Editor’s Column: It’s not just the bad finishing, you know…

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The 2-2 draw at Old Trafford was beyond frustrating. The 3-0 loss to Atalanta was numbing. The 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace felt final.

Thankfully, Arsenal went and lost to Aston Villa, which is good news, even though it almost adds to the exasperation of our missed opportunity.

Liverpool are still in the title race, although Manchester City are heavy, heavy favourites. They’ll probably win their remaining six, the bastards.

But what’s happened to Liverpool?

Against United and Palace, the Reds racked up over 6xG, but only scored two goals, both of which were from set-pieces last weekend. They haven’t scored a single goal from open play despite a plethora of chances and a handful of sitters.

Liverpool’s 2.87xG was the most xG without scoring by any side in the competition since Brighton v Norwich in April 2022. 

Obviously, the finishing recently has been a massive issue. We’ve lacked a little luck, but a lot of composure. There has been no clinical element to it. Nobody has stepped up when it really mattered in front of goal.

Dom Szoboszlai missed two at Old Trafford. Darwin Nunez, Mo Salah and Luis Diaz were also guilty of missing the target when they should have at the very least tested Andre Onana.

Against Palace though, it was farcical. Luis Diaz, Wataru Endo, Nunez, Diogo Jota and Salah all missed from inside eight yards. Curtis Jones also missed a sitter of a one-on-one when the keeper had already sat down and simply presented him a free net.

If we’d have taken our chances, or even half of them, in both matches, we’d be top of the Premier League by three points with six to play. That hurts.

But it’s not just the finishing that’s been off.

It’s the intensity, especially at Anfield against Atalanta in the midweek horror-show and Palace on Sunday.  Why do we let our opponents take the lead so easily? We do it again and again and again.

The best iteration of Klopp’s Liverpool teams used to make the first 20 minutes for opponents complete hell. They outfought them everywhere – to a man. Now, the lackadaisical start to matches allows our opponents chances, often goals and leaves Liverpool chasing the game. You can’t get away with that for an entire season. The most insane stat that proves as much is that Liverpool have conceded the first goal in 21 of our 32 Premier League matches so far. Yes, we’ve done well to win most of these, but it’s not sustainable. And the past week has proven as much.

Alexis Mac Allister was absolutely flying, but has had two poor games. Wataru Endo looks like he did away to Newcastle United earlier in the season. Darwin Nunez has been atrocious since his goals dried up. He hasn’t scored in three games and has just one in our past six. Jota, who to be fair hasn’t found the net since his return either, should probably come in for the Uruguayan based on recent form.

Salah is another player who has not been very good. He’s played nine matches since his return from injury. You’d have hoped he back up and running. But he looks tired, slow and like he’s out of ideas. The Egyptian finishes seasons worse than he starts them, usually. But we need our world-class players to step up in big moments. And he couldn’t have complained if he was subbed yesterday.

It’s funny. We’ve finally got an almost full squad with an elite bench, but the players look more tired than ever. Perhaps the effort of carrying on and winning throughout January and February with a threadbare squad is now taking its toll.

Liverpool are giving up way too many big chances to opponents. You can’t expect the attack to bail out the rest of the side in every match when even very average sides get lots of good sights of our goal.

It feels like it’s done, but football changes quickly. Maybe we’ll pull off a miracle in Bergamo on Thursday and the vibes around the run-in will change.

Let’s hope so. We’re the underdogs now in both competitions. Maybe that’ll help. But quite a lot needs to change, now.

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  1. Agreed, the composure is lost. And also expectations were too high. I was quite amazed reading the angry comments after the second ManUtd game. They were far from fair. Until the giveaway / equalizer there was total control, and again just like in the FA cup, the subs were not perfect. Still the staring team who asserted full control, got most of the critique and the others were kind of lifted. They indeed could not close off both games but still controlling most of it, in Old Trafford and that’s not bad. Just like the Brighton game, just need to be patient with a strong away opponent. (Intrestingly the subs came quite late there, did not risk to loose control) I think Klopp is right the they lost something with the ManUtd games, and I think it’s the patience to play a proper game, also with a slim margin. I think there is pressure on him also and he started to shuffle players and unlike him making a lot of subs at halftime. That also decreased confidence seemingly. I think he should just get back to his strongest most experienced lineup play with more patience and confidence and results will start to come again. Will that be enough? With a bit of luck, maybe.

  2. I think dropping Clark, McConnell and Danns was a big mistake. They had earned a right to be in the squad.

    The returning starting XI players have failed to show up. A massive error in judgement at the business end of the season. And Klopp is talking about a layers being tired? He has made them tired by over-using the same players and making them chase games because of this stupid inverted fullback tactic.

    Bob Paisley always said it was a simple game and should be played as such. Someone needs to pin this on the wall of the changing room.

  3. The team developed through the season, and started to execute the Klopp pressing strategy better and better, not leaving much room for other teams. As Klopp just recently said, it’s better to play this strategy perfectly otherwise you just cause yourself more trouble in the end.
    This requires a lot of effort without the ball, and a tactical discipline and complete team effort that can be learned during games. Also this is very hard to keep up during the entire game, so better finish off your opponent swiftly. I think that was missing a bit seeing the nr of chances created. Injuries did not help, and not all players can play this strategy the same level, at least yet. Subs were also creating some adjustment problems, but in the end it lead the team topping the league. (My problem is by the time the teams learn to execute it Klopp will leave, and they start learning another sytem).
    I also think that Pool has an excellent youth base, a bit similar to the Ferguson generation back in the 90s at United. Better not spending big money but rather build them in the team gradually. That will cost points but could result in a golden generation. But for now I see Jones and Quansah as mature enough as starters, and the others could come in the next years for more minutes.
    That is also why it would be better to close off some games earlier so these guys get more minutes…

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