From Gtech Community Stadium – Liverpool’s hopes of finishing in the Premier League’s top four were dealt a blow with a 3-1 loss at Brentford on Monday evening.
The Reds deservedly leave west London without the points, an apt punishment for their lazy and rogue defending throughout.
It’s been the story of their season. According to Opta, they’ve given up 51 big chances this campaign, up to twice as many as the five teams above them in the table.
Liverpool weren’t always this way, and it’s revisionist history to suggest so. While they were indeed fragile defensively in Jurgen Klopp’s early years, the arrival of Virgil van Dijk saw a change of approach at the back, playing with more controlled aggression and leaving fewer gaps open.
That process has now reversed.
Where the Reds used to suffocate teams and bully them into submission, they’ve lost that extra edge champions need, that swagger now slipping and misplaced as arrogance.
It was a standard which slowly crept in last season. In several big games, they were bailed out by VAR’s infamous thin offside lines and their world class goalkeeper. Those inches haven’t been enough to save them this time around – the margins needed to be where Liverpool were even a few months ago are so fine with this reckless style.
Perhaps their defensive stability has been curtailed partly by the departure of Sadio Mane – an energetic presser and simply one of the world’s best players – and his replacement, Darwin Nunez, failing to make the requisite immediate impact. Klopp’s Liverpool have always been a team that defend and attack in a single heartbeat, as was best represented by Van Dijk’s absence in a struggling 2020/21 season.
Trent Alexander-Arnold was one of their best attacking threats at Brentford, but he was caught out for the Bees’ second goal. Kostas Tsimikas was a disaster and swiftly replaced by Andy Robertson at half-time, with the Scot bringing the energy required to try and help Liverpool out.
Ultimately, their efforts proved fruitless and the mountain was too difficult to climb. Liverpool have not demonstrated their previous attacking threat in order to get away with such defensive lapses, and until the situations in both boxes improve, they will not contend for major honours again.
Liverpool’s inability to turn over a squad in need of refreshing is at least understandable considering it’s still largely one which played every single game available to them last season – a ridiculous feat which is under-appreciated in wider circles – but the cracks are a lot more obvious.
There’s at least a recognition that they need reinforcements at both ends. Cody Gakpo brings great depth to an attack in need of instant goal contributions, and their aggressive pursuit of Jude Bellingham shows they still have continent-wide respect. A couple of new defenders wouldn’t go amiss, mind.
Whether Klopp’s voice is simply not as effective within the Anfield dressing room walls or he’s just turned a blind eye to this malaise, he’s failed to halt the slide and it’s his job to find a solution. His track record suggests he will find it, but the bottom line is Liverpool need to be meaner at the back if they’re to reach the top four.
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