LONDON: Jurgen Klopp continues to make history with Liverpool. Not, at the moment, of the character he would wish. He, his staff, players and fans are looking with increasing urgency for answers to the dip in form which brought an Anfield derby defeat for the first time since 1999 and a fourth successive home defeat for the first time since 1923.
Liverpool, this season in particular, are playing with an increasingly exaggerated high line. This makes them vulnerable to teams with attacking pace. But that should not include being asleep in the opening minutes of a game. This was when Richarlison escaped Ozan Kabak to shoot Everton into the 1-0 lead which defined the entire shape of the game.
Luckless Kabak had another poor game. He has been thrown into the lion’s den of the Premier League by Liverpool’s much-publicised injury problems. The pressure on him only increased after Jordan Henderson was forced out of the game by injury.
Kabak’s subsequent partnership with Nat Phillips was Liverpool’s 18th central defensive pairing of the season. No wonder their disrupted defence was then pierced again by Dominic Calvert-Lewin to set up the decisive penalty by Gylfi Sigurdsson.
In midfield Thiago Alcantara continues to struggle. Klopp has had to come, publicly, to his defence in terms of both his defensive and creative work. Injuries and Covid-19 have affected the speed of Thiago’s adjustment to the Premier League. Again, unfortunate timing.
Liverpool do continue to create chances. They proved their enduring danger in midweek in punishing RB Leipzig’s sloppy defending. But in the Premier League their nerves in the penalty box are proving costly. Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane all require an extra fraction of a second around goal and this gives defenders vital time in which to achieve a decisive tackle or deflection.
Michael Keane, at the heart of the Everton defence, was an immovable obstacle and, behind him, England keeper Jordan Pickford was superb. Hence Liverpool are starting to lose touch with the top four and the Champions League places.
Klopp’s body language on the touchline illustrated his frustration. This is as close to a crisis as he has had to confront since arriving in Liverpool. He said: “Losing to our derby rivals is tough to take but we conceded an early goal which was completely unnecessary. We have to defend better. We had to chase the game and did it well creative-wise but we did not finish off our situations.
“I don’t like to talk about the good stuff we did because we lost the game and we feel that deeply. We have to improve the finishing stuff and then we will win football games again.”
In a busy season Klopp will be relieved to have a week in which to regroup before Liverpool visit Sheffield United next Sunday. At least they are still above Everton but now only on goal difference and Carlo Ancelotti’s men have a game in hand.
Ancelotti said: “We are really happy, really pleased. It was a good gift for our supporters. We were focused, worked hard and when we had the opportunities we were clinical.”
Liverpool were like that – until this season.