Missing “killer touch” costs but Reds the “glorious constant” of 2020 – Media on Newcastle 0-0 Liverpool

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The media blamed Liverpool’s 0-0 draw at Newcastle on poor finishing and felt this showed the Reds aren’t the same force this season, offering hope to title chasers.

An unforgettable year on the pitch for Jurgen Klopp‘s men ended on a frustrating note with a goalless stalemate at St James’ Park.

It was again a case of Liverpool’s final-third play letting them down, as some remarkably wasteful finishing saw the Reds carelessly drop more points.

Liverpool desperately need to find their shooting boots for the upcoming Southampton trip, but before attention turns to that game, here’s how the media assessed the draw.

 

Members of the media reflected on a disappointing end to a memorable year for the Reds on the pitch…

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 30, 2020: Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (R) looks dejected after missing a chance during the FA Premier League match between Newcastle United FC and Liverpool FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Independent‘s Melissa Reddy thought it was a flat game overall, with both sets of players crippled by fatigue from the relentless schedule in this unique campaign:

“The last game of 2020 followed the jaded nature of the annum, with the players and the play itself largely looking spent.”

In a somewhat over-the-top assessment, the Telegraph‘s Luke Edwards suggested the Reds were fortunate to take a point after being “outplayed” during the first 45 minutes:

“Worryingly, as strongly as they finished this draw, Liverpool were actually outplayed for a prolonged period in the first half by an out of form Newcastle.

[…]

“This could have been an even more costly night for Liverpool.”

BBC Sport’s Josef Rindl bemoaned another missed opportunity for Klopp’s side and put the blame on poor finishing from the front three:

“A draw away to Newcastle feels like an opportunity missed.

[…]

“And although the Reds’ injury list, particularly in defence, is well-reported – it was their attacking trio of Mane, Salah and Firmino who looked out of sorts in the North East. All three regularly found themselves in good positions but failed to find the breakthrough. Liverpool had 11 shots in total, but only four were on target.”

Summing up the disappointing result, Connor Dunn of the Liverpool Echo wrote that even Klopp’s heroic side eventually succumbed to the utterly miserable year of 2020:

“That result follows a 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion, Liverpool almost summing up life outside of football with their final two disappointing results of a year in which they have been pretty much the only glorious constant.”

 

Reporters were critical of Liverpool’s finishing and felt the game showed the Reds are not the same force…

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 30, 2020: Liverpool’s Sadio Mané sees his shot saved by Newcastle United's goalkeeper Karl Darlow and cleared by Newcastle United's Fabian Schär during the FA Premier League match between Newcastle United FC and Liverpool FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Among those to comment on this was ESPN’s Mark Ogden, who explained that wasteful finishing is the “key difference” to the Reds’ dropoff this season:

“The first goalless stalemate between these two clubs since 1974 highlighted the key difference between the Liverpool of today and the one which sprinted clear of the chasing pack in the first half last season.

“A year ago, Liverpool racked up the points by finding the killer touch in tight games and winning when the margins were narrow.

[…]

“That [wasteful finishing] is becoming a recurring problem and explains why Liverpool go into 2021 locked in a title race rather coasting at the top, as they were a year ago.”

The Mirror‘s Sam Meade felt Newcastle’s surprisingly bold approach showed that teams are less fearless about Klopp’s team this season, citing Virgil van Dijk‘s absence as key:

“Were Virgil van Dijk still a rock at the back then the perception may be completely different. It is interesting though how Newcastle felt as if they could have a go against the champions.

[…]

“Despite their lack of possession though Newcastle certainly pressed forward when the opportunity came on Wednesday evening. There is no doubt a sense of ‘get at Liverpool while Virgil is missing’ but it is something Klopp is having to deal with.”

Ogden also noted how the ability to edge the tight games is evading Liverpool this season, and is therefore giving the rest a chance to compete in a title race:

“A central factor in Liverpool’s title success last season was their ability to find a crucial winner in tight games like this one. They won 14 league games by a one-goal margin on the way to the title, but this time around, they have done so just four times.

[…]

“A year ago, they blew the rest away because they were so good at killing teams off, but now, their failure to do that is keeping the title race alive.”

Meanwhile, Karl Matchett, writing for the Independent, thought the game reflected the current contrasting form of the full-backs – with Andy Robertson impressing but Trent Alexander-Arnold struggling again:

“Robertson is an elite performer and showed his real qualities in both halves at times, while American wide man Yedlin was the catalyst for Newcastle’s early openings and helped keep them a threat on the counter.

Trent Alexander-Arnold’s best form continues to elude him, however, and the right-back’s delivery was below-par on this occasion again.”

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 30, 2020: Liverpool’s Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' during the FA Premier League match between Newcastle United FC and Liverpool FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Following that, Matchett praised Fabinho for another good performance and labelled the Brazilian Liverpool’s “most important player” in the current situation:

“Without Joel Matip now as well as their regular defensive duo, Fabinho’s importance to Liverpool continues to be enormously elevated. He was the best defender on the pitch on this occasion once more, despite not actually being one by normal considerations.

[…]

“The Reds may go into the transfer market in January to boost their ranks, but until then Fabinho is arguably the most important player in the squad.”

 

Journalists debated what is not quite clicking for Liverpool and the biggest problems facing Klopp’s side…

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 30, 2020: Liverpool’s captain Jordan Henderson during the FA Premier League match between Newcastle United FC and Liverpool FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Edwards thinks fatigue from this non-stop season, pressure of the title race and poor finishing are all contributing factors to Liverpool’s dropoff:

“Maybe it is down to exhaustion, the threat of a resurgent Manchester United breathing down their necks or simply their inability to take their chances, but Liverpool are definitely having a wobble in the defence of their Premier League title.”

The Liverpool Echo‘s Ian Doyle saw a real concern in how Liverpool looked like a team “lacking in a little belief”:

“But the general level of performance, while better than the dismal second-half showing in Sunday’s home draw with West Bromwich Albion, again offered some concern for a Reds side who appeared jaded and, dare it be said, lacking in a little belief towards the final whistle.”

Ogden feels the Reds have become too reliant on Robertson and Alexander-Arnold for creativity, and says that more is needed from the midfield in this regard:

“The lack of creativity in midfield is one factor. Collectively, Liverpool’s array of midfielders have amassed just three goalscoring assists all season.

“The goals are still being made by the full-backs, with seven coming from deliveries by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson, but opponents have learned how to smother Liverpool in the centre of the pitch.”

Neil Jones, of Goal, thinks Liverpool’s away form is now the biggest problem and will need improving if the Reds are to retain the title:

“In fact, they have won just twice away from home in the league all season. Fans have become accustomed to seeing them grind out victories when below their best, but things have changed this season. Their form on their travels is becoming something of a concern.

[…]

“Liverpool, though, will head home with regrets. If they want to retain their title, they will need to improve on the road in 2021, that’s for sure.”

And Edwards reckons that if anything costs Liverpool’s the title this season, it will be the surprising struggles against bottom clubs:

Jurgen Klopp will cling on to the positives, as any manager does in a stodgy, sticky spell, but there are problems and his side have dropped eight points against teams in the bottom six of the table this season. It is a failing that may well cost them their title in this strange, unpredictable campaign.”

 

The media felt the result offered more encouragement to the challengers but believe better will come from the Reds in 2021…

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 30, 2020: Liverpool’s Thiago Alcantara during the FA Premier League match between Newcastle United FC and Liverpool FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Jones was one of the reporters who thinks title hopefuls will be growing in belief by the game, seeing Liverpool’s recent struggles:

“They remain top of the Premier League, three points clear of Manchester United. Their great rivals, though, boast a game in hand, and will, like others, fancy their chances of mounting a challenge in the New Year.

“They will certainly take encouragement from what they have seen from Liverpool of late.”

However, Reddy insisted the Reds will take great confidence from their position going into the new year, considering all the difficulties faced this season:

“Liverpool have now failed to win more league games this season than in the whole of the last campaign, but will enter 2021 with confidence given their position at the summit despite their extensive injury list, which has included over half their starters for lengthy periods.”

Moreover, Jones does expect performances and results to improve as several important players continue to return from injuries:

“Klopp will be encouraged by the fact that players are returning. Thiago, Milner and Xherdan Shaqiri all featured here for the first time in weeks, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was among the substitutes once more.”

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 30, 2020: Liverpool’s Thiago Alcantara during the FA Premier League match between Newcastle United FC and Liverpool FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

And finally, Dunn believes the return of Thiago will be transformational, bringing much better form to push the Reds towards a second successive title in 2021:

“The introduction of a world-class midfielder, who changed the game in just the 15 minutes he was afforded with his passing range, timing and vision, brings about a sense that things are going to improve even further at Liverpool due to the talented players coming back into the squad.

“And, given the Reds are sitting at the top of the table, the fact things are set to improve should be a beacon of hope heading into the New Year that back-to-back titles are still well and truly on despite some testing results so far this term.”

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