Liverpool’s 2-0 defeat to Newcastle was a shambles of a performance and their blunt front-three played a big part in the loss.
Jurgen Klopp‘s men produced one of the most un-Klopp-like displays imaginable, with a complete lack of energy and quality evident throughout at St James’ Park.
Whether Wednesday’s 6-1 victory at Southampton took a lot out of the players shouldn’t be a debate, especially given six of them didn’t start the League Cup quarter-final after. Liverpool were simply never worthy of getting anything from the game.
It was the Reds’ ‘FBI’ attacking trident of Roberto Firmino, Christian Benteke and Jordon Ibe that really disappointed, though, with a lack of cohesion making Liverpool completely toothless in attack.
Firmino has had an inconsistent time of things since moving to Anfield from Hoffenheim in the summer, and Sunday was arguably his least effective display in a Liverpool shirt to date.
The 24-year-old flitted around the pitch in his usual effortless manner, but whereas there was genuine match-changing quality to his game against the likes of Chelsea and Man City, he was bordering on non-existent on Tyneside.
Barring one horrible scuffed shot early in the second-half, he offered virtually no goal threat, and he was guilty of not making enough runs past Benteke and generally linking with the Belgian.
— Scriffle (@tmscriffle) December 7, 2015
Firmino also bore the brunt of Klopp’s anger after the break, following a lazy, timid attempt at a tackle on Paul Dummett. The half-hearted nature of it summed up the Brazilian’s afternoon.
It is plain to see just what a talented footballer Firmino is, but he needs to start bringing more substance to matches.
One goal and three assists in 14 appearances is not a lot to write home about, regardless of whether it is still early days or not.
Benteke was arguably the most under-fire Reds player on social media following the game, and the burly striker is yet to convince in a Liverpool shirt.
The 25-year-old split opinion when he joined for £32.5million from Aston Villa, and those doubts that people had about his game have been fully justified of late.
Liverpool look a far less threatening team with Benteke in it at the moment. The fluency that they have had with Daniel Sturridge or no strikers starting is just nowhere to be seen.
Liverpool have four players better suited to playing the centre-forward's role in Klopp's setup than Benteke. £32.5 million wasted?
— Jack Lusby (@jacklusby_) December 6, 2015
Christian Benteke completed just one forward pass in the opening 40 minutes vs. Newcastle. pic.twitter.com/z5TfGlwM2b
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 6, 2015
It certainly isn’t all the Belgium international’s fault, but his lack of movement and rather insipid attempts at pressing affect the entire team.
He missed a glaring opportunity to give his side a priceless early lead, and his all-round display was just not good enough. Benteke appears to have left his touch at Villa Park.
Liverpool have scored just five goals in the five matches he has started this season, compared to 15 in 7 when he hasn’t. That speaks volumes.
Benteke and Firmino completed just one pass combination between them in the 62 minutes they played together, showing just how unsuited they are to each other’s game.
Many will claim that Ibe was Liverpool’s best player on the day, but when you actually assess what he achieved, it amounts to very little.
This was an Andros Townsend performance in many ways, which if defined, would say something along the lines of: to look dangerous on the ball despite never actually doing anything with it.
Ibe is a great young talent who has done well since Klopp’s arrival, but his performance against Newcastle was hugely frustrating.
Ibe is probably the only one who's attempting to create some of the chances, but his final passes has been poor.
— LFC Fans Corner (@LFCFansCorner) December 6, 2015
The teenager had Dummett on toast at times, with his pace and power too much to handle, but his end product was wretched on so many occasions. Of five crosses he made, none were successful.
Everything happens at such speed with Ibe that he seemingly can’t process what to do with the ball in key areas. It is something Raheem Sterling also suffers with, to a lesser extent.
While Ibe was clearly one of the Reds’ brighter sparks at times, he was nowhere near as impressive as he sometimes looked.
The attacking trio of Firmino, Benteke and Ibe may have endured poor games individually against Newcastle – Ibe was easily the best of the three – but they were even worse as a unit.
They are chalk and cheese in terms of style, and it showed. They were about as effective together as Danny DeVito and Peter Crouch attempting to carry a coffin.
There was a complete lack of link-up between the Liverpool trio, with Firmino and Benteke particularly culpable in that respect.
It has been clear on a number of occasions this season that the duo do not thrive playing in tandem with one another, and Firmino’s best performances have come without Benteke in the team.
The loss of Philippe Coutinho was also crucial, and Firmino again looked lost without his compatriot wreaking havoc alongside him.
No goals from open play in last 2 league games. Benteke, Ibe, Firmino started both. Not a combination that works together.
— Matt Ladson (@mattladson) December 6, 2015
Klopp can do no wrong at the moment, but he has to be questioned for changing Liverpool’s entire attack from Wednesday’s mauling of Southampton.
This was a Newcastle side devoid of confidence, especially in defence, and with the right players used, the Reds could have run riot.
It is, of course, always easy to say this once the game is done and dusted, but the ‘FBI’ had an unbalanced look to it from the start.
The Newcastle defeat was a bitter pill to swallow, after so many positive victories in recent weeks, and their woes on the day stemmed from an ineffective front-line.
Firmino needs to start influencing matches week in, week out, and must work on thriving without Coutinho in the team, while Benteke’s general impact and attitude needs to improve noticeably.
Ibe is still very young and continuing to hone his game, but his final ball must become far more reliable if he is to feature regularly this season.
Hopefully we don’t have to see this aforementioned trio start together in Liverpool’s attack again. If we do, it could be Newcastle all over again.