There is a lot to admire about this current Liverpool team. Beautiful ball play infused with intelligent and synchronised off the ball movement that can produce a scintillating finish from the cultured left foot of Daniel Sturridge. Still early morning in terms of the season’s day, there is the potential for more and better.
Klopp’s squad have put on a sequence of consistent performances in the English Premiership, making their best start to a league campaign in the club’s history. Unfortunately, the confidence that has been growing among the fans took an abrupt nose dive because of the defeat to Chelsea in last week’s the Carabao Cup clash.
Although the match was at Anfield, giving Liverpool the edge, and the Carabao is not considered a trophy Jules Rimet would have lent his name to, my own misgivings set in the minute I saw the team sheet. With Lovren and Moreno included in the starting eleven, I wondered would Liverpool be able to score the three goals necessary to have a hope of going through to the next round. I told my son the best Liverpool could manage would be a 3-2 victory. Lovren and Moreno mean two goals down before the side even sets foot on the pitch. That is how it turned out. Liverpool conceded two and there was no way back. The forwards were always pumping air into a burst ball.
The team played like one that Kenny Dalglish or Roy Hodgson regularly and monotonously fielded earlier this decade before they were booted out of the famous Anfield boot room; mediocre, pedestrian and leaking like a sieve at the back.
Defence has for years been a debilitating problem in the Liverpool squad. It looked as if the perfect dud busting pill had been found in the person of Virgil Van Dijk, an awesome figure, towering over his fellow defenders and opposing attack formations. The nerves don’t settle too well, with good cause, when this Beckenbauer type sentinel of the back line is not about. Wednesday night’s Carabao Cup outing showed just how lingering the ghost of the late (to the ball) Martin Og Skertl is: much too close for either comfort or confidence. Og in this case is not used in the way Irish people would to differentiate a son from the father when both share the same given name. It depicts Own Goal. Škrtel often played as a 12th man for the opposition, frequently slotting the ball into his own net, in one season managing four. His loyalty was never matched by his reliability which in turn made him a serious liability. But he was the product of an infectious mentality, not the cause of it. And Liverpool has yet to rid itself of the malaise.
Chelsea were the undoing of the great Liverpool side strung together for one season by Brendan Rogers. After the 0-2 home defeat to the Blues in the second last game, Liverpool’s Irish manager slammed the Chelsea blue bus that was parked across the back line. Had Liverpool placed red buses rather than donkeys and goats across the 18 yard box, they might not have a 25 year title hiatus.
With neither Lovren or Moreno playing in last weekend’s Premiership clash against Chelsea at Stamford the team showed what it could do. Coming back very late in the game it snatched a 1-1 draw courtesy of something special from Sturridge. It was enough to secure the point whereas had the other two played Chelsea would have cruised home 3-1 winners.
Despite the hype there are serious questions about the depth of this Liverpool squad. Van Djik is an essential. The distance in quality between him and Lovren is immense. With Gomez alongside him, memories of Hansen-Lawrenson become vivid. A new central defender is needed to be able to step in if Van Dijk is injured. Neither Lovren nor Moreno should have any future in a club aspiring to be great again. And if Jordan Henderson could be persuaded to rejoin Sunderland …