The Sunday was supposed to be enthralling in the Premier League – Liverpool and Manchester United would face each other and there is always a bit of something extra in this razor-edged derby. Jurgen Klopp has prepared his team during this Pandemic to fight it out because the problems of injuries, hectic schedule, and COVID-19 infected cases are haunting every team and those who can still find a way to get through can breathe easy.
The teams during this Pandemic require a conviction in front of the goal and balance at the back. Klopp seems to be finding the going tough because his frontline is lacking conviction big time and the Reds are suffering for this. At the end of the match, they shared points, which meant a lot for Ole Gunnar Solskjær at Anfield and not for his counterpart. Liverpool are still unbeaten at Anfield, but tonight it did not mean enough as they are now positioned fourth.
Liverpool have scored just one goal in four league games since their victory at Selhurst Park and having failed to win a single one of those matches.
Losing Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez to long-term injuries has indirectly impacted on the balance of the Reds and for which they seemed to be a bit jolted, but as mentioned earlier, the teams have to figure out to get through this, but it seems, Klopp still has not figured that out.
— Goal (@goal) January 17, 2021
He started with Jordan Henderson and Fabinho as the center-backs while parked the midfield with defensive midfielders and allowed the front three to showcase their freedom and ruthlessness, which made a legendary combination not so long ago.
The front three of Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, and Sadio Mane has absorbed the relentless pressure from the opposition and created the spaces to score goals consistently, sadly, in this season, they are firing blanks. They are lacking conviction.
The success of Klopp over the last couple of years was built on relentlessness in possession, as sustained attacks over an extended period of the match eventually ground down the opposition. The Reds would pummel teams with wave after wave of pressure that either built through the middle or, if that avenue was closed off, via their overlapping full-backs.
The absence of traditional center-backs and relying on the make-shifts, certainly slowed down the momentum, and what was evident tonight nothing but the effort to shut down Manchester United rather than go for the kill because, in the transition, they looked shaky while the misfiring of the front three hurt Klopp much more than anything.
Thiago has completed twice as many passes today as any Man Utd player
— Goal (@goal) January 17, 2021
Without Henderson and Fabinho in the center of the park, Liverpool simply failed to maintain the pressure or speed of play, instead of conceding territory on the counterattack and getting drawn into plodding matches with few clear-cut chances.
Meanwhile, Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold cannot afford to sit so high up the pitch. Without Fabinho shielding they need to be warier of the counterattack, and that is where the Reds proved fragile. When Robertson and Alexander-Arnold spend less time in the final third, Liverpool lose the option of stretching the opposition – the pressing has toned down.
Most importantly, the dynamic three have let down tonight very much.
Having conceded 11 goals in the first four games of the title defence, up to and including the 11th minute of the Merseyside derby when Van Dijk was forced off, Liverpool have shipped 10 in 13 matches subsequently. Only Manchester City have conceded fewer goals – six – than Liverpool have done since losing their key central defender.
That resilience has kept them in the hunt and given Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino, and Jota the platform for a combined 29 Premier League goals. Between them, Liverpool’s front four are responsible for 78% of the team’s league goals (United’s main four strikers – Marcus Rashford, Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial, and Mason Greenwood – account for 34% of their total, 13 goals.
Newcastle 0-0 Liverpool
Southampton 1-0 Liverpool
Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United
It's been 348 minutes since Liverpool last scored in the Premier League ❌ pic.twitter.com/hwKbuJDWd4
— B/R Football (@brfootball) January 17, 2021
The absence of Jota meant, Firmino, Mane, and Salah had to spark at Anfield and they have made a habit of doing so during the decisive contests, for Liverpool to dismiss United as a fleeting challenger and respond to the re-emerging threat from City.
The destructive quality that punished Leicester, Wolves, and Crystal Palace, when Takumi Minamino started in place of Salah at Selhurst Park, was painfully absent against West Brom, Newcastle, and Southampton.
Klopp described the performances at St James’ Park and St Mary’s as “good” and “a normal away game” respectively, albeit while criticizing a lack of composure in front of goal, poor decision-making, and inaccuracy in both.
Liverpool have failed to score in back-to-back Premier League games for the first time since May 2018. Having been at their clinical best in the rout of Palace, scoring seven times from eight shots on target, they have managed seven attempts on target in their past three matches. There was only one at Southampton, from Mane in the 75th minute, their latest for the first shot on target in a league game for more than five years.
Tonight, the story was such: Liverpool have had 10 shots on target in their last four games in the Premier League out of a total of 62 shots.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 17, 2021
Mane failed to cut through, Salah lacked the cutting-edge while Firmino was directionless.
Manchester United could have snatched victory had it not been for two fine saves by Alisson who denied Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba in the second half.
After the match, Klopp said, “I have to qualify for the Champions League and I know how difficult that is. This season will be a tough race for the top four that is for sure. Football fans are not the most patient species on this planet. They want to win each football game.”
“I am not too different from that. But I am long enough in the business to know that there are more difficult periods. And this is not the most difficult period I have been through in my life, it’s not even close. We have to be patient.”
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 17, 2021
“I saw my team playing tonight a really good team with a clear idea with super passes and great counter-pressing and great desire to score and we didn’t score.”
“We will create chances and we will score. I think the performance was good enough to win it but to win a game you have to score goals and we didn’t do that, so that’s why we had that result. There is nothing fundamentally different, it is just the result is different.”
West Ham, Leicester, and Southampton have all picked up more points (26 apiece) over their last 15 Premier League matches since the beginning of October than Liverpool (25).
Liverpool have gone four games without a win in the Premier League for the first time since January 2017 when they went five without a win.
The sooner the Reds rediscover their lost mojo, the better for them.