Liverpool missed out on the opportunity to surpass 100 points in the Premier League and beat the all-time points record following a 2-1 defeat at Arsenal.
Here is a look at what we learned from a difficult game…
Catastrophic mistakes cost us
Liverpool made not one, but two catastrophic errors that both led to goals as lapses of concentration proved to be the Reds’ downfall.
Virgil van Dijk, who has been Liverpool’s most consistent performer since his arrival in January 2018, gift-wrapped Arsenal’s route back into the game after his sloppy back-pass was intercepted by Alexandre Lacazette who didn’t need a second invitation to equalise after Sadio Mane’s opener.
It proved to be an evening where Liverpool’s elite players decided to get their mistakes out all at once. FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year Alisson Becker shortly after also needlessly gave away the ball before Reiss Nelson punished what can only be described as suicidal defending.
Mane excellent despite defeat
One of the few positives for Liverpool was the performance of Mane who was by far our best-attacking threat.
The Senegalese ace tormented Arsenal in the first-half and his hard work was rewarded with a beautifully worked goal following clever link-up player from Roberto Firmino and Andy Robertson.
Mane had more shots (6) than any player on the pitch and produced four key passes – bettered only by Robertson. He also won three aerial duels which was surprisingly only bettered by Van Dijk as Mane looked to harass and hound back possession for his team.
His goal was converted with aplomb and took Mane’s PL total for the season to 17. He is now six goals shy of retaining his Premier League Golden Boot and with two games to go looks a little too optimistic to be deemed achievable.
Henderson a huge miss
While seeing Liverpool fall to defeat over the past 24 months has been a rarity, it isn’t surprising to see the team’s lack of discipline and concentration occur when Jordan Henderson is absent from the team.
The English champions’ irreplaceable club-captain has become the standard-bearer in the team and his leadership qualities have been hugely missed in Liverpool’s previous two games.
Henderson can except the odd mishap or mistake but two catastrophic errors just wouldn’t have been accepted by the Englishman who has become a winning machine in the past two years having added the Premier League to his growing accolades that include Champions League, Club World Cup and Super Cup.
Liverpool cannot refuse to ease up in their final two matches of the season and Henderson especially will be hugely frustrated if he is to lift the Premier League trophy following another disappointing result.
The team owe it to their captain to put things right against Chelsea.
Tough night for Fabinho and Salah
Fabinho who has previously been described by assistant manager Pep Ljinders as the club’s very own ‘lighthouse’ was the standout player against Burnley at the weekend but was hugely disappointing against Arsenal in the capital.
The Brazilian powerhouse was surprisingly sloppy in possession and looked the shadow of his former self having given the ball away needlessly on far too many occasions.
Despite a passing accuracy of 87 per cent, Fabinho was bettered in that regard by five of his Liverpool teammates and he only managed to win 50 per cent of his tackles attempted (4).
The same woes can be said when describing Mohamed Salah’s performance, who enjoyed one of his quieter performances for Liverpool this season.
Salah managed just 14 passes all night as well as a disappointing 27 touches. The Egyptian cut the image of a player totally lost rather than a man possessed to retain his Premier League Golden Boot for a third successive season.
In recent performances, it has seemed that Klopp has struggled to find a solution in midfield to cope with the absence of Henderson and vice-captain James Milner.
Similarly to Burnley, Liverpool totally dominated possession but failed to find any cutting-edge in their delivery to break through Arsenal lines.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain struggled on his return to the Emirates and Georginio Wijnaldum looked out of ideas on far too many occasions when on the ball.
Naby Keita has impressed in recent weeks and is arguably the most deserving of a place when the Reds return to action against Chelsea at Anfield next Wednesday.
One staggering stat that emerged after the game was the influence Keita has had on the team when he is not included in Klopp’s starting XI.
In the five away fixtures Keita hasn’t been amongst Klopp’s starting line-up, Liverpool have managed zero victories or draws and have lost all five matches without the Guinean talisman on the road.
Despite only featuring for 30 minutes, Keita completed more dribbles than any other Liverpool player while Georginio Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain failed to manage a solitary completed dribble all game.
Achieving an impressive pass completion rate of 90 per cent, Keita utilised the ball extremely well when he was brought on for the disappointing Oxlade-Chamberlain, who really failed to impress upon his return to the Emirates Stadium.
He simply has to start next week against Chelsea.
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