been demonstrated consistently, can do a very competent job in there.
Henderson is more of a wildcard, but referring to an ‘Anfield debutant’ in the midfield is disingenuous in the extreme. Thiago you mean? 29 year old Champions League winner, ex Barcelona and Bayern, Pep’s only signing his first summer at Bayern, the guy who ran the show for the first half an hour Thiago?
He then refers to Luke Shaw not going forward at all, which was strange, as the game I watched saw him making numerous bursts forward, winning a free kick to 20 yards from goal in the first half, not to mention creating the game’s best clear cut chance from the byline, of course. And then he clinches the deal by arguing that, instead of seeking to take advantage of Liverpool’s high line with long balls, a decent enough tactic if better executed, they should simply lump longer balls into their fifth choice striker who didn’t even make the bench of 9 players yesterday? Massive slow clap for that one, icing on the cake.
Finally, to answer his question re Mourinho and Van Gaal : very simply put, this is the first time we’ve been top with this many games played since 2013. In that context, a draw at Anfield is a very good result. Against a team who have been generally steamrollering all before them since about this time two years ago, it is doubly so. This team is still knitting together, and being the first team to keep Liverpool scoreless at Anfield for a long, long time will help that process.
Pablo, MUFC, Dublin ( I like Silvio Dante’s point about the pointless insertion of words like ‘Look’ or ‘Listen’ into articles. Need to, like, stamp out the amount of mailboxers who, like, love to add a completely superfluous ‘Like’ in the middle of sentences too )
…Imagine Salah, Firmino and Mane being up against Pogba and Fernandes in defence because Maguire, Bailly and Lindelof were all injured.
Imagine a Liverpool fan saying that didn’t make United weaker.
Imagine being Dave of Manchester.
Jo (VVD back in February, Thiago is king) Kent
The Liverpool and United Draw has been derided by many. Personally, I thought it was a good result for both. A loss for either and the knives would have been out for both coaches.
If you look at the current Cricket series in Australia, the 3rd test match was by far one of the most engaging games I have seen in some time.
So a game for the mailbox – the “best” draw you remember fondly.
For me it was United Arsenal 2 2 draw of 2002 / 03 season. The rivalry between Fergie and Wenger was at its peak. Arsenal the defending champions desperately needed to close the gap on United the league leaders. Goals, crunching tackles, red card – it had everything.
For those interested, here is a nice extended highlights for this game
Shivam, MUFC (how good was Ruud)
Nice of Lee to point out in yesterday’s mailbox that Liverpool and United both have quick, nippy forwards, so that doesnt explain the discrepancy in the amount of penalties awarded. But there’s another factor that he hasn’t taken into account – the overall style of play.
When Liverpool attack teams, they’re usually entrenched in their own half. They’re set up to defend, and they’re facing the team that are (often quite brilliantly) trying to pry them open.
When united are entering the penalty area, its often due to a counter attack. There’s 3v2, there’s tonnes of open space, and the defenders are desperately chasing backwards and mistakes happen.
Another team that plays a lot of counter attacks in this manner? Leicester. How are they getting on in the penalty stakes this season?
Steve takes his gloves off, the wheels come off and Mike Ashley can f*%k off!
Jamie Carragher pulling out a line that I’ve not heard since Pardew tried to convince us that, getting an average squad player back was like a new signing. ‘That was like a new manager coming in, being more positive and losing. I prefer to see Newcastle lose like that’. One shot on target (dunno when) and 34% possession. I give up with the sky boys.
I open this up to the mailbox, can anyone explain how Newcastle plan to score a goal? It doesn’t just have to be based on last nights performance, you can base it on any game this season, what is the plan?
Finally, why can’t we do throw ins?
Ratt Mitchie NUFC (sack him and don’t replace him until the big fellas gone)
The Premier League should only stop footballers celebrating together when RFU stops their players from scrummaging or going into rucks. Double standards much. Both are contact sports. Get over it.
Storey’s big words
I have taken the time to write in before to compliment the wordplay in Winners and Losers, so you’re damn sure I’m writing in for the use of the word insouciance! I’ve even copied and pasted the Oxford definition as I had to check what the fuck it meant! Bravo!
casual lack of concern; indifference.
“an impression of boyish insouciance”
Jon (I didn’t get to read Winners and Losers till late!), Lincoln