Liverpool 0-1 Burnley
Premier League (19), Anfield
January 21, 2021
Goal: Barnes pen 83′
Changeable faces, familiar story
More changes, another injury – the latest to Jordan Henderson.
Joel Matip did return, though, giving Liverpool a more natural presence at the back and an assured figure on recovery runs, defending high and long diagonal passes and on set-piece duty.
At this moment, Xherdan Shaqiri appears to have earned himself a starting spot on a more regular basis than has been seen in a long time – taking Curtis Jones‘ spot from earlier in the season, in effect.
The pattern of the game was very much the same though: loads of possession, loads of aimless, pointless crosses.
Trent alone made no fewer than 21, between open play and set-pieces. Precisely one found a team-mate.
Forwards and finishing
Origi and Ox started, Firmino and Salah were dropped to the bench. Was it the right call to drop them? Arguably so, given recent games.
Did it pay off? Obviously not, given the scoreline.
Obviously, the big chance of the night – of the new year, of the month, maybe of the season, who knows – fell to Origi and his one-on-one run.
Liverpool have now missed their last eight clear-cut chances in the league, and 10/11 including the Villa game.
0-0 at half time, eight league halves without a goal.
— Andrew Beasley ? (@BassTunedToRed) January 21, 2021
He missed it. Maybe Salah would have scored. Maybe not, we’ll never know – it doesn’t matter either, because the current run of missed chances involves the entire team, not just one player or even just three.
The Anfield adventure comes to an end
It had to end at some stage and, setting aside emotion (or as it feels right now, bile and bitterness), perhaps Burnley deserve some sort of medal.
They were the only team to not lose at Anfield last season and they’re the only team to win at the ground in damn close to four years (since April 2017 to be precise).
That defeat, that record coming to an end, is a hard one to take.
It’s a very tangible piece of evidence as to the uncertain nature of the team at present and the struggles being faced to get back on track.
If it acts as a catalyst for equally tangible improvements and a reality check as to what’s needed in various areas of the team, it could yet prove to be worth it.
A more worrying record is that we’ve now won just three of the last 10 league games.
It’s unfair, given the five-matches-without-a-win run in the league, to single out a sole player.
So let’s not point fingers and place blame at the fact the right-back has been crap – and he absolutely has – but instead look at underlying issues and possible fixes.
Neco Williams hasn’t had much of a chance this year, but his own form wasn’t great either, so a like-for-like switch isn’t entirely feasible other than for a cup game perhaps – which we have, next.
Trent had Covid and it’s entirely possible this is having a lingering effect, given the glaring lack of sharpness in his game, the hesitancy in his touch, the lack of aggression and acceleration on show every single game at present.
But if he’s going to play, the team have to mitigate his lack of impact where possible – not still play the same way and expect him to produce the same results.
It’s painfully clear he can’t at present, and that’s in turn meaning the team can’t, either.
He needs to be helped out far more if he’s staying in the team, because he’s struggling in both halves of the pitch.
League and cup
A nice break from league action then, to focus on our one-game unbeaten streak in the FA Cup.
It’s probably safe to say United will offer a sterner test than Villa’s collection of college kids did.
Klopp has two choices here: play a first-choice XI and bludgeon our way back to scoring and winning form, whenever that happens, or else try something utterly different – shape, formation, personnel, whatever.
There’s a sour mood which has settled around the team at present, between injuries, results and the general locked-down nation, and only a big win is going to revitalise matters.
What could be better than a trip to the league leaders and our biggest rivals in a one-off knockout game, right? Right?!