Liverpool capitulated against a resurgent Swansea City in a 3-2 defeat which could end any hopes of challenging for the Premier League.
Liverpool 2-3 Swansea City
Premier League, Anfield
January 21, 2017
Goals: Firmino 55′, 69′; Llorente 48′, 52′, Sigurdsson 74′
Leaky Defence Means Matip Must Start
With Matip available for selection following the farcical situation involving FIFA and the Cameroon FA, he might have been expected to start, but Klopp stuck with Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan at the back.
There was no commanding presence in the box when Federico Fernandez won a header from a corner, allowing Fernando Llorente to put Swansea ahead at the start of the second half.
Llorente scored a second from a Tom Carroll cross minutes later, and was again relatively unopposed.
Alfie Mawson had another free header from a set-piece with just over an hour gone, and Swansea scored a third in open play as Liverpool were crying out for Matip’s presence in the back line.
Jurgen Klopp must surely reinstate him in defence for the games against Southampton and Chelsea, and he just has to decide who from Lovren and Klavan will partner him—but on this showing, he might want to go with Joe Gomez.
Returning Henderson and Coutinho Lack Impact
Neither Jordan Henderson or Philippe Coutinho were able to have a major impact on the game on their return to the starting lineup following injury.
Henderson did create the first chance of the match, though, with one of his trademark crosses from just outside the area.
There are few in the game better than the Liverpool captain at delivering the ball from that position and Emre Can should have done better, at least getting his header on target, having got on the end of it.
After this Henderson suffered several poor touches on the edge of the final third, as well as a couple of wayward passes in that direction as he struggled to settle into the game.
He suffered what looked like a recurrence of his heel problem midway through the second half, and though he was able to play on his performance never quite reached a reasonable level.
Coutinho was also a slow burner, but he created a good chance for Roberto Firmino with around half an hour gone, and played some good balls from midfield, especially into wider positions.
He had a good opportunity to score just after Liverpool went behind, but he tried to find a team-mate and instead Swansea were able to regain possession, move up the pitch, and score their second. He was replaced by Daniel Sturridge shortly after.
Firmino Back in the Goals
The Brazilian forward started the game as the central striker, but his first goal came from a position on the right, and his second once he’d moved to the left as Sturridge and Divock Origi entered the fray.
Firmino’s form has dipped since his shift out wide, even though it was a position he’s impressed in previously for both Liverpool and Hoffenheim.
He was unable to complete his hat-trick and grab a point for his side, and though his general performance was up and down, his goalscoring exploits were a positive on a miserable day for the Reds.
Lallana Still Toiling Without Mane
Adam Lallana started the game on the right of the attack in the slot usually occupied by Sadio Mane.
He’s a completely different type of player to the Senegalese speedster, and the whole team has had to adapt as a result.
One aspect of Mane’s game retained by Lallana is a tendency to drift into the box when the team were attacking, as demonstrated when he attempted an overhead kick on the edge of the six-yard area from Firmino’s cross.
Despite the usual nice touches and one particularly eye-catching nutmeg in the opposition area, the Englishman struggled for end product when acting as a forward rather than the attacking midfield role he thrived in earlier in the season.
Does Klopp Have Depth Needed Ahead of Big 10 Days?
Looking at Liverpool’s bench, Klopp still had plenty in reserve. But, that said, Mane and Matip aside it was probably a lineup which the manager considers to be his first choice.
Mane’s absence affects the team and their results more and more as the weeks go by. Given the performance it’s not just the pace of the Senegalese which the side were lacking.
Some familiar problems reared their head, not least the familiar failing that is defending of second balls at set-pieces, which had looked to be becoming a thing of the past under Klopp.
Though it’s difficult to sign top players in January, Liverpool look in need of an extra squad member or two to add pace up front or guile in midfield, and maybe even an upgrade alongside Matip in the back four.