The good, the seriously bad & how should Reds line up against Chelsea? – Debating Watford 3-0 Liverpool

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Liverpool fell to a 3-0 defeat on Saturday at Watford in a match which provided rather different points of discussion to usual.

The Reds and their fans have become accustomed to winning games of all types across the last couple of years, so this performance – as much as the result – came as a massive disappointment.

Just one shot on target all game showed the level of the dismal showing, while Adam Lallana came closest to scoring with a long-range strike which hit the outside of the post.

Two goals from Ismaila Sarr and another from Troy Deeney meant Liverpool recorded their first Premier League defeat of the season and Jurgen Klopp must pick up his players quickly, with FA Cup and Champions League deciding matches ahead over the next week or two.

This Is Anfield’s Karl Matchett (@karlmatchett) spoke to Guy Drinkel (@guydrinkel) and Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87) to break down the best and worst from the 90 minutes in the Hornets’ nest and figure out exactly where the team goes from here.

 

The good…

WATFORD, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 29, 2020: Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp during the FA Premier League match between Watford FC and Liverpool FC at Vicarage Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

GUY: This might be actually impossible to find good from the game itself but here we go…!

We can now appreciate what Joe Gomez is truly; he is a tier above Joel Matip and is playing a different sport to Dejan Lovren. He compliments Virgil van Dijk perfectly and, let’s be honest, he probably stops a couple of those goals by not hugging Deeney and could probably catch Sarr.

Saturday’s lack of a midfield may also quieten the whole Naby Keita debate from last week, as seemingly the whole team is currently out of form to their own high standards.

Also, we definitely miss Henderson, not just leadership and all that stuff but him as a player which is probably the most underappreciated thing about him; he was in a hot vein of form and we needed that, especially with a rusty Fabinho and a ghostly Wijnaldum.

WATFORD, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 29, 2020: Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk looks dejected as Watford score the third goal during the FA Premier League match between Watford FC and Liverpool FC at Vicarage Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

HENRY: Was there anything good about that? My god, what a mess!

The biggest positive is that Jurgen Klopp is simply too ruthless a manager not to get a response from his players, because that was the worst performance under him since Tottenham away in October 2017.

Maybe some complacency has crept in, but this defeat could end up being a blessing in disguise – really trying to be positive here – ahead of two knockout games that could help determine whether this is a great season or an all-time great one.

I thought Alisson and Andy Robertson were the only players to come away with any credit and, though I’m not his biggest fan, Adam Lallana did pretty well off the bench.

It was a good day for Gomez and Henderson as well, whose huge respective influences were sorely missed.

KARL: The positive has been the reaction. There hasn’t been finger-pointing, hiding or trying to brush it away as a one-off; players and manager alike have said it wasn’t good enough, Watford deserved to win and we need to bounce back.

Given the mentality this group has shown over the last two years I’d be very surprised if training wasn’t dialled up to the max for the next few sessions, around Chelsea and Bournemouth in the lead-up to Atletico.

Robbo was decent as mentioned, but there’s no point looking to take positives for the sake of it: we got our collective backsides smacked and handed to us and we need to respond accordingly.

 

…the bad…

WATFORD, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 29, 2020: Liverpool's Dejan Lovren during the FA Premier League match between Watford FC and Liverpool FC at Vicarage Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

GUY: Everything! But to pick out particular horrendous things from yesterday, let’s start with the easy one: Dejan Lovren was particularly bad. I’ve never seen a player create as much panic in a defence, ever.

Deeney absolutely monstered him, think I saw a stat that he won 46 per cent of his aerial duels and that’s meant to be one of his strengths! Absolutely horrendous.

Trent was absolutely abysmal as well but I’m more forgiving as he’s been excellent this season – but this was a stark reminder that he is still 21 and has plenty to learn defensively.

The front three were also pretty awful; it’s quite worrying that they couldn’t be the ones to break through our Watford-shaped cage.

HENRY: Where the hell do I start? I stubbed my toe 10 minutes before kickoff and it all went rapidly downhill from there.

This was easily the worst display of the season – one that had almost nothing to admire about it, from awful defending to a truly hopeless attacking showing.

Lovren was the poorest player, without question, utterly woeful and played a major part in Liverpool’s unbeaten run going up in smoke. He isn’t good enough, simple as that, and he must leave this summer.

It is important to stress that this is far from all Lovren’s fault, though, especially as he was understandable rusty after a spell out of the side.

WATFORD, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 29, 2020: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino (L) and Sadio Mané challenge Watford's Étienne Capoue during the FA Premier League match between Watford FC and Liverpool FC at Vicarage Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Virgil had his worst-ever day at the office, while Trent’s pass in the lead-up to Deeney’s goal summed up his day.

Fabinho has been hugely ineffective since his return from injury, and was again here, while Wijnaldum was ghost-like and Oxlade-Chamberlain did very little.

Then there was the front three, all of whom were infuriatingly bad. How can genuinely world-class players suddenly not control a football or find a team-mate five yards away? Normally at least one of them plays well, but they all stunk out Vicarage Road.

All in all, this was about as bad as it gets.

KARL: After the two boys have taken a sledgehammer to the entire starting lineup there, there’s not much more to add!

I will say that the goals came from a massive lack of concentration and group organisation. The strength of this team has been its collective approach, boxing teams in, winning back the ball and recycling quickly, combining in triangles down the channels…

All of it is about working together, a unit in shape. None of it was on show at Watford and therein lay our downfall.

 

…and how strong should the lineup be now in the FA Cup at Chelsea on Tuesday?

WATFORD, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 29, 2020: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino looks dejected during the FA Premier League match between Watford FC and Liverpool FC at Vicarage Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

GUY: I think we have to play a strong team against Chelsea, especially after the Watford game, we need to bounce back. I think the fact we’re also behind in the Champions League game means we have to take it seriously as with our dominant league position.

Our season could well and truly be over towards the end of this month (which sounds greedy, but I am!).

It’s also Chelsea and I don’t want to put out a weakened team against them, as I don’t think Chelsea are as absurd as Arsenal. We can maybe give a couple a rest like Van Dijk, Robertson and Mo as they’ve had basically zero rest this season.

HENRY: After that mess of that performance, I would certainly go a little stronger against Chelsea that I would have initially, but not get carried away. This is still the third-most important competition and we shouldn’t risk too many key men getting injured.

I would start Adrian in goal – he deserves it after a good run earlier in the season – and bring in Ki-Jana Hoever and Joel Matip at the back, but potentially start Lovren (dear God!) and Robertson, too.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 4, 2019: Liverpools goalkeeper Adrián San Miguel del Castillo celebrates his side's third goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Everton FC, the 234th Merseyside Derby, at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I think Curtis Jones merits a start somewhere and I don’t think it will do any harm to start Fabinho again, as he continues to search for match sharpness. Pedro Chirivella playing would be fine, though.

If he is fit, I would like to see Naby Keita start, but Lallana’s cameo is sure to earn him a place in the starting lineup. I expect to see Divock Origi play, possibly along with one of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane or Roberto Firmino.

Klopp is impossible to second-guess, but I would predict his team will be weaker than many are expecting, leading to some sort of end-of-the-world meltdown from some supporters.

I would go with this: Adrian, Hoever, Matip, Lovren, Robertson, Fabinho, Keita, Lallana, Mane, Jones, Origi.

Even typing that I’m not totally sure, though!

KARL: As soon as the first leg against Atletico was over I said I wanted Chelsea to be the ‘dress rehersal’ for the second leg and I haven’t changed my mind.

It’s a knock-out game, a midweek night-time fixture, an opponent who are fighting domestically for the top four…in short it’s everything you could want to replicate the situation we’ll face, other than tactically as they will be very different.

Play the strongest side possible against Chelsea, rotate for Bournemouth as needed and let the key men have a full week to prepare for the vital second leg at Anfield.

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