Defeat to Manchester City on Sunday was a hard pill to swallow for Liverpool. Criticism and dissection of their defeat were sore and very unpleasant. Two questionable substitution and mistakes from Goalkeeper Allison was enough for the visitors to take away the game very quickly. Liverpool lost 1-4 at Anfield which was their 3 consecutive defeat at Anfield after a very very long time. It was Pep Guardiola’s first win at Anfield.
What does this defeat mean to Liverpool? They are already 10 points behind the leader Manchester City on the points table. Mind you Manchester The city has a game in hand. So make it at least 13. By the looks of the last few year's campaigns of PL, it’s too huge a gap in Premier League to catch up. Their title defense went haywire since the start of 2021. A series of draws and defeats landed them in a very unpleasant situation. If nothing ridiculous happens, they are not challenging for the title this year. They are way behind.
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What happened at Anfield?
Once considered as Fortress under the reign of Jurgen Klopp is crumbling down. Allison, who was one of the chief architects of Liverpool’s recent success had a bad day at the office. It probably his worst day in Liverpool’s career. But it came at a very crucial cross junction. This match was their gateway to the title challenge. A win against City and they would have been in serious contension on the top spot with 15 more matches to play in a very unpredictable PL year. But they lost their chance. Allison hardly put a foot wrong in his entire career. But yesterday was a day to forget for him. He must not carry the baggage of these howlers.
The Criticism of Jurgen Klopp
It’s unjustified. It’s totally unjustified. He had his bad day at the premier league. True. He took his time to build a worthy club. Ture. But what he did justifies and equates to the time he took. He won them a league title after 30 years. Can you imagine? He won them a Champions League after the memorable night at Istanbul. He took them to two consecutive Champions league final. He came agonizingly close to winning a league title in the 2019-20 season. He along with Pep Guardiola revolutionized English Football in a matter of 4-5 years. Both of them not only pushed each other’s team but also raised the bar of English Football quality. No doubt about that. This is just a slump of 4-5 games for Liverpool. They will come back. They have a system in place to last for years. The Jurgen Klopp dynasty is built to last long. Give him time and he will give you something good for sure.
The Van Dijk Ripple Effect
Tifo Football did an analysis on Van Dijk and his absence. The brilliantly brought forward the point of Liverpool’s average position of the players on the midfield. With Van Dijk on the field, you have command on the backline for sure. But what he brings to the team is much more than that. He enables Liverpool to play a very high line. Which is vital to their style of play- high pressing and compact. His pace and ferocity in winning the ball make it all hard for the opponent to pass the high line of Liverpool. Liverpool plays a very compact midfield with very high average positioning of the players on the pitch. But since Van Dijk’s departure due to injury, they had to maintain a lower defensive line and maintain a lower block than before. The players’ average positioning dropped to their own half. The midfield was less compact. His impact on defense rippled to Liverpool’s attacking capability. It’s Van Dijk who enabled the full-backs and the forwards to stride forward with long balls bypassing the midfield. Something only Sergio Ramos possesses in entire Europe at the moment. Liverpool has so many outlets on the field to carry the ball forward. Van Dijk has developed his ability to launch pi point long passes to any part of the field. With Van Dijk missing Liverpool had to alter their playing system. They are finding it hard to cope up with.
The way forward
The pundits are always on their way to criticize the brand of football Liverpool plays. From doubting of Jurgen Klopp’s always counter pressing football to doubting their physically demanding the ‘Heavy Metal Football’; the critics have always found a way to talk. But Klopp kept on delivering. Who in the recent history of the Premier League reached two consecutive Champions League final winning one of them? When Klopp arrived, the pundits said his demanding style of football won’t be lasting in Premier League. He not only proved them wrong but created an image of a German football school that is boosting his German compatriots Thomas Tuchel and Julian Nagelsmann now. Everyone wants a Klopp to revolutionize their club.
On Sunday Liverpool played well. They had the majority of the ball and created chances also. But due to their inability to maintain a highline and consistent press, they couldn’t beat the number of players on the City box. They were always outnumbered. If on some occasions if they outnumbered City players on the final third, they were not quick enough to break in transition, and Man City had enough time to bring their players back. It all boils down to small tactical details when it comes to big matches. Thiago’s substitution was imminent but that changed the dynamics of the game. He along with Curtis Jones was allowing Liverpool to circulate the ball well and win the ball in the middle. But they were substituted together on the 68th minute and City scored twice. These are consequential moves but you can’t blame a manager for those. Allison made blunders and cost them the game. But Liverpool will bounce back. There is no doubt about that. This Liverpool dynasty is here to stay.