Liverpool lacked a cutting edge and a creative centre as they failed to see off a West Brom side who took their chance and took a point.
Goals: Mane 12′; Ajayi 82′
Attack vs Defence
This game was little more than a training session for a West Brom side under a new manager. It was a time to practice their structure ahead of games they have more of a chance of winning, but at 1-0 they always stood a chance of getting something from this.
An early goal, such as the one Sadio Mane scored, can often open up a game, but not here.
West Brom stayed in their 4-5-1 low block even after going a goal down and it paid off.
They also showed glimpses that they could threaten, and eventually turned that into a goal through Semi Ajayi after some sloppy play from Liverpool in the second half.
This meant the game was also something of a training session for Liverpool. Their attack vs West Brom‘s defence, and there is some use in that for Klopp’s side just as there is for Allardyce’s.
They went in at half time having enjoyed 82 percent of the possession, though ‘enjoyed’ is perhaps the wrong word, as they struggled to break down their stubborn opponents who had been given their own challenge.
Liverpool Need (a) Thiago
Liverpool signed Thiago for a reason, and the reason was for games like this.
A player with real inventiveness and creativity from central midfield areas which goes beyond swinging crosses in from various angles.
Naby Keita has demonstrated that, when he plays, he could be that kind of player, but his lack of availability negates the talent he has.
If Thiago can come back into the team and remain available for selection, he will be a key player in games like this as Liverpool face that familiar foe — the low block — as teams look to avoid relegation or merely not lose against the defending champions.
Klopp will hope that Thiago doesn’t add his name to Liverpool’s talented list of injury-prone players.
Liverpool’s subsequent struggle to break down the West Brom defence shows how good Mane’s early goal was, and how impressive his early forays into the heavily defended fortress also known as the West Brom penalty area were.
He needed the service, though, and the pass to him from Joel Matip was one of the best Liverpool played all game — a scything ball through the middle that cut the opposition defence in half rather than trying to go around it.
The instinctive finish from Mane felt like it would be an important one for much of the game, but West Brom‘s equaliser cancelled it out.
Liverpool only had two shots on target all game, but Mane’s early pops at goal in a short space of time were among the best chances of the game for the Reds.
Firmino’s late header forced a great save from Sam Johnstone, but this high-intensity pressure came too late, and the failure to score a second earlier on cost them.
Injuries were expected this season, but Liverpool have encountered more problems than they might have predicted, especially in the centre-back position.
Matip’s latest injury means all three of the club’s first-team centre backs are now out of action, and Fabinho has gone from being an emergency fourth-choice to first-choice in the position.
This then leaves Liverpool short in midfield, and with the news that Keita has yet another injury problem, this could have a knock-on effect throughout the squad if midfielders are being overworked and start to pick up injuries of their own.
To The Toon
Though the injuries are mounting up, the team hope they will still have enough to come out of this festive period .
It’s a quick turnaround between now and the next game against Newcastle in a few days, supposedly Wednesday but who knows at this time of year.
But it’s not as quick a turnaround as some other teams who have just a one day break whereas Liverpool have two, and these back to back games are something a team like Liverpool, playing in European competition, are used to by now.
This should work in their favour, but its a taxing time of year for all teams and all players.
Naby Keita is out injured once again, which doesn’t help, and Matip picked up yet another injury.
Hopefully we see Thiago back in the squad.