Liverpool’s recent draw with Sevilla in their Champions League game is an indication that they can win the competition. Unfortunately, by the same token, it is also an indication that they probably won’t do so.
Jurgen Klopp’s side put on what can only be described as a Jekyll and Hyde performance. As Dr Jekyll, they sped off to build a convincing lead of three goals to nil, but as they turned into their Mr Hyde phase, they pathetically gave their three nil lead away to finish the game three goals apiece.
It was very much a game of the proverbial two halves. They trooped off into the dressing room at halftime cock-a-hoop, three goals to nil up and with their tails in the air.
However, in the calm of the dressing room they let the intensity they had shown in the first half, drip away, and when they began the second half, they were nought but a shadow of their former selves.
Of course, it is almost impossible to rekindle the mood, and that is precisely what happened as they allowed themselves to be put under pressure by Sevilla, so much so that they found it difficult to mount but the odd flurry out of their own half.
We have all seen this happen with many sides in the past, but the fact of the matter is that a decent team has to be able to soak up any pressure, deal with it and come back fighting. You must do whatever it takes, even if that means employing gamesmanship tactics like feigning injuries, just to break up the other side’s rhythm.
If Liverpool had beaten Sevilla, as indeed they should have, the result of their next Champions League game against Spartak Moscow wouldn’t have mattered.
Now they have pressurised themselves into needing a result. Whereas they might have been able to rest key players for the Spartak game, they will now have to field their strongest side.
Apart from a certain tactical naivety, the other thing that the Sevilla result brings home clearly, is the fact that Liverpool’s defence plainly isn’t good enough.
Klopp’s reluctance to take advantage of last Januarys transfer window to shore-up Liverpool’s defence not only cost them in terms of challenging for honours last season, but, in the run-up to the coming January transfer window, it is still there, plain for all to see.
Klopp’s failure to take action in the mid-season transfer market, when the Cop faithful expected new arrivals to replace the likes of Klavan, Lovren, Mignolet and Moreno, has simply prolonged the agony.
In the end, the only significant change was the addition of Mohamed Salah, and yes, he is an impressive player. However, the plain, simple truth is that Liverpool are poor at the back and vulnerable in midfield.
Klopp is coming under increasing fire about his tactical naivety, and the unfortunate result against Sevilla is adding fuel to an already brightly burning fire. His non-cynical approach to the game stand him in good stead with many, but his tactical naiveté could be his undoing.
At half-time in the game at Sevilla, he made no changes either to players or the formation to try to shore up their lead. Perhaps he thought they would go on to win five or six nil.
When things started to go wrong though, he left it until Sevilla had pulled two goals back before replacing Coutinho with Can and swapping from 4-2-4 to 4-3-3. It was too little, too late.
If Liverpool are going to try and mount a serious challenge in the Premiership, Mr Klopp is going to have to acquire more tactical nous and make some changes to his squad. It’s something that Emile Heskey, the former Liverpool and England striker said in a recent interview.
The former player, who appeared 150 times for Liverpool, was part of the 2000/1 treble winning side and who helped them to lift six trophies, indicated that Klopp’s side needs four or five new signings, particularly in defence.
As it stands, Liverpool probably won’t finish higher than fourth if they can rally, but at least they could be back in Europe again next season and with the right signings, they’ll have a team and a hopefully a better tactical approach that could see then realistically fighting for honours.
Luckily the owners of Anfield appear to be quite patient, so it is likely that Klopp will have the time to put his house in order, but he needs to start taking action now.