Old kryptonite & “classic Big Sam” offer title chasers hope – Media on Liverpool 1-1 West Brom

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The media felt Liverpool came unstuck to an old problem in the 1-1 draw against West Brom and think the result offers hope to title challengers.

A late Christmas gift for Reds fans was not forthcoming as Jurgen Klopp‘s side were held to a frustrating draw at Anfield.

Sadio Mane‘s brilliant opener put Liverpool on the path to victory, but Semi Ajayi’s late header snatched a point for the Baggies.

This was a big opportunity wasted, as the Reds paid the price for a careless performance and failing to kill the game off when chances presented.

Here’s how the media reflected on a rare disappointing afternoon at Anfield.

 

Reporters felt Liverpool were deservedly punished for their sloppiness and missed another key opportunity…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 27, 2020: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker looks dejected as West Bromwich Albion score the first equalising goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Bromwich Albion FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Writing for Goal.com, Neil Jones said the Reds “can have no complaints” with the result as it was deserved for an uncharacteristically poor display:

Klopp’s side, who had seen Manchester United and Leicester and Chelsea stumble on Boxing Day, can have no complaints after squandering two points themselves.

They are not used to performances like this. Not at home, not against such limited opposition.

It was a case of the Reds once again falling foul to a “classic Big Sam” performance, in the view of Carl Markham, writing for YahooSport:

There was no fairytale return for the last man to register a league victory on this ground way back in April 2017 but how the game played out was classic ‘Big Sam’.

And the Mirror’s Sam Reade pointed out that Liverpool wasted a big chance to capitalise on a favourable fixture this festive weekend compared to rivals:

Liverpool are one of only two top eight clubs – Tottenham the other – not to play a fellow top eight side in between Boxing Day and January 2. The Reds though failed to take advantage of their favourable fixtures as they dropped two points.

Klopp will have expected nine points from nine across the week period with games to come against Newcastle and Southampton. It would’ve allowed the defending champions to further cement themselves at the top of the table as they target successive titles.

 

The performance shocked the media, who felt the Reds were haunted by an old problem in being unable to break down a deep defence…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 27, 2020: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino sees his header saved by West Bromwich Albion's goalkeeper Sam Johnstone during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Bromwich Albion FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Mail’s Dominic King lambasted the display, stating Liverpool were “as poor as they have been at any time during 2020”:

Liverpool were poor after the break – as poor as they have been at any time during 2020 – they presented West Brom with the possibility to build momentum and an operator as wily and dogged as Allardyce was never going to refuse it.

Jones assessed that it was a throwback performance to when Liverpool regularly came unstuck in games when facing a deep-sitting defence:

This was a flashback to a different time. To 2017, when a deep-lying defence was the Reds’ kryptonite.

The Telegraph’s Chris Bascombe thought Klopp’s side were too ponderous in attack, which played right into West Brom‘s hands:

Numerous encouraging Liverpool attacks fizzled out as strikers sought an extra touch only to be outnumbered by a covering defender.

ESPN’s Liam Wheeler attributed Liverpool’s finishing as the big issue as he wrote that the Reds paid the price for failing to kill off the Baggies:

Klopp will have been disappointed that his side only led by a single goal at the break despite registering 84% possession, and they paid the price for failing to put the visitors to the sword as Ajayi headed the equaliser via both posts.

The Independent’s Melissa Reddy felt the Reds unnerved themselves as they “became anxious” after not scoring a second goal, which further encouraged West Brom:

As the minutes ticked on, Liverpool became anxious about only having a one-goal cushion, while West Brom were evidently emboldened by it.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 27, 2020: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold looks dejected after missing a chance during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Bromwich Albion FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

King, along with countless other journalists, was unimpressed with how Liverpool became complacent and paid the price for it:

Liverpool, for reason that Klopp will still be trying to fathom, stopped doing the things they had been doing so well and, gradually, their rhythm disappeared.

It is not too damning to say there was some complacency.

Meanwhile, the Liverpool Echo’s Ian Doyle came to the conclusion that the draw highlighted Liverpool’s big problem – a lack of midfield creativity:

In doing so, they gave themselves the opportunity to snatch an equaliser with eight minutes remaining through Semi Ajayi, while also highlighting a shortcoming that has, on various occasions in recent years, cost Liverpool.

[…]

With the front three coming up against a bus parked in the traditional Allardyce style and West Brom defending crosses admirably, it was up to the midfield to provide the ingenuity. Jordan Henderson tried to inject tempo, but Gini Wijnaldum looked tired and Curtis Jones lost his way in the second half.

And the same reporter felt Naby Keita would have made a big difference and assessed that this was exactly the type of contest Thiago Alcantara will make the difference in going forward:

How Liverpool could have done with Naby Keita, the Guinean instead absent having sustained yet another fitness issue.

Timely, then, that Thiago Alcantara is now primed to make his long-awaited return from injury. After all, it was for precisely this type of game the Spaniard was bought.

 

The potential ramifications of the stalemate on the psychology of the title race were debated…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 27, 2020: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Bromwich Albion FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Bascombe reflected that this was a performance that “offered the title chasers hope”:

Here was a chance to make a statement, guaranteeing they will end the year as they began it, top of the league while others wonder what will stop them.

Instead, they offered the chasers hope.

King reckons the draw could provide a useful wake up call for Liverpool over the need to produce their best levels with greater consistency:

Maybe it will turn out to be a jolt Liverpool need. If they don’t go full throttle for the rest of the campaign, they will be caught.

They remain the outstanding team in the division but, in this year of twists, reputations stand for nothing. That is the lesson to learn.

Finally, the Liverpool Echo’s Paul Gorst believes it is vital the Reds buy a centre-back in January and thinks failure to do so would jeopardise chances of retaining the title:

Matip’s durability issues are a real area for concern and declining the opportunity to bolster that threadbare part of the squad is a huge and unnecessary gamble.

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