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Liverpool v Fulham A Liverpool Perspective
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This feels like more of the same after a defeat, but, after all the calls for Klopp to just do something else, he showed exactly why he has not been just switching things around. There simply are no other options in his squad to change it around the way Pep can do freely. Sometimes the only thing you can do is work at doing what you do better than you did last time out. It is not the definition of insanity, despite the quote, because other factors change each time you try something. If it was the definition of insanity, then science would be completely insane, as they repeat the same experiment multiple times, and usually get different results as well.
It is in fact the way we get better at doing things, which is why George Best as a youngster spent so many hours just repeatedly kicking a tennis ball at the same spot, to get better at it. It is not insanity, it is practice. If anything, it seems to me that what is causing Liverpool to lose games is that they are not doing what they have been all along. Or, more exactly, they are just not doing it as well as they were. The intensity is poor and the players are not pressing with the same quality as they did. That high press, which worked so well in tandem with the high defensive line, is not being pursued with the same vigour as it was over the last few seasons.
With a season like this one, with the shortened spaces in between games, it was always likely that there would be dips in energy levels that would require managing, but add that to the injury problems and it is a recipe for disaster. Klopp had taken steps to prepare for this, with the arrival of Thiago to help manage games and cover for the full-backs and forwards, but injuries have prevented them from being able to be a factor. You can prepare all you like but sometimes natural disasters just overtake everything you have done and all you can do is hold on and try and get through it until you can start again afterwards. One thing is for sure, Klopp deserves the chance to get it right, just ask Dortmund fans.
They have improved immeasurably this season from the team that got promoted. Gone is the team that bored me so often when I saw them in the Championship, which passed for the sake of passing, in has come a team that has purpose and intent to try and score. The big spat at the start of the season with the board has clearly seen Scott Parker given some leeway to do what he wants, rather than what they tell him to do and he has responded by improving the way the team play. He really has done an impressive job there.
Fulham are playing good football, picking up results and it is likely they would have beaten any team Liverpool put out against them at the moment, being completely honest. If they had a proper goalscorer from the start of the season, they would be in no danger at all. With their well-organised defensive set-up and ability to create chances, that is all they are really missing right now to move into the top half. A bit like a number of other teams, admittedly, except Newcastle United. You would have to think that given Callum Wilson at the start of the season, Fulham would be in no danger right now, so they have to have a chance of catching Newcastle who could not get clear even when Wilson was fit and firing.
The worry for Fulham is that survival is only a short-term thing, as next season they will have to start all over again but without seven key players, who are all on loan. Just to stand still, they are going to have to spend big to replace or sign those seven. I doubt any Fulham fans will care about that right now though!
Klopp – clearly he has decided to put his main focus on the Champions League, which is not something I agree with, even if I do understand it. One thing I do not understand is why did Robertson not get a rest? The first half was more of the same, lack of intensity, the press not being applied properly and a defence that is not reacting or communicating. The second half the press was there and Fulham were being slowly smothered but the pressure did not really crank up until Mane came on and looked threatening. It was a much improved second half performance which showed what we miss is the intense pressing football.
Alisson – apart from a couple of times he was called upon to sweep up, Alisson did not have a lot to do. If he was not so quick off his line to come out and sweep though, Liverpool would have been in much more trouble as those balls would have turned into a footrace between the centre-backs and Fulham’s forwards.
N. Williams – defensively he is extremely suspect. Quite poor in fact. Often unaware as players run off him, then when he is alert he followed them in far too narrow rather than passing them over to the centre-back just inches away from him and left the entire right side wide open for Fulham to attack down. It must be said Shaqiri gave him absolutely no help whatsoever, but Neco should still have done better. In the second half his performance was much better because he was on the front foot and attacking, rather than having to defend.
Phillips – his performance as an individual is not too bad, there is a lot to like with the way he plays, though he does lack pace and finesse. However, Phillips really does need to communicate better with his teammates. I know it is probably difficult, he is in and out, has been out on loan so probably barely knows them, but the lack of talking at the back is a real issue and he was the senior centre-back in this game. The defensive line was constantly creeping too far forward and not reacting to runs in behind, that is a consequence of them not talking and making each other aware of what is around them.
R. Williams – the communication could have been better to him, but he does display a complete lack of any defensive awareness and is often just stood in no man’s land, rather than working with his teammates as a partnership. When Phillips was dragged forward into midfield holding up the man on the ball, he stayed where he was, leaving his namesake completely isolated on the right. He does not give himself enough space to deal with faster players and when they do run he fails to react at all by dropping with them. He is just out of his depth in the Premier League. Hopefully this will be a learning process for him and he goes away and works on his game, but right now he is simply not good enough for the level he is playing at.
Robertson – as the senior player at the back, I would have liked to see him take more of a leadership role, but he just continued to play his game. Yes he is a fantastic full-back and his game is a vital component of the game-plan, but his experience was needed too. He did get forward well though.
Milner – not his best game, he did not have the freedom to get around the way he likes to. He did play a nice ball or two, but he was not protecting the defence as well as he can and lacked confidence when he did get in forward areas.
Keita – there were some good moments from him, some good pressing and an attempt to get himself involved with a nice run sprinkled in. However, as usual it was mixed with moments of laziness as he put in no effort to help out defensively. At one point he was the closest man to the ball as Fulham broke, but he was also the only person in the shot that was not sprinting or in fact making any effort at all to get back. I was very surprised that he was not immediately hooked, because I would have dragged him off by his ear for that.
Wijnaldum – a better showing from Wijnaldum. He was showing for the ball from the defence, trying to press it back when it was lost and played some nice passes. All that was needed was a bit more from him, but it was a massive improvement over recent weeks as he seemed to be trying to help out the defence. It was nice to see that he showed some sense of responsibility towards helping out a makeshift defence by providing them with an option. However it must be asked why he has not been doing that for the last few months?
Jota – nice to see him back, though he did look rusty early on and his passing still needs work. He is always dangerous though and came close to scoring. How different this season could have been if he had not picked up his injury!
Salah – showed great strength, linked up well with Jota at times but did make a mistake which resulted in the goal. Sadly that is what his game will be remembered for.
Shaqiri – offered nothing for large spells of the game but did play a couple of good passes and went fairly close with a free-kick. It was telling that almost all of Fulham’s threat came down his side and that he was rarely even to be seen in the shot as he offered no help to Neco. A massive disappointment.
Mane – replaced Wijnaldum in the 61st minute. From the moment he came on he was threatening to do something, but it just would not quite fall right for him to put it in the back of the net. Areola was beaten all ends up by his attempt which hit the post but he should have done better on a couple of other occasions, in particular a header.
Alexander-Arnold – came on in place of N. Williams in the 77th minute. Tried his best to put the ball in dangerous areas as quickly as possible but his delivery was a bit hit and miss. Probably needed to come on a bit sooner to get his eye in.
Fabinho took Milner’s place in the 77th minute. Fabinho definitely needed to come on sooner, as his range of passing from deep is excellent and he also does a better job than anyone else in the squad of cutting off counters before they get going.
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Written by Tris Burke March 08 2021 11:52:45