Paul Stafford discusses Liverpool’s exit from the English Football League Cup and their worrying form over the last few weeks.
Burned out and listless are two words to describe the current Liverpool squad as they bowed out of the EFL Cup semi-final on a frigid Wednesday night, courtesy of a Shane Long goal in the second leg. Liverpool have only won one game since the turn of the new year and that was against lowly Plymouth Argyle who gave the Reds all they could handle.
Anfield is no longer a fortress as Liverpool have now lost two games in succession to Swansea City and Southampton. With Jürgen Klopp unable to address the issues of his side in this transfer window and with Sadio Mané away at the AFCON Cup, Liverpool’s title challenge has petered out. They are out of the EFL Cup, they are in danger of slipping outside of the top four and will most likely be dumped out of the F.A. Cup unless they find a way to break down teams that sit deep and defend and then score on the counter-attack. They need to do this without Sadio Mané.
Southampton cannot be faulted for sitting deep and ‘parking two buses’ in front of their goal, then breaking on the counter attack to score. They are not the same side that Liverpool took apart in this tournament a season ago. They must have watched last weekend’s game against Swansea, paid attention and identified Liverpool’s glaring weaknesses. They played a side that was predictable, who had plenty of possession and could not score when invited to do so.
This has been an ongoing problem for the Reds ever since the new year began, and ever since Mané has been gone. Liverpool’s over-reliance on him is telling. Liverpool have no plan B. Jürgen Klopp had plenty of time to address this issue, he also had time in this transfer window, but it seems he is only able to hand out excuses as to why Liverpool have been unable to buy during this window. At the beginning of the season, it was because Liverpool couldn’t offer Champions League, which was kind of ridiculous when you look at who Manchester United went out and got, considering they also didn’t have Champions League to offer.
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Now the excuses are that teams don’t want to sell and that Liverpool do not want a short-term fix; they will only buy when the right player becomes available for the right price. Meanwhile, Liverpool will have blown their chances for silverware this season, and are in danger of not finishing in the top four.
The team looked tired last night, especially James Milner. His crosses and corner kicks left much to be desired as he is asked to get up and down the wing, defending and attacking on his ageing legs. This is a problem which has existed since the summer transfer window and has failed to be addressed.
Liverpool are also in dire need of a commanding defensive midfielder to protect the back four, as clearly Henderson, Wijnaldum, and Emre Can are just not up to the task. Both Henderson and Can have recently been guilty of giving away possession during crucial attacking moments of the game, breaking up the rhythm and flow. Henderson was especially guilty against Southampton.
When you looked over at Liverpool’s bench, there was nobody there who could be brought on to change the game. Divock Origi, who has been out of form lately, might be the closest Liverpool came to a ‘game changer’ on a bench that is clearly lacking in-depth.
Daniel Sturridge missed two guilt-edged opportunities, but, to his credit, they were incredibly difficult chances to pull off.
The Reds played their hearts out, but they are tired from half a season of ‘gegenpressing’ and an unfavourable fixture list. This team is in dire need of a lift in the form of one or two new faces, but Klopp has left it too late in the window to do this. Rumours of William Carvalho and Julian Brandt arriving come almost daily, but the Carvalho rumour has already been dismissed, and any move for Brandt will be in the summer.
A couple of new faces would have given the team a lift to push for a strong season finish, but it’s just not going to happen. Klopp’s excuses are just that: excuses! They have made decent January signings in the past. Coutinho, Sturridge, Mascherano and Suarez come to mind. Oh well, there’s always next season, however, Liverpool will have missed a golden opportunity without having any European distractions this season!
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