The last time Liverpool conceded three first-half goals at Anfield it was to a rampaging Real Madrid side in 2014. Fast forward to 2018, Liverpool would repeat the undesirable feat against West Brom in the FA Cup fourth round. The Reds have picked up the unfashionable habit of crumbling to underdogs.
Accolades for Liverpool abounded when it stood up to Manchester City, truncating the Sky Blues’ unbeaten streak. Against any other top six club Liverpool can do the same. Albeit, when handed the opportunity to blow a struggling team out the water, they can’t pull the trigger. The inconsistency leaves everyone bewildered.
Barely two weeks after outdoing City at its own game, Liverpool have found themselves stuck in the muck of two consecutive defeats.
For once, an inferiority complex can’t be blamed. The Reds were, if anything, overconfident before they faced Swansea. They put in a lacklustre performance. The reverse fixture had seen the Swans put to the sword at Anfield 5-0. Against a team rock-bottom in the League, nothing less than a win was expected. Surprisingly, they were handed a 1-0 defeat in South Wales. Jurgen Klopp echoed the larger sentiment.
“I am more frustrated about the performance than the result.”
Saturday’s FA Cup fourth round tie against West Brom provided the opportunity to return to winning ways. It wasn’t to be. Liverpool’s defensive disinterest cost it the club’s best chance at a trophy this campaign. Ousted by West Ham in 2016, Wolves last year, and now the Baggies, it’s three consecutive fourth round exits under Jurgen Klopp.
Something is fundamentally wrong with Liverpool’s character. The Premier League’s number four team isn’t competing against smaller teams with the same energy, intensity, and resiliency it does against the big guns. An 18-game unbeaten run has ridiculously been dissolved into a two-game losing streak.
Liverpool spent £75 million to beef up its rearguard. Like a kid suddenly coming into money, the club spent it all in one place. It bought the shiniest most expensive centre-back on the market. Virgil van Dijk headed home a winner in his first match for the club. Not exactly what he was brought in to do, but thank you. The club asked him to do it again to rescue a draw against Alan Pardew’s Baggies. This time his glancing effort just missed.
Essentially, the team is significantly lighter in the wallet but the old problems remain. The Reds continue to ship goals. They were down 3-1 before half-time at Anfield. It would have been four save for VAR. As it is, the match marked the first time in a decade the Merseysiders had conceded three in consecutive home tilts.
Everyone has been blaring the siren of Liverpool’s woeful defence. Jurgen Klopp has failed to find a solution. Neither Simon Mignolet nor Loris Klarius has performed like a top-six Premier League goalkeeper. The Reds haven’t kept a clean sheet, home or away, since that Swansea game at Anfield in December. The numbers are shocking. The Reds are letting in 1.2 goals every league game. The hope for a domestic trophy is non-existent.
Grievous defence or not, Liverpool should be in a better position. Great sides aren’t solely dependent on defending. Sir Alex Ferguson was regularly winning titles while the greater part of his back line was playing cards in the physio’s office and Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs were deputising. United had the character to grind out results from the worst circumstances.
Liverpool demonstrated as much against City. The Reds won because they scored one more goal, not because it ceded one fewer. Why can’t Klopp’s side score those goals against lesser sides? The team must be ruthless. If the German can’t teach them how, then ownership can by cutting the manager loose.